The Kansai Region Travel Guide

The Kansai Region Sights

Himeji Castle (Himeji-jo)

  • 68 Honmachi Map It
  • Himeji
  • Castle/Palace/Chateau
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 12/20/2010

Fodor's Review

Also known as Shirasagi-jo (White Egret Castle), Himeji Castle is visible as soon as you exit the train station. Universally beloved, it dazzles the city from atop a nearby hill. A visit to Himeji-jo could well be one of the high points of your trip to Japan, especially if you can manage to see the brilliantly lighted castle soaring above cherry blossoms or pine branches at night. Thanks to frequent rail service, it should be easy to hop off, visit the castle, and jump on another train two hours later.

Himeji-jo is regarded as medieval Japan's crowning achievement of castle design and construction. It arrived at its present state of perfection after many transformations, however. It was first a fortress in the year 1333 and was transformed into a castle in 1346. Radically enlarged by Terumasa Ikeda in the period 1601–10, it has remained essentially the same ever since, surviving numerous wars and—perhaps even more miraculously—never once falling victim to the scourge of

fire.

The five-story, six-floor main donjon (stronghold) stands more than 100 feet high and is built into a 50-foot-high stone foundation. Surrounding this main donjon are three smaller ones; all four are connected by covered passageways. Attackers would have had to cross three moats, penetrate the outer walls, and then withstand withering attack from the four towers. It was an impregnable fortress then, and its grace and grand proportions still inspire awe. Filmmaker Akira Kurosawa used Himeji-jo's exterior and the castle's grounds in his brilliant 1985 movie Ran.

Free guided tours in English are usually available from volunteer guides, though they cannot be booked in advance; ask when you buy your entry ticket. Tours usually take 90 minutes.

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Sight Information

Address:

68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo-ken, 670-0012, Japan

Map It

Phone:

0792-85–1146

Sight Details:

  • ¥1,000

Published 12/20/2010

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