The place is best known for its white castle – Himeji castle. It is called Hakuro-jo or Shirasagi-jo (“White Egret Castle” or “White Heron Castle”) for its white exterior and appearance of a bird taking flight. What is impressive about it, is that the castle survived the flow of time, the bombing of Himeji city during the II World War (the bomb was dropped on top of the castle!) and managed to keep the original structure. It started as a fort in 1333, and since then it has been enlarged and changed. The building is made of wood, which is jaw-dropping! It is now a UNESCO world heritage site and national treasure.
You might have seen the castle in the Hollywood movie – “Last Samurai” 🙂
When you get an admission ticket, you can wander around the castle grounds and go into the castle. To be honest, there is not much to see inside it, thus I was a bit disappointed. You can see its wooden structure, and when you get to the last level, you can see the magnificent panorama of the Himeji castle grounds and the surrounding city. There is not much furniture inside, so it is kind of empty.
When to visit
The best and one of the worst times to visit the castle is sakura season (late March through early April). The castle looked amazing!! Surrounded by cherry blossoms, it was a photographer’s dream! I couldn’t resist taking all the pictures. Just look at them! AMAZING!! The only problem is, there are a lot of people! So either go early in the morning or prepare to wait in the queue.
The other busy days are the Golden Week (end of April into early May), the summer months, and autumn. I revised the castle 2 years later during November, where the trees changed colors to bright red and golden shades, and even though the views were not as spectacular as during spring, the view from the top of the castle was beautiful nonetheless.
If you end up going there on a busy day, you might not get the tickets as there is a limited amount of them. When I was planning my trip, I had to alter my plans as the castle is usually busy during sakura season and I would not be able to get in in the afternoon.
The best time to visit is in the morning. I had arrived half an hour before the opening hours and thanks to that I got a chance to take a lot of pictures of the castle without any people in the background. After I was done visiting, there was a long queue, and people were everywhere.
How to get there
The easiest way to get there is to take a Shinkansen train to Himeji train station. The train station is only 15-20 minutes walk from the castle. The second you get out, you will be able to see the castle 🙂
What else to do in Himeji
When you buy a ticket to Himeji castle, you can combine it with a ticket to Japanese-styled gardens. Gardens are located next to the castle, and it is a nice area for a walk. They looked impressive in the spring but were breathtaking during autumn. When we visited in November, we actually went through the gardens twice – during the daylight and after the night fell. The illuminated garden, red leaves, and the tranquil atmosphere were out of this world.
Gardens in the spring