Himeji Castle is a beautifully restored and maintained majestic Japanese castle sitting atop a hillside overlooking the city of Himeji in the Hyōgo prefecture of Japan.
Whilst we were staying in Kyoto, we took the opportunity to visit Himeji Castle, which is a mere hour’s Shinkansen (bullet train) ride away. It had been reopened again in 2015 after a few years of renovation work – so it is unlikely it was open the last time I went to Japan in June of 2015.
As soon as you get off the train at the Himeji JR station, you can see exactly where the castle is, at the end of the very long and straight Otemae Street.
As you get closer, the grandeur of the castle becomes apparent; it is nicknamed ‘White Heron Castle’ because of its pure white colour and resemblance to a bird spreading its wings. It is the largest castle in Japan, and spans six levels.
Himeji Castle is over 600 years old; the first original fort was built on Himeyana Hill in 1333, knocked down to be replaced by Himeyama Castle shortly after, and remodeled into Himeji Castle two centuries later in the 1500s.
The entrance path to the castle twists and turns, and you pass through many ‘gates’ to get to the main castle buildings. The twists, turns and barriers were put in place to confuse potential invaders, and delay their passage into the castle.
During World War II, a camouflage cover was placed over it in an attempt to disguise it from enemy attack. It became known as ‘The Miracle Castle’ after surviving bombings which left the rest of Himeji City decimated, and also survived an earthquake in 1995.
The castle and grounds are gorgeous, and were heightened by the autumnal trees when we went in October. It was busy with tourists when we went but not overly so, which was a plus as we had no problems getting tickets, and it wasn’t stupidly cramped anywhere.
We took the opportunity to have our photo taken in front of the castle when a nice lady nearby offered 🙂
When entering the main castle keep, you need to take your shoes off inside. Steps inside can get steep and are slippery so be careful when wearing socks – I almost slipped over myself and had to be especially careful coming back down the staircases. Some Japanese schoolboys were playing ‘sliding-along-the-floor’ games on one of the floors, as well 🙂
There are some stunning views from the (very small) windows, of the city and surroundings below.
Fish decorations adorn the roof and you can get really good close-up views of them from the upper floors. There is also a small shrine on the very top floor.
The frontmost side looks back towards Otemae Street and the train station.
Upon exit from the castle, you are treated to some awesome unobstructed views of the castle keep itself.
I would recommend Himeji Castle to anyone with any interest in Japanese architecture – this is certainly an extremely beautiful example of it. If you’ve been spending time in the big cities in Japan on your trip, it’s also a little bit of an escape from the madness.
Thank you to Georgie for telling me about Himeji castle whilst on a blogging event in the summer – I doubt it would have been on my radar otherwise, so thank you Georgie!