Located in the southwestern part of Hyogo Prefecture, Himeji is known first and foremost for its castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is widely considered to be one of Japan’s most beautiful and well-preserved castles. Himeji can be reached in less than one hour from Osaka or Kyoto. With half a million inhabitants, Himeji is the second largest city of Hyogo Prefecture after Kobe.
Himeji Castle is also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance, is the finest surviving example of Japanese castle architecture. It is both a Japanese National Treasure and a World Heritage site. Unlike many other Japanese castles, it was never destroyed by war, earthquake or fire and survives to this day as one of the country's twelve original castles. Over 1,000 cherry trees can be found on the castle's grounds, therefore Himeji Castle is also a highly popular cherry blossom spot during the short and crowded blooming season.
Activities: Photo stop, Strolling, Castle visit Fee: JPY 1000 (castle) Time required: Minimum 1 hour
Kokoen is a large, relatively recently constructed Japanese garden located next to Himeji Castle. It consists of nine separate, walled gardens designed in various styles of the Edo period. The gardens were opened in 1992 to commemorate the centenary of Himeji City and are built on the former site of the residence of Himeji Castle's lord. Among the gardens is the garden of the lord's residence which features a pond with a waterfall, a tea garden where visitors can enjoy green tea in a tea ceremony house, a pine tree garden, a bamboo garden and a flower garden.
Activities: Photo stop, Strolling Fee: JPY 310 (castle) Time required: Minimum 40 minutes
Mt. Shosha is at the northern edge of Himeji City and is home to Engyoji, an atmospheric temple that has a history of over 1,000 years. The temple's lack of modern infrastructure makes it a common feature in period films. Besides mostly domestic productions, the Hollywood movie "The Last Samurai" was partially shot on the mountain, incorporating scenes taken around and inside the halls of Mitsunodo. Despite its fringe location, Mount Shosha is only 25 minutes away from the centre of Himeji City by public transport.
Activities: Photo stop, Strolling Fee: JPY 500 Time required: Minimum 40 minutes
In the Shibasan building in front of Himeji Station on the first floor, you will find Bansankan, a gift shop specializing in souvenirs from the Himeji and Nishi Harima area. With everything from Hime leatherworks to local sweets, this is a shop with a great diversity in the range of products it carries. Their selection of local sake is particularly good. (Image via Official Website)
A part of the JR Himeji Station building, Piole Himeji is a great shopping centre with an area dedicated to souvenirs from Himeji and its surrounding area. Not only do the shops here sell traditional items like sake and Myochin chopsticks, but there are many restaurants where you can enjoy local delicacies like Himeji oden and the refreshing salt-based Banshu Ako ramen.