Nowadays, many Japanese castles have been included in the World Heritage Register. But, when it comes to the ranking determined by the Japan Castle Foundation, there can only be ONE castle that is ranked first place.
Himeji Castle (姫路城) was nicknamed the White Heron Castle or Shirasagi-Jō (白鷺城) in Japanese because the castle’s white walls and white roofs are reminiscent of a heron gracefully expanding its wings. This castle, with such an elegant appearance, together with some other factors, enabled it to be chosen to be the best castle amongst hundreds of castles in the country in the Foundation’s latest release!
We all know Himeji Castle is registered as one of the World Cultural Heritage. But do you also know it is the first heritage in Japan that got registered?
So, when you visit the castle, don’t forget to take a photo with this landmark.
Unlike many castles in Japan, the Himeji Castle that you see today is not a rebuild but the same original 400-year-old castle. This single fact is worth a visit already!
Fun fact: The reason that the castle can survive until now for over 400 years is not that the American army didn’t target Himeji castle during World War II, but because the bomb that dropped down was a faulty bomb (゜o゜).
Tip: Remember to download the Himeji Castle Great Discovery app on your phone before visiting Himeji Castle. This app will be a great guide that will tell you the historical and fun facts about different areas on the castle’s ground!
Booking an English Guided Tour
If you would like an English-speaking tour guide to introduce Himeji Castle and Kōkōen Garden to you, make a booking with one of the two tour guide groups.
Himeji Castle’s History
Strolling around all 83 buildings of the castle can take a while. But the ground of the castle back in the 16th century was even bigger.
The model on the left illustrates the complete ground of the castle back then. The area up on the hill is the current ground of the castle.
The purpose of the white color of the castle wasn’t for an elegant presentation but to strengthen its defense function. The color is actually from the white plaster to fireproof its internal wooden structure.
With various openings for firing guns, arrows, and even boiling water (yes, boiling water was counted as a weapon back then), the castle was able to protect people inside from their enemies.
Check out the openings on the wall in various shapes in the photo. They weren’t opened up for the samurais to appreciate the nice view of the castle’s downtown areas, but for them to spot unwelcomed visitors!
Cherry Blossom at Himeji Castle
As one of Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots, if you visit the Kansai region in early spring, definitely drop by this beautiful castle!
There is even a nighttime party where you get to enjoy different traditional Japanese music performances while seeing the light-up show on the castle and the fully bloomed cherry blossom (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
For more information, please refer to our festival guide below!
Nighttime Light-up at Himeji Castle
Before you leave Himeji Castle, make sure you take a photograph of the mysterious side of the castle during nighttime when it is illuminated!
The castle is lit up throughout the year from sunset to midnight. The color changes according to the season. In spring and summer, white lighting is used, and to warm you up during autumn and winter, the castle is illuminated with warm tones of lighting!
☛ Check out the congestion forecast HERE to plan your visit (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ
☛ The Himeji castle guide map HERE can be accessed before and during your visit to the castle.
☛ When the COVID 19 pandemic is part of history, the English guide tour should be back!
Before the pandemic, there were 2 sessions (at 10 am and 1 pm), each lasting for 1 hour and 45 minutes. To join the tour, adults above 19 years of age will need to pay an extra 1,000 yen and 500 yen for teenagers between 13 and 18 years old. The registration starts 15 minutes before the commencement of the tour at the information desk at the castle. Note the tour has a capacity of 10 people.
Festivals and the Best Time to Visit Himeji Castle
World Heritage Himeji Castle Marathon (世界遺産姫路城マラソン)
The World Heritage Himeji Castle Marathon is held each year in February or March (on the 27th of February in 2022). If you are interested in sports, planning your visit around the date will be worthwhile.
There are several courses that the runners can participate in.
- The full 42.195km course
- The fun courses are for people, especially primary school children to enjoy.
In the meantime, you can check out the full course map HERE!
Himeji Castle Night Time Cherry Blossom Party (姫路城夜桜会)
The cherry blossom season at Himeji usually starts in late March. By early April, the gorgeous pink flowers will be fully bloomed (albeit the flowers blossomed around 10 days earlier than usual in 2021).
Each year, a nighttime cherry blossom party is held for around 10 days in April. Different traditional Japanese music performances are performed during the party for visitors to have a truly authentic Japanese sakura viewing experience.
Apart from the lighting shows, there are also traditional umbrellas placed on the ground, which are also lit up to enhance the traditional atmosphere (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
The dates of the nighttime party are usually released in mid-March on the castle’s official website HERE. You can get the website translated to English by using the multilingual function at the top of the website.
In 2022, the party is held from the 2nd to the 99th of April from 6:30 pm to 9 pm (the last admission is at 8:30 pm) with an admission fee of 600 yen (200 yen for elementary to high school students). Note that reservation is required due to the pandemic. You can book your spot HERE (Japanese only).
Himeji Castle Festival (姫路お城まつり)
If you plan to visit the Himeji Castle in May, we recommend planning your visit when the Himeji Castle Festival is on!
The festival usually starts with the Noh play on the first night by the fire, followed by huge parades and stage performances over the next two days.
This is a great opportunity for you to experience Japanese culture. Check out below for some photos to know what you can expect on the day!
In 2022, the festival was held from the 20th to the 22nd of May.
Autumn Foliage at Himeji Castle
To be honest, rather than the Himeji castle, autumn foliage is a lot more stunning in the castle’s garden Kōkōen. Many people visit Himeji for the castle, but what they don’t realize is that the garden’s castle is just as awesome as the castle itself!
In autumn, if you don’t have time to visit both, we would recommend you to go to the garden for sure! Refer to our Kōkōen article for more details and photos, and you will know why (^_-)-☆.
The autumn foliage season starts in mid-November and peaks from late November to early December.
How to Get to Himeji Castle and Himeji Castle’s Opening Hour and Admission Fees
- The castle is just 20-minute away from JR Himeji Station (姫路駅).
- You can also take any bus services operating by Shinki Bus (神姫バス) from JR Himeji Station’s no. 7, no. 8, or no. 9 bus stop. Please get off at the 2nd stop – Himejijō Ōte-mae (姫路城大手門前).
- The buses that depart from the 3 bus stops come at approximately 5 minutes intervals.
- From the bus stop, it is only a 5-minjute walk.
- The one-way bus fare is 100 yen.
Tip: if you plan to catch a bus back to JR Himeji Station, take the buses departing from the no. 7 or no. 8 bus stop. The bus stop for your return trip is located on the other side of the road from where you get off.
Himeji Castle’s Opening Hours
- 9 am – 5 pm (the last admission at 4 pm)
- 9 am – 6 pm from the 23rd of July to the 28th of August (the last admission at 5 pm)
The castle is closed on the 29th and the 30th of December.
Himeji Castle’s Admission Fees
- 18 years old and older: 1,000 yen
- Elementary and high school students: 300 yen
Combined Ticket for Himeji Castle and Kōkōen Garden
- 18 years old and older: 1,050 yen (260 yen saving)
- Elementary and high school students: 360 yen (90 yen saving)
More Travel Ideas in the Area
Extend Your Visit to Mt. Shosha!
From Himeji Station, make a short excursion to Engyōji Temple at Mt Shosha to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere this hidden gem has to offer!
As this place is less well-known, you won’t be surrounded by thousands of tourists. And, the view from the cable car as well as from the observatories in the mountain is spectacular!
For more information about the destination, please refer to our article on Mt. Shosha!
Visit the Venice of Japan – Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter!
Just around a 60-minute train ride from Himeji Station, the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is famed as the Venice of Japan. The area with traditional houses and willow trees lined at the banks of the canal is one of the country’s most popular movie filming spots.
On top of the trendy cafes and restaurants, the area also has many cultural facilities, including the Ōhara Museum of Art (which has a collection of international masterpieces), the Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft, and the Kurashiki Archeological Museum.
For more information, please refer to our article on Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter!