Recognized as one of the most famous castles in Japan, the Himeji Castle is a true must see. With its rich history and beautiful architecture, there’s no question as to why millions of visitors come to see the castle each year. Also known as the White Heron Castle because of its resemblance to a white heron taking flight, the structure is considered as a World Heritage Site and a national treasure to Japan. If you’re planning to visit anytime soon, here are important notes you may want to know.
How and when to go to Himeji Castle
Himeji is easily accessible via the Shinkansen or bullet train. It’s one kilometer away from the Hyogo, Himeji Station and will take a 15-minute walk from the station. You can also choose to take a 5-minute bus ride for 100 yen. Since the castle is perched on top of the Himeyama hill, it will be pretty hard to miss.
Most visitors will visit the White Heron during winter when the snow will make the castle look even more majestic. Spring is also a popular time to go when people come to enjoy the Hanami as the castle grounds is surrounded by Sakura blossoms.
The castle was first built by Akamatsu Norimura in 1333 but dismantled and rebuilt in 1346. It was later on remodeled by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1581, who decided to add a three storey keep. In the 1600s, a Japanese daimyo Ikeda Terumasa was awarded ownership of the castle. He completely rebuilt the Himeji Castle from 1601 to 1609 and expanded the structure to a castle complex. Honda Tamadasa also added several buildings to the complex from 1617 to 1618.
The Himeji Castle is part of the twelve original castles of Japan. The original castles refer to structures with their main keep intact to this day from before 1868 during the feudal era. The White Heron was never destroyed by war or natural disaster despite the many nearby bombings from the Second World War. It did go under a recent renovation to address the deterioration from its age and was fully reopened to the public in 2015.
The Himeji Castle Tour
The Himeji Castle is considered as one of the best representations of traditional Japanese architecture and your eyes will surely feast on its beauty. The six story main keep made of wood is always a sight to behold and each level of the keep is truly worth exploring.
All of the castles built prior to the unification of Japan were meant to become a defensive fortress. They’re often located in hills to provide its occupants with a good vantage point to spot approaching enemies. Even upon entrance, you will be met with a series of maze, hideouts, traps, and dead ends so it’s best to get a guided tour so you don’t miss out on the best sights and learn about the history of Himeji as you go!
The Himeji Castle is truly worth the trip if you’re going to Japan! Don’t miss out on seeing the White Heron Castle for yourself and let its beauty take your breath away.