Himeji

Himeji Castle

Himeji (姫路) is a small city at the western edge of the Kansai region of Japan with Japan's finest castle. At one point in the late 1500s, it was the biggest castle in all of Asia.

The city has been featured in a series of Japanese and foreign films due to its picturesque old-Japan look. The information office at the JR station has props from some of these films including, for example, props from the film Last Samurai.

Get in

By plane

Himeji does not have its own airport. The nearest international airport is Kansai International Airport; buses run eight times a day to Himeji station (about 2 1/4 hours, ¥3200 for a one way ticket).

The nearest domestic airports are in Kobe and Osaka. By train from Kobe Airport, take the Port Liner to Sannomiya and connect to the shin-kaisoku train service to Himeji (about one hour with good connection, ¥1270), or take a bus straight to Himeji station (1 1/4 hours, ¥1300, six per day). From Osaka's Itami Airport, there are direct buses every hour or so to Himeji station (1 hour 20 minutes, ¥2100).

By train

A Shinkansen train enters Himeji station.

Himeji is along the Sanyo shinkansen line (山陽新幹線) from Osaka and Kobe to Okayama and Hiroshima. The Sakura and Hikari offer frequent service to Himeji within the Sanyo region, as do the all-stopping Kodama trains. As the station is raised it is possible to see Himeji Castle from a passing train.

From Tokyo, the trip by Nozomi costs ¥15700. There is one Nozomi train per hour that runs directly through to Himeji, otherwise you have to change at Shin-Osaka. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, there is also one Hikari train departing each hour, running through to Himeji, which you can take at no charge. Due to additional stops, the Hikari takes 3 hours and 40 minutes to reach Himeji from Tokyo.

The overnight Sunrise Izumo/Sunrise Seto services call at Himeji on runs to and from Tokyo. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can book a carpeted floor space at no charge - otherwise you can travel in a compartment or room by paying the applicable room fee and surcharges.

An inexpensive method of reaching Himeji from within the Kansai region is to take one of the frequent Shinkaisoku (新快速 - Special Rapid) commuter trains on the JR Kobe line (JR 神戸線) that begins in Osaka, which charges only the price of a local train. The ride takes 38 minutes from Kobe's Sannomiya station (¥950) or 57 minutes from Osaka (¥1450).

It is possible to travel from Osaka to Himeji using direct trains over the private Hanshin and Sanyo Railways but as this takes longer than JR (one and a half hours, ¥1250) it is only really worthwhile for holders of the 3 day or 5 day pass for Kansai's private railway system.

From Kyoto, the Hikari shinkansen whisks travellers to Himeji in just under an hour. This trip can be taken without charge by Japan Rail Pass holders.

By bus

Shinki Bus runs an overnight service from Tokyo (Shinjuku and Shibuya) to Himeji at a cost of ¥9450 one way and ¥17010 round trip. As of October 2009, the bus leaves the Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal at 22:30 and arrives at the Himeji Bus Terminal at 8:00, with the return leaving Himeji at 21:30 and getting to Shinjuku at 7:00.

Get around

On foot

To see the castle, as well as many of the other sites, it's only a 10-15 minute walk down Otemae-dōri from the station. Along the way, you'll also pass shopping centers and souvenir shops.

By bus

The Sightseeing Loop Bus is a cheap and convenient alternative that makes a loop around the cultural area, with stops near the castle, garden, and museums. It only costs ¥100 to ride, regardless of where you get off. It only takes 5 minutes to get to the castle.

The Loop Bus only covers the area around the castle, so for those wanting to visit sites beyond this area, such as Engyoji, you will need to take the city bus.

See

Himeji Castle gun racks

Do

Himeji Castle is particularly striking (and crowded) in cherry blossom season in April, when all the trees planted in and around the castle burst into white splendor.

Most people visit only the Castle and the area between the castle and the station. However, the area around the castle is a great place for a refreshing walk or a picnic. For families in particular, the park behind Himeji castle offers a decent play structure and ample space to sit down and have a picnic in the shadow of Japan's most famous castle.

Himeji has a number of matsuri (festivals) throughout the year.

Buy

Himeji isn't particularly famous for crafts or goods. Wind chimes made of iron tongs and white leather accessories are popular higher-end Himeji souvenirs, and they can be bought in many of the department stores or along the Miyuki dori shopping arcade. There are also numerous shops along the route to the castle selling a variety of Himeji Castle and other assorted souvenirs. Additionally, the streets in the area surrounding Himeji Station are filled with shopping arcades (particularly Miyuki dori) and the usual department stores (there are several lining the way to the Castle, including Sanyo, Forus, and Yamatoyashiki.)

Additionally, for those who prefer the finer smokeables, there is a tobacco shop just off of Miyuki dori (turn right at the Fujifilm corner shop) on the right hand side just past the Softbank store that, in an unusual move for Japanese tobacconists, sells a variety of cigars. Not the top quality Cubans, mind you, but decent enough (and rare-in-Japan) "hamaki" (cigars).

Eat

As you exit the station facing the castle (North), the main shopping street (Miyuki dori) will be on your right and the main entertainment area on your left. Both areas have some fine restaurants. Himeji has a full selection of foods, from fast food (Western and Japanese) to gourmet dining. For breakfast there are countless coffee shops, including a Starbucks that has small waffles.

Vegetarians in Himeji would do well to visit either Baobab or Everest. Baobab is a pan-Asian restaurant with an English menu for lunch and dinner, located just east of SMBC bank on Miyuki-dori, the main shopping arcade. Everest is a Nepalese (and Indian) restaurant just West of Himeji Station. Everest also has an English menu and the owner and chef also speaks English fluently.

There is a 24 hour McDonald's on the east side of Himeji JR station, for those of you who fancy something quick, simple and recognizable.

Drink

Himeji has two main bars that cater to foreigners. These bars tend to be frequented mostly by foreigners living in the city.

Sleep

Most people visit Himeji as a day/half day trip. Like most Japanese cities, there are a number of inexpensive business hotels clustered around the station. For example:

Go next

Routes through Himeji

Hiroshima Aioi  W  E  Nishi-Akashi Shin-Osaka
Okayama Tatsuno  W  E  Akashi Kobe
Okayama Tatsuno  W  E  Akashi Kobe


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, April 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.