Day trip to Himeji: What to do with one day in Himeji

Himeji Castle, one of Japan's twelve original castles
Himeji Castle, one of Japan's twelve original castles

Himeji Castle, one of Japan’s twelve original castles

If you are looking to take a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka, then look no further than Himeji. Himeji, located less than an hour from Kyoto and Osaka by shinkansen (bullet train), makes for a great day trip.

The main reason for visiting Himeji is to see the magnificent Himeji Castle, an UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Japan’s twelve original castles. For over 400 years, the castle has remained intact even with the threat of war, earthquakes, and fires. This landmark is the most visited castle in Japan.

Other than the castle, visitors can visit Koko-en Garden, a beautiful Japanese garden, and Mount Shosha, featuring a temple complex with over 1000 years of history.

If you are looking for more information about Japan, I highly recommend you pick up a guidebook such as Fodor’s Essential Japan.

How to get to Himeji

Hikari train at Himeji Station, Japan

Hikari train at Himeji Station

The quickest way to reach Himeji from locations across Japan is by shinkansen (bullet train).  While there are other transportation options to choose from, to maximize your time in Himeji, if only for one day, I recommend traveling by shinkansen.

Himeji is easily accessible from Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima.  If you choose to take a day trip from Tokyo to Himeji, which is possible but time consuming, you will need to factor in 3 to 3.5 hours per way by bullet train.

From Kyoto

Kyoto is linked to Himeji by the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen.

Direct Hikari trains take about 60 minutes to reach Himjei from Kyoto. A regular one-way fare on a Hikari train is 4,750 yen for an unreserved seat. A reserved seat will cost between 5,070 yen and 5,470 yen depending on the season. This journey is covered by a Japan Rail Pass.

Direct Nozomi trains take about 45 minutes to reach Himjei from Kyoto. A regular one-way fare on a Nozomi train is 4,750 yen for an unreserved seat. A reserved seat will cost between 5,390 yen and 5,790 yen depending on the season. This journey is not covered by a Japan Rail Pass.

There is also a direct Limited Express train between Kyoto and Himeji. A regular one-way fare on a Limited Express train is 3,670 yen for an unreserved seat. A reserved seat will cost between 3,990 yen and 4,390 yen depending on the season. This journey is covered by a Japan Rail Pass.

From Osaka

Osaka is linked to Himeji by both Shin-Osaka Station and Osaka Station.

Direct Hikari or Kodama trains take about 40 minutes to reach Himjei from Shin-Osaka Station. A regular one-way fare on a Hikari or Kodama train is 3,220 yen for an unreserved seat. A reserved seat will cost between 3,540 yen and 3,940 yen depending on the season. Some Kodama trains require a seat reservation. This journey is covered by a Japan Rail Pass.

Direct Nozomi trains take about 30 minutes to reach Himjei from Shin-Osaka Station. A regular one-way fare on a Nozomi train is 3,220 yen for an unreserved seat. A reserved seat will cost between 3,750 yen and 4,150 yen depending on the season.  This journey is not covered by a Japan Rail Pass.

There is also a direct Rapid train and Special Rapid train between Shin-Osaka Station (via Osaka Station) to Himeji that takes about 70 minutes.  A regular one-way fare on these trains is 1,490 yen.  Seat reservations are not available.

From Hiroshima

Hiroshima is linked to Himeji by the Sanyo Shinkansen.

Direct Sakura trains take about 60 minutes to reach Himjei from Hiroshima. A regular one-way fare on a Sakura train is 7,770 yen for an unreserved seat. A reserved seat will cost between 8,090 yen and 8,490 yen depending on the season. This journey is covered by a Japan Rail Pass.

Direct Nozomi trains take about 60 minutes to reach Himjei from Hiroshima. A regular one-way fare on a Nozomi train is 7,770 yen for an unreserved seat. A reserved seat will cost between 8,300 yen and 8,700 yen depending on the season. This journey is not covered by a Japan Rail Pass.

From Tokyo

Tokyo is linked to Himeji by the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen.

Direct Hikari trains take about 3.5 hours (220 minutes) to reach Himjei from Tokyo. A regular one-way fare on a Hikari train is 15,120 yen for an unreserved seat. A reserved seat will cost between 15,440 yen and 15,840 yen depending on the season. This journey is covered by a Japan Rail Pass.

Direct Nozomi trains take about 3 hours (180 minutes) to reach Himjei from Tokyo. A regular one-way fare on a Nozomi train is 15,120 yen for an unreserved seat. A reserved seat will cost between 15,960 yen and 16,360 yen depending on the season. This journey is not covered by a Japan Rail Pass.

Planning your time in Himeji

If you only have one day in Himeji, I would recommend visiting Himeji Castle, Koko-en Garden, and Mount Shosha. With one day, you could visit all three sights.

Located about 15 minutes by foot down Otemae-dori Street is Himeji Castle and Koko-en Garden. To reach Mount Shosha, you will need to take a bus for 30 minutes and then ride a cable car for five minutes.

Tourist Information Center near Himeji Castle Exit (North Exit)

Tourist Information Center near Himeji Castle Exit (North Exit)

If you need help planning your trip to Himeji, you will find the Tourist Information Center (Open daily from 9:00AM to 5:00PM) at the Himeji Castle Exit (North Exit). The information center has bus schedules, maps, brochures, and other information about travel and sights in Himeji.

Shoshazan Ropeway Combination Ticket

Shoshazan Ropeway Combination Ticket

A great option when visiting Himeji is the Shoshazan Ropeway Combination Ticket (1,400 yen). This ticket includes a round trip journey by bus between Himeji Station and the Mount Shosha Ropeway Station along with a round trip ride on the ropeway.

You can purchase this ticket at the Bus Information Desk near Bus Stop 7 outside the north exit of Himeji Station. However, the ticket does not include the 500 yen entrance fee into the Mount Shosha Engyoji temple area.

With this ticket, I recommend taking a bus from Himeji Station to Mount Shosha first. Then on the way back, I would exit the bus for Himeji Castle and Koko-en Garden. After visiting the gardens I would finish my day by visiting adjacent Himeji Castle.

I would factor in about three hours for visiting Mount Shosha (including transportation), one hour for Koko-en Garden, and two hours for Himeji Castle.

Learn more about how to get to Mount Shosha from Himeji Station.

Things to do in Himeji for one day

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

No visit to Himeji is complete without a visit to Himeji Castle (Himeji-jo), also known as the White Heron Castle (Hakuro-jo) and White Egret Castle (Shirasagi-jo). It is said the white-plastered walls of the castle resemble a white heron in flight.

Himeji Castle is not only the largest castle in Japan but the most visited. In 1993, it became the first UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site. The castle underwent extensive renovation from 2009 until 2015.

What makes Himeji Castle so special is that it is one of Japan’s twelve original castles. It has survived relatively unscathed for over 400 years even with the threat of war, earthquakes, fire, and tsunamis. Most noteworthy, during World War 2, the castle survived even with the city being bombed extensively. One bomb did hit the roof of the castle but failed to explode.

From the outside, the castle keep appears to have only five levels but in reality there are seven including a basement level. Visitors to the castle can climb to the top for panoramic views of the city below.

If you only have time to visit one sight, make sure it is Himeji Castle.

What not to miss: climbing to the top of the castle keep, views of the keep from Sangoku Moat (Sangoku Bori)

Hours

September 1 through April 26: 9:00AM – 5:00PM (last admission at 4:00PM)
April 27 through August 31: 9:00AM – 6:00PM (last admission at 5:00PM)

Entrance Fees

Himeji Castle only
Adult: 1,000 yen
Child: 300 yen

Combination Ticket (Himeji Castle and Koko-en Garden)
Adult: 1,040 yen
Child: 360 yen

How to get to Himeji Castle from Himeji Station

Himeji Castle is located about one kilometer down Otemae-dori Street. The castle can be reached in about 15 to 20 minutes on foot or in about five minutes by bus (100 yen). Buses can be found outside the north gate of Himeji Station at the start of Otemae-dori Street.

Koko-en Garden

Garden of the Lord's Residence at Koko-en Garden

Garden of the Lord’s Residence at Koko-en Garden

Located directly next to Himeji Castle is Koko-en Garden. Koko-en Garden is a Japanese style garden constructed in 1992 on the former site of the Lord’s West Residence (Nishi-Oyashiki). This area was once home to samurai houses.

Nine different walled gardens can be found at Koko-en Garden, each in various styles of the Edo Period (1600-1860).

The highlight of Koko-en is The Garden of the Lord’s Residence featuring a peaceful pond with over 250 colorful carp swimming around. In the fall, the leaves of the many trees surrounding the pond turn into beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow.

Other highlights of Koko-en Garden include the Garden of Pine Trees, The Garden of Bamboo, Garden with a Hill and Pond, and The Garden of Summer Trees. Many of the gardens have views of the keep of Himeji Castle.

What not to miss: The Garden of the Lord’s Residence, The Garden of Bamboo, Garden of Pine Trees, Garden with a Hill and Pond

Hours

January through April / September through December: 9:00AM – 5:00PM (last admission at 4:30PM)
May through August: 9:00AM – 6:00PM (last admission at 5:30PM)
Closed on December 29 and December 30

Entrance Fees

Koko-en Garden only
Adult: 300 yen
Child: 150 yen

Combination Ticket (Himeji Castle and Koko-en Garden)
Adult: 1,040 yen
Child: 360 yen

How to get to Koko-en Garden from Himeji Station

Koko-en Garden is situated next to Himeji Castle, just to the west of Otemon Gate. The garden is located about one kilometer down Otemae-dori Street. The garden can be reached in about 15 to 20 minutes on foot or in about five minutes by bus (100 yen). Buses can be found outside the north gate of Himeji Station at the start of Otemae-dori Street.

Mount Shosha

The Mount Shosha ropeway

The Mount Shosha ropeway

Located about 30 minutes by bus and ropeway from Himeji Station is Mount Shosha. The highlight of visiting Mount Shosha is Engyoji, a temple complex with over 1,000 years of history.

Engyoji’s temple buildings, scattered throughout a beautiful dense forest, are linked by tree-lined walking paths. From the ropeway station, it is a 10-15 minute walk to Niomon Gate. Another 10 mintues will bring you to the wooden Maniden Hall. Another five minutes will bring you to Daikodo, the main hall.

Mount Shosha is a very popular destination in the fall when the leaves of the trees begin to change.

What not to miss: Maniden Hall, Daikodo Hall

Hours

The last cable car departs the top station at 5:00PM.

Entrance Fees

Bus 8
270 yen per way

Ropeway
Adult: 1000 yen (roundtrip)/600 yen (one-way)
Child: 500 yen (roundtrip)/300 yen (one-way)

Entrance into the Mount Shosha Engyoji temple area
500 yen

Alternatively, the Shoshazan Ropeway Combination Ticket can be purchased for 1400 yen (see above).

How to get to Koko-en Garden from Himeji Station

Take Bus 8 (departs from Stop 10 outside the north exit of Himeji Station) to the last stop for Mount Shosha Ropeway Station (270 yen per way, pay on board). From the bus stop, take the cable car to Mount Shosha.

Learn more about how to get to Mount Shosha from Himeji Station.

Otemae-dori Street

Approaching Himeji Castle on Otemae-dori Street

Approaching Himeji Castle on Otemae-dori Street

Otemae-dori Street is the main street of Himeji. This broad street runs for about one kilometer (0.6 miles) from the north exit of Himeji Station to Otemon Gate, the main entrance into Himeji Castle. From the station to Otemon Gate is a pleasant walk that takes about 15 minutes.

Restaurants and shops line both sides of Otemae-dori Street. Many vendors can be found just across the street from the castle at the end of Otemae-dori. Camphor and ginkgo trees, along with bronze statues created by Japanese sculptors, can be found along the west side of street.

As you walk down Otemae-dori Street, have your camera out. The sight of Himeji Castle getting larger and larger as it looms over Otemae-dori Street is quite an impressive sight.

What not to miss: food vendors near Otemon Gate, views of Himeji Castle

Hours

24 hours

Entrance Fees

Free

How to get to Otemae-dori Street from Himeji Station

Otemae-dori Street begins outside the north exit of Himeji Station.

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