Himeji Castle: The Best and Most Iconic Castle in Japan


Welcome to a journey through time, where history, culture, and architecture intertwine to create a stunning masterpiece – Himeji Castle (Himeji-Jo). Located in the vibrant city of Himeji within the scenic Hyogo Prefecture, this castle is not just an iconic symbol of Japan’s rich heritage, but it also holds a unique distinction. Himeji Castle is one of the twelve remaining original castles – castle towers that were built during the Edo period (1603-1868) or earlier and have been preserved until today. This distinction sets it apart from other castles, emphasizing its historical significance and authenticity.

In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating history of Himeji Castle, explore its architectural highlights, and provide practical information for those planning to visit this magnificent site. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an architecture aficionado, or a curious traveler, this guide will help you uncover the timeless beauty and historical charm of Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle with white walls and roofs after renovation”

Historical Background of Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is nestled in the beautiful castle grounds in Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture. The castle complex has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, marking its significance in the realm of architecture and history. Known by its other name, Shirasagijo (White Heron Castle), the castle’s brilliant white exterior, made from a unique type of white plaster, and elegant shape provide a stunning view, especially during the cherry blossom season when cherry trees in the castle grounds are in full bloom.

During the Edo period, it served as the administrative office of the Himeji Domain and was also established as the Western Japan Inspectorate for monitoring outer lords in the western provinces. The castle survived the Meiji period and the Pacific War, maintaining its original structure, including the main tower.

The castle’s main structures, including the castle keep and various turrets, still exist today. These structures have been designated as National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. The area within the middle moat, including the main castle area, is designated as a Special Historic Site under the name “Himeji Castle Ruins”. The castle is also registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage. It is also known by its other name, Shirasagijo (White Heron Castle).

Aerial view of Himeji Castle surrounded by green trees and blue sky

Architectural Highlights

The wooden structure of Himeji Castle, a masterpiece of 17th-century Japanese castle architecture, has miraculously survived the many challenges of time, including the great Hanshin earthquake.

Himeji Castle is a hilltop castle built around Himeyama and Sagiyama in Shikama County, Harima Province, which is now the northern part of Himeji City. It is a representative relic of early modern castle architecture in Japan. It is one of the twelve existing castles with castle towers built before the Edo period. The area within the middle moat is designated as a Special Historic Site, and eight buildings including the large castle tower, small castle tower, and connecting turret are designated as National Treasures.

In addition, 74 various buildings (27 turrets, 15 gates, and 32 walls) are designated as Important Cultural Properties. It was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Cultural Heritage) in December 1993. The castle’s main keep is a five-story building on the outside but has six floors and a basement on the inside. The castle’s design, which allows for excellent visibility and defense against enemies, is a masterpiece of Japan’s early 17th-century castle architecture.

The castle is also known for its “linked-circle” style of construction, which provides multiple paths and allows for strategic defense. The castle complex includes over 80 buildings spread out over 1 square kilometer. The grounds feature advanced defensive systems from the feudal period, and the castle is also renowned for its beautiful white plastered earthen walls. The castle’s brilliant white exterior and elegant shape, resembling a bird taking flight, have earned it the nickname “White Heron Castle.”

The castle underwent major restoration work from 1956 to 1964, and again from 2009 to 2015, to preserve its historical structures and maintain its timeless beauty. Today, it stands as a testament to Japan’s rich history and architectural ingenuity, attracting visitors from around the world.

Getting to Himeji Castle

By Train (To Himeji)

Himeji Castle is easily accessible by train from various major cities in Japan.

From Osaka, it takes approximately 30 minutes to reach Himeji Castle by train. If you are traveling from Kyoto, the train journey is slightly longer, taking around 43 minutes.

From Kobe, you can reach Himeji Castle in about 40 minutes by train. If you are coming from Okayama, taking only about 20 minutes.

From JR Himeji Station /Sanyo Himeji Station

From JR Himeji Station, the castle is just a short walk or bus ride away. Whether you’re coming from Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, or Okayama, Himeji Station serves as the gateway to this national treasure.

  • Take a Shinki bus at the North Exit of Himeji Station and get off at Otemon-mae Stop. A five-minute walk from the Otemon-mae bus stop.
  • A 20-minute walk from JR Himeji and Sanyo Himeji stations.
Himeji Castle seen from Himeji Station along a street lined with shops and traffic lights

Touring Himeji Castle

When touring Himeji Castle, it’s recommended to bring thick socks or comfortable indoor shoes as the inside of the buildings, including the Main Keep, have wooden floors which can be slippery. Outdoor shoes are not allowed inside the buildings, so you’ll need to put them in a plastic bag that you’ll be given at the entrance. To protect the environment, it’s suggested to bring your own bag.

During the summer season, the castle extends its opening hours from 9 am to 6 pm, with the last entry at 5 pm. This extended schedule runs from June 1st to September 24th. It’s also important to take measures against heatstroke. Drinks in plastic bottles with lids or water bottles are allowed in the paid area. Although there are vending machines near the ticket gate, they may be crowded or sold out, so it’s recommended to bring your own beverages in advance.

Things to Do at Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle offers a variety of activities for visitors.

One of the highlights is the English Guided Tour, which is available every day at 10:00 and 13:00.

1. English Guided Tour

TimesTwice a day 10:00am and 1:00pm
Tour Duration1 hour 45 minutes
ParticipantsMaximum of 10 participants per tour
FeeAdults: JPY 1,000
Students (13-18): JPY 500
Children (≤12): Free (max 2 per adult)
RegistrationRegistration is only on the day of the tour at the information desk.
First-come-first-served basis.
NotesThe admission fee to the castle is not included in the tour fee.
Tours will be canceled only in case of heavy rain or rough weather.
For more detailed information, please refer to the Himeji Castle Tours page.

2. Miya-Daiku Workshop and Himeji Castle Tour

To make your trip even more memorable, I recommend booking a Miya-Daiku Workshop and Himeji Castle Tour. This tour not only includes a visit to the iconic Himeji Castle with Japanese Carpenter but also offers a unique experience of participating in a traditional Japanese woodworking workshop.

Japanese carpentry, also known as “Miya Daiku”, is a traditional form of carpentry that has been developed over a millennium. It was influenced by Chinese architectural techniques from the 12th century.

TimesTwice a day 9:00am and 1:00pm
Tour Duration4 hours
Tour ScheduleAvailable on Monday-Sunday
FeeJPY 99,440 for Group of 6 participants, JPY 5500 to each additional person
What’s includedEnglish-speaking guide, Tax, Miya-Daiku Workshop Visit, Gratuity for Miya-Daiku carpenter
What’s not includedTransport, Taxi expenses during the tour, Himeji Castle admission fee
Itinerary1. Meet up at Himeji Station and proceed to Miya-Daiku Workshop (20 Minutes)
2. Explore Miya-Daiku Workshop (60 Minutes)
3. Transfer to Himeji Castle (20 Minutes)
4. Explore Himeji Castle (120 Minutes)
5. Transfer to Himeji Station (20 Minutes)
Meeting placeJR Himeji Station Central Exit, in front of Himeji Tourist Information Desk.
Address: 188-1 Ekimaecho, Himeji, Hyogo

In addition to the guided tour, visitors can explore the castle at their own pace, taking in the stunning architecture and beautiful gardens. The castle is also a great spot for photography, with its brilliant white exterior and elegant shape providing a stunning backdrop.

Please note that the operation of drones or any remote-controlled aircraft over the Himeji Castle and its surrounding area is strictly prohibited. Violators face penalty fines of up to 100,000 JPY.

Nearby Attractions

After exploring Himeji Castle, there are several other attractions in the vicinity that are worth visiting:

Koko-en Garden

Koko-en Garden, a Japanese style garden with nine separate sections, next to Himeji Castle

Koko-en Garden is a must-visit when you’re in the city of Himeji. Located next to Himeji Castle, Koko-en Garden is a collection of nine separate gardens designed in various styles of the Edo period. The gardens are a perfect place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature, especially during the cherry blossom season.

Koko-en Garden
68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo, 〒670-0012, Japan

Opening hours
9:00am – 5:00pm (last entry at 4:30pm)

December 29 and 30

Adults (18 years and above): JPY 310
Children (Elementary, Junior High, and High School Students): JPY 150

For more information, visit the Koko-en Garden website.

Himeji city Museum of Art

Himeji city Museum of Art 1

The Himeji city Museum of Art is a must-visit for art lovers, especially those with an interest in Western art. The museum’s collection is centered around French art from the 19th to 20th century, allowing visitors to trace the evolution of modern French art. This includes works from artists who championed naturalism and realism, such as Corot and Courbet, through to the Impressionists like Monet and Pissarro, the Fauvists represented by Vlaminck, and up to Matisse, who provided a guide to Modernism.

Himeji city Museum of Art
68-25 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo, 〒670-0012, Japan

Opening hours
10:00am – 5:00pm (last entry at 4:30pm)

Every Monday (unless it’s a national holiday)
Year-end holidays (Dec.28,2023-Jan.3,2024)

Adults: JPY 210
High School Students: JPY 150
Elementary and Junior High School Students: JPY 100

For more information, visit the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art website.

Miki Museum of Art

Himeji Miki Museum of Art 1

The Miki Museum of Art is a unique attraction that offers a blend of art and nature, with a stunning view overlooking Himeji Castle. The museum showcases the works of several renowned artists. This includes the innovative Bizen ware artist Ryuichi Kakurezaki, the Japanese painter Susumu Maki who delicately portrays the world of the four seasons, Koji Togo who develops a delicate and elegant painting environment based on landscape and bird-and-flower paintings, and Seiji Togo, known for his sweet female images.

The museum hosts various exhibitions and art lessons, with the exhibits changing every three months. This ensures that visitors can enjoy a different atmosphere with each visit, as both the ceramics on the third floor and the paintings are almost entirely replaced.

Miki Museum of Art
241 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo, 〒670-0012, Japan

Opening hours
10:00am – 6:00pm (5:30pm last entry)

Monday and Tuesday, except national holidays.
Year-end holidays (Dec.25,2023-Jan.4,2024)

Adults   JPY 500
*free for children 15 and under

For more information, visit the Miki Museum of Art website.

Practical Information

Before planning your visit to Himeji Castle, here are some practical details you should know:

Himeji Castle
68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 〒670-0012, Japan

Opening hours
9:00am – 5:00pm (4:00pm last entry)

December 29 and 30

Tour Duration

A typical tour of Himeji Castle takes about 2 to 3 hours. However, this can vary depending on your pace and interest level.

Admission Fee

The admission fee for Himeji Castle is as follows:

AdultsJPY 1,000
Students (13 to 18 years old)JPY 500
Children (12 years old or younger)Free (up to 2 children per 1 adult)
Combined ticket with Koko-en Garden (Adults)JPY 1,050
Combined ticket with Koko-en Garden (Students)JPY 360


Himeji Castle is more than just a historical monument; it’s a symbol of Japan’s rich cultural heritage and architectural prowess. Its brilliant white exterior, intricate design, and enduring history make it a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Japan. Whether you’re exploring the castle grounds, admiring the architectural highlights, or soaking in the vibrant history, a visit to Himeji Castle promises to be an unforgettable experience. We hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights and practical information for your visit. Enjoy your journey to Himeji Castle, and may it leave you with lasting memories and a deeper appreciation of Japan’s historical treasures.

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