Is Himeji, Japan worth the visit? We say, “Yes!”
During our exploration of the Kansai area, one place that was on our radar was Himeji (姫路市) city. Since it’s a quick day trip from Osaka or Kyoto via train and famous for its gorgeous white castle, Himeji Castle, we had to see this area for ourselves.
With this Himeji day trip itinerary, we’re sharing helpful information on how to get to Himeji, what to expect with your day in Himeji, the top attractions to visit, and more! If you have the chance, we suggest visiting Himeji on a weekday so you don’t need to worry about the crowds at the castle. Depending on your schedule, you can spend either a half-day or a full day exploring the Himeji sights.
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How to Get to Himeji
If you’re based in Osaka or Kyoto, you can easily visit Himeji as a day trip. You could also visit as a day trip from Tokyo but it would be a long journey and isn’t as recommended. We’ll share the directions below on how to visit Himeji via the shinkansen bullet train or local train.
To use the shinkansen, purchase the Japan Rail (JR) pass if you plan to travel long distances during your Japan itinerary. You’ll need to buy the pass before arriving in Japan and exchange the voucher for the pass on arrival. It’s convenient to use as you can use the pass for any railways along the JR line. Plus, you can reserve seats in advance when using the shinkansen so you’re guaranteed a seat. You won’t be able to use the JR pass for the Nozomi or Mizuho lines but you’ll take either Sakura or Hikari lines which will get you to your destination in no time!
Buy your discounted JR pass here.
From Osaka to Himeji
From Osaka Station (大阪駅), take the local train via Tokaido-Sanyo Line to go to Shin-Osaka Station (新大阪駅). This will take five minutes. From there, you can go on either of the routes below.
Shinkansen route: From Shin-Osaka Station, take the shinkansen train to Himeji Station. This will take another 43 minutes.
Local train route: From Shin-Osaka Station, take the Tokaido-Sanyo Line rapid train to go to Himeji Station. It’ll take about 1 hour and 8 minutes one-way.
From Kyoto to Himeji
Shinkansen route: From Kyoto Station (京都駅), take the shinkansen to Shin-Osaka Station. This will take 14 minutes. At Shin-Osaka Station, transfer to another shinkansen train to go to Himeji Station. This will take another 43 minutes. You’ll need a total of 1 hour and 2 minutes for the one-way ride.
Local train route: Another option is to take the JR special rapid train line via the Tokaido-Sanyo Line from Kyoto Station to Himeji Station. It’ll take 1 hour and 30 minutes.
From Tokyo to Himeji
Take the local train to either Tokyo Station (東京駅) or Shinagawa Station (品川駅). Hop on the shinkansen headed to Okayama and arrive at Himeji Station. The ride will take 3 hours 36 minutes from Tokyo Station or 3 hours and 30 minutes from Shinagawa Station. As you can see, it’ll take a while to arrive to Himeji as a day trip so you may consider staying overnight here.
How to Travel Around Himeji
From Himeji Station to the Himeji Castle area, you can easily walk there. It’ll take 20 minutes as it’s 1.5 kilometers away (.93 miles).
To visit other areas, take the Himeji city bus. Check out this helpful guide on which bus lines to take from various sightseeing spots.
Where to Store Your Luggage
If you have luggage or large day packs and need a place to store them, there are coin-operated lockers at the Himeji Station. If you take the shinkansen, there are lockers in the shinkansen area. Or, there are lockers near the entrances to the station.
The daily rental cost varies depending on the size you need – 400 yen ($3.70) for a small locker, 500 yen ($4.60) for medium, and 700 yen ($6.50) for large. The larger ones will fit one rolling luggage.
As a reminder, don’t lose your locker key! You’ll need it to retrieve your luggage at the end of the day.
Since we visited Himeji as a stopover before heading to Okayama later in the evening, it was convenient to use the lockers.
What to Do on Your Himeji Day Trip
1. Visit Himeji Castle.
With this Himeji 1 day itinerary, we’re starting the day with a visit to the famous Himeji Castle (姫路城). As Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site for its Outstanding Universal Value, Himeji Castle is recognized for its 17th-century Japanese architecture and stunning white exterior (made out of plaster). It’s no wonder this castle is also referred to as “Hakurojo” (White Heron Castle) as it looks like a white heron flying in the sky.
The castle was built in 1601 and finished in 1609. It survived many battles and political unrest with feudal lords. In modern times, Himeji experienced air raids during World War II yet the castle survived. The castle was restored from 2009-2015 using the original building techniques in the 17th century.
You’ll need a few hours to explore the castle grounds and read the history as this place is HUGE! Luckily you don’t need to worry about any time limit so you can explore as fast or slow as you want.
The castle highlights include the following:
- Take a photo at the Sangoku Bori (moat) which has the Himeji Castle in the background. You can’t miss this perfect photo spot. You’ll pass the large Hishi Gate near the entrance and will see the moat.
- Walk through the Main Keep. This is the main building of the castle that has seven floors (one of the floors is the basement). The interior is empty as there isn’t any furniture, so it could be a letdown for some visitors. However, there is some unique architecture to observe when navigating through the floors such as the large wooden pillars between the floors and random secret doors and cabinets. We think that this would have been an exciting place to play the “Hide and Seek” game with the many hiding spots.
From the windows, you can see the city view of Himeji and the surrounding area. You’ll notice that the windows are narrow to prevent arrows and bullets from entering.
Himeji Castle Main Keep Tips
- If you have knee or mobility issues, you may want to skip the walk inside the Main Keep as there aren’t any elevators. Most of the time, you’ll need to climb up narrow stairs and hold onto the handrail.
- To preserve the floors, everyone must take off their shoes and wear special slippers. Guests are provided with a plastic bag to store shoes.
- The castle is cold inside since the windows are open. You’ll need to wear a jacket during the wintertime.
- On your way outside of the Main Keep, there is another good photo spot in the Honmaru Bailey area. You can also rest on the benches here to enjoy views of the Main Keep.
- Explore the Hyakken Roka (Long connecting corridor). Located to the left of the Main Keep, there is a long hallway that is only one level. It’s more interactive than the Main Keep since you can see videos of the restoration process of the Himeji Castle. We also liked how this place wasn’t as crowded as the Main Keep since it’s a bit hidden. You’ll need to remove your shoes and wear their slippers here as well.
Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012, Japan (〒670-0012 兵庫県姫路市本町68)
Opening Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm (last entry at 4:00pm) from September to March, 9:00am-6:00pm (last entry at 5:00pm) from April to August
- Himeji Castle admission: 1,000 yen ($9.30) adults (18+ years), 300 yen ($2.80) elementary to high school students, free children under elementary school age
- Himeji Castle and Koko-en Garden admission: 1,050 yen ($9.70) adults, 360 yen ($3.30) elementary to high school students (We suggest that you get the combo ticket since it’s cost-effective versus buying individual tickets.)
Credit cards are accepted as payment at the main ticket office.
How to Get There: You can walk 20 minutes from the JR Himeji Station or take the bus to Himejijo Otemonmae stop from Himeji Station.
Read More: Check out Hiroshima Castle in Hiroshima, Japan
2. Stroll through Koko-en Garden.
Located on the Himeji Castle premise, Koko-en Garden (好古園) is a tranquil Japanese garden that has nine different themes. Built in 1992, this 3.5 hectares garden was the former site of the Nishi-Oyashiki, feudal lord’s West Residence area.
Visiting the garden is a nice complement to the castle as you get some nature and greenery in your Himeji itinerary. Although many of the trees didn’t blossom during our visit in January, we can see how this garden would be gorgeous during the spring season with the cherry blossoms and fall season with the foliage.
The best thing to do here is to walk around the different gardens and soak in their beauty. Our favorite areas include the Cho-on-sai guest house where you see a waterfall and also an overlook of the lake. There is a bridge to cross over the pond which is a nice photo spot. We also enjoyed the garden of the Lord’s residence since hundreds of colorful carps are in the pond. Some of the smaller gardens also had carp in their ponds.
Other highlights of the area include visiting the Souju-an tea ceremony house to drink matcha tea and gaze at the gorgeous view of the Himeji Castle. You can also enjoy a refreshing meal at the Kassui-ken restaurant for traditional Japanese meals such as grilled conger eel (anago) over rice, soba noodles, and bento boxes. You must make reservations in advance.
Opening Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm (January-April & September-December), 9:00am-6:00pm (May-August)
- Koko-en Garden admission: 310 yen ($2.90) adults, 150 yen ($1.40) elementary to high school students
- Himeji Castle and Koko-en Garden admission: 1,050 yen ($9.70) adults, 360 yen ($3.30) elementary to high school students
How to Get There: Unfortunately, the garden isn’t connected with the castle since there is another admission cost. You’ll need to exit the castle, cross the bridge, turn right and walk on the main street for a few minutes to get to the entrance of the garden.
3. Buy some gifts along Shopping Streets.
On your way back to Himeji Station, there are several covered shopping streets such as Nishi Nikaimachi. There was a sign that mentioned “Gourmet Street” which offered BBQ, sweets, sushi, and other delicious foods. It looked intriguing but we didn’t have a chance to explore further. As with any of the shopping streets in Japan, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and local shops.
Other Himeji Attractions to Visit
With our one day in Himeji, we couldn’t see everything. Here are other places on our Himeji bucket list for a return trip.
1. Hike Mount Shosha
One place that we regretfully missed was the opportunity to hike Mount Shosha (書写山). As one of the best hiking trails in Japan, Mount Shosha is 371 meters (1,217 feet) high. You’ll need a few hours to do the round trip hike from the ropeway station. All you need to do is follow the sign and look out for these words, 登山道, in Japanese and you’ll be on your way up the mountain. You can also take the Mount Shosha ropeway which is a cable car that’ll take you to the summit. More information is below.
The must-visit temple on Mount Shosha is Shoshazan Engyo-ji (書写山圓教寺). This temple was founded in the year 966 and practices the Tendai sect of Buddhism. If you’ve seen the movie, The Last Samurai, you’ll recognize several scenes that were shot at this location. Currently, visitors enjoy the peaceful temple area.
Shoshazan Engyo-ji Address: 2968 Shosha, Himeji, Hyogo 671-2201, Japan (〒671-2201 兵庫県姫路市書写2968)
Temple & Ropeway Opening Hours: 8:30am-5:00pm
- Ropeway only: 600 yen ($5.60) one-way / 1,000 yen ($9.30) round trip adults, 300 yen ($2.80) one-way / 500 yen ($4.60) round trip children
- Ropeway and bus ticket (Shoshazan ropeway set ticket): 1,420 yen adults ($13.20), 710 yen ($6.60) children. You can buy this combo ticket at the Shinki Bus Himeji Station Information Center.
- Shoshazan Engyo-ji: 500 yen ($4.60)
How to Get There: To get to the Mount Shosha ropeway, take Bus #8 from Shinki Bus Himeji Station or Himeji Castle’s Himejijo Otemonmae stop (about 100 meters to the right of the castle intersection).
Read More: Hike Mount Takao in Tokyo
2. Taiyo Park
Taiyo Park (太陽公園) is a quirky place to visit in Himeji. It’s a theme park that has replicas of well-known landmarks in the world. You can visit the replicas of the terracotta army from Xi’an, China, Neuschwanstein Castle from Germany, Great Wall of China, and more. Another interesting attraction is seeing Buddha embedded in a giant rock at 25 meters (82 feet) high.
Address: 1342-6 Uchikoshi, Himeji, Hyogo 671-2246, Japan (〒671-2246 兵庫県姫路市打越1342-6)
Opening Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm
Admission Cost: 1,300 yen ($12.10) adults and high school students, 600 yen ($5.60) elementary, junior high, seniors 75+ years)
How to Get There: You can take the Shinki Bus from Himeji Station to get to Taiyo Park. More information on which bus to take is here.
Read More: Check out replicas of Asia landmarks at Danang Wonders in Vietnam
Where to Eat in Himeji
There are many restaurants close to Himeji Castle and Himeji Station to try. If you need ideas on what to eat in Japan, check out our Japanese food post!
We tried to go to Memme (讃岐うどん めんめ) to eat udon, but they were closed during our visit.
Instead, we went to Spice Suehiro which is an adorable curry shop. Opened in 2015, Spice Suehiro has a limited menu and offers three types of curry a day. During our visit, there was chicken, shrimp curry, and tofu with lentils. You can do a half-half plate for any two flavors. The menu is in Japanese but the servers are helpful with explaining what each item is.
While this place doesn’t serve traditional Japanese curry, the flavors are spot on. The chicken curry and vegetarian curry had Indian spices while the shrimp curry had Thai flavors.
The second level of the building has gifts that you can purchase.
Address: 68-42 Honmachi, Himeji, 兵庫県 Hyogo 670-0012, Japan (〒670-0012 兵庫県姫路市本町68-42)
Opening Hours: 11:30am-3:30pm 6:00pm-10:00pm (Closed on Thursdays and Fridays)
Food Price: 900-1,200 yen ($8.40-$11.15). Cash only
If you want freshly baked bread as a snack, head to Bakery Lamp (ベーカリー ランプ). They have delicious baked goods such as fruit danishes, croissants, red bean buns, and sesame buns with mentaiko (pollack roe) and potato. They also serve cooked foods such as burgers and chili fries. This place is off the main street so it can be a bit tricky to find.
Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012, Japan (〒670-0012 兵庫県姫路市本町68)
Opening Hours: 10:00am-7:00pm (Tuesday-Saturday), 10:00am-6:00pm (Sunday). Closed every Monday and second Tuesday.
Food Price: 300-600+ yen ($2.80-$5.60+). Credit card accepted.
Your Himeji day trip has come to an end. Now you can return to your home base whether it’s in Osaka or Kyoto and remember your awesome time at Himeji. If you’re continuing your Japan trip and heading west, check out Kobe to try some Kobe beef or Okayama to see the Okayama Castle. Enjoy the rest of your Japan trip!
What would you like to see in Himeji? Let us know in the comments.
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Pin #1 and Pin #2 photo credit: Tom Shu via Scopio Photos
Super detailed post! Excellent! ????????
Thanks Audrey! Appreciate you stopping by.
I know so little about Japan so sadly I had not even heard of Himeji, Japan! But I have to say that seeing the Himeji Castle and gardens looks definitely bucket list worthy! How beautiful is that entire complex. Also, being an avid hiker, I think I would definitely have to add a hike up Mount Shosha to my list of things to do in Himeji. I loved the movie, Last Samurai, so that would definitely be a highlight to hike up to the old Buddhist temple.
Himeji Castle was the most impressive castle that we’ve seen in Japan! Hope you can visit Japan once the travel restrictions have been lifted.
I remember how big this place was! I also can’t believe there are like no people in your photos…there were so many when I was there! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Hi Cherrod. We were surprised how big Himeji Castle was! We went on a weekday so there were fewer people at the castle.
It is unfortunate that you didn’t get to hike Mount Shosha. I love hiking, but have never seen a temple, so this would have killed 2 birds with one stone for me.
Hi Kelly. Once we’re able to travel again, we’ll return to Himeji to conquer Mount Shosha. The mountain is waiting for us!
Jackie, this looks like such and incredible day trip. I’d love to see Himeji Castle, it looks STUNNING in your photos. I’m putting the castle and gardens on my bucket list – just need to be able to travel again! 🙂
Thanks Derek! Himeji is a fun place to explore when you’re in the Kansai area of Japan.
Very useful tips on how to get to Himeji from different places in Japan, great for backpackers. Himeji Castle looks so pretty, good to know where the top photo spots are. There is something very calming about Japanese gardens, I’d love to wander round the Koko-en Garden. Shame you missed hiking Mount Shosha and seeing the temple, that would be high on my list.
Hi Vanessa. I feel like there is never enough time to explore Japan. Will return to Osaka to make another day trip to Himeji!
What a beautiful virtual journey I was able to take thanks to this informative travel guide and stunning photographs! I’ve yet to travel to Japan, but when I do, will be sure to include a day trip to Himeji. The view of the castle from Sangoku Bori is amazing and I think a highlight for me would be taking a stroll through Koko-en Garden. Thanks for the tip regarding visiting Himeji on a weekday to avoid crowds and about all the admission costs – certainly helpful for trip planning.
You’re welcome Aditi. Hope you can make it out to Japan soon!