Himeji Castle's early history dates to the 14th century when Akamatsu Norimura built a fortification on this site. Himeyama Castle was then built by his son in 1346. The castle starts to come into prominence during the Sengoku Period when it was renovated by the Kuroda Shigetaka in 1545. In 1580, Nobunaga took control of Harima proving and placed it under the control of Toyotomi Hideyoshi who remodeled the castle and built a small keep. You can still see some of the remnants of Hideyoshi's castle in Himeji castle as Ikeda incoporated some of the stone walls and gates into his castle. Ikeda Terumasa, an ally of Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Sekigahara, was awarded this province (Harima) for his alliance during the war. Ikeda Terumasa built the main keep of Himeji-jo and erected the castle as it is known today. Himeji-jo's nickname Shirasagi-jo means "White Heron Castle" because the main keep with its three smaller towers resembles a white heron. Himeji-jo was granted "World Heritage" status by UNESCO in 1993.
I may be biased, but Himeji Castle is probably the most amazing place you could visit in Japan. There are some beautiful temples out there too but the sheer size of the main keep at Himeji Castle and the fact that you can walk around unhindered inside of it cannot be experienced elsewhere. Combined with the various types of gates and walls, it really is like stepping back in time. It can be very crowded however and the website provides some information about wait times to enter the main keep. If possible, try to visit on weekdays and plan to arrive when it opens. Most of the pictures you see in these albums were taken on weekdays in the winter, so it is possible to get good photos if you have some freedom with timing.
Just before the ticket counter, off to your left, is an administration office where you may be able to connect with a volunteer English guide to tour the castle too. They are very knowledgeable and do great tours helping to make sure you don't miss anything important.
I've been to Himeji Castle 11 times in about 20 years, but there are still things I've missed or forgotten to look for in the excitement of this great castle. If you have time, the Koko-en gardens are a worthy visit. You can also walk the outer moats around the castle to see more interesting angles of the castle and the ruins of other gates and fortifications. Himeji is a nice town and hotels are less expensive than Kyoto/Osaka. If you spend a night here you can see more of the sites. The town also has a good bicycle rental system if you want to visit the castle and outlying areas efficiently.
Himeji Castle is too vast with too many great things to show, so I've split the photos into the following albums. I get a lot of requests for more photos of what the interior looks like so I've put a lot of photos into those albums. The photos shown after the map below are just a few photos of the main keep that you can see from the main compounds and three panorama photos from the Egret Himeji. Please see these albums for more details:
- Main Compounds: Honmaru, Nishi-no-maru, Ninomaru and parts of the San-no-maru compounds. These are the areas most visitors will see if you follow the standard routes around the park.
- Nishinomaru Yagura Interior: interior of the yagura in the Nishinomaru Bailey
- Main Keep Interior: Interior of the main keep
- Small Keeps Limited Exhibition: A special exhibition of the East Small Keep and Inui Small Keep that are not open to the public.
- Outer Ruins: Areas mostly outside the inner moat. Not typically visited by most tourists but if you walk the outside of the castle you'll see these sites. There are a lot of really interesting stone walls around the former gates.
- Main Keep from a distance: Otokoyama, Keifukuji and the Egret Himeji - places around town where you can get good unobstructed views of the castle from a distance
- Night Views: A few photos from around town one evening
|English Name||Himeji Castle|
|Alternate Names||Shirasagi-jo (White Heron castle)|
|Castle Condition||Original main keep|
|Designations||Top 100 Castles, UNESCO World Heritage Site, has Important Cultural Properties, has National Treasures, Special Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Edo Period|
|Main Keep Structure||5 levels, 6 stories|
|Artifacts||I Watariyagura, Ho Yagura, He Watariyagura, Obi Yagura, Ikaku Yagura, Chi Yagura, Ri Watariyagura; (1st & 2nd sections), Nu Gate, Kesho Yagura, Ka Watariyagura, Nu Yagura, Hishi gate, To Yagura, Orimawari Yagura, Taiko Yagura, Yo Watariyagura, Ru Yagura, Ta Watariyagura, Wo Yagura, Re Watariyagura, Wa Yagura, I Gate, Ha Gate, Ni Gate, He Gate, To no Ichi Gate, To no Ni Gate, Chi Gate, Ri Gate, Mizu no Ichi gate, Bizen Gate, To no Yon Gate East Wall, To no Yon Gate West Wall, To no Ni Gate East Wall, He Gate East Wall, He Gate West Wall, Mizu no Ichi Gate North Tsuiji Wall, Mizu no Ichi Gate West Wall, Ni Yagura South Wall, Mizu no Go Gate South Wall, I Watariyagura South wall, Ni Gate Upper East Wall, Ni Gate Lower East Wall, Ro Yagura East Wall, Ro Yagura West Wall, Ha Gate East Wall, Ha Gate West Wall, Ha Gate South Wall, Ro Gate East Wall, Ro Gate Southwest Wall, Kesho Yagura South Wall, Wa Yagura East Wall, Ka Yagura North Wall, Hishi Gate West Wall, Hishi Gate South Wall, Hishi Gate East Wall, I Gate East Wall, Taiko Yagura South Wall, Taiko Yagura North Wall, Obikuruwa North Wall, Ikaku Yagura South Wall, To Yagura South Wall, Ro Watariyagura, Ha Watariyagura, Ni Watariyagura, Obikuruwa Yagura, Ro Yagura, Ni Yagura, Ka Yagura, Ro Gate, To no Yon Gate, Mizu no Ni Gate, main tenshu, East Kotenshu, I Watariyagura, Ro Watariyagura, Inui Kotenshu, West Kotenshu, Ha Watariyagura, Ni Watariyagura|
|Features||main keep, gates, turrets, water moats, stone walls, walls|
|Access||Himeji Station (Sanyo Honsen/Shinkansen), walk 15 minutes.|
|Visitor Information||Open 9am-5pm (6pm in summer), closed Dec 29-30; 1000 yen|
|Time Required||3 hrs minimum, you could spend all day here|
|Location||Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture|
|Coordinates||34° 50' 17.02" N, 134° 41' 36.53" E|
|Added to Jcastle||1999|
|Admin Year Visited||1996, 1997, 1998, 2004, 2009, 2012, 2018, 2019|
|Admin Visits||February 1996; December 1997; August 1998; March 21, 2004; November 15, 2009; March 3, 2012; October 10, 2012; December 19, 2018; February 28, 2019|