If you are a big castle fanatic like I am, and you’re wondering which castle I would suggest you visit first in Japan, I would name Himeji Castle with no hesitation. Himeji Castle is one of the largest in Japan and easily visited as a day trip from Kyoto and Osaka in the Kansai region.
Before you read on you might want to take a look at my last post about Kansai region take a look here. It’ll give you an idea about traveling by train to the area’s points of interests.
Day Trip to Himeji Castle
Himeji is a city west of Kyoto. About 132 km with Osaka and Kobe in between. Himeji is not just any ordinary run of the mill city in Japan. If you are a castle fanatic like I am then you will want to go to Himeji Castle.
And it was a gorgeous day too. The temperature was in the high 60 degrees fahrenheit and partially cloudy. The air was so fresh and clean. One of the things I love about Japan is the clean fresh air.
How I Got There
From Kyoto Station I took the Special Rapid Train. The ride takes about 90 minutes to Himeji Station. Normally the train fare would cost 2270 Yen. But since I got the 4 Day JR travel pass I didn’t have to pay.
From Himeji station just follow the English signs. When you’re out of the station you will see the castle which may look far away but you can walk up the road to the castle in around 15 minutes. And it’s a lovely walk past many shops.
What’s So Special About Himeji Castle
To me, this is the mother of all medieval castles in Japan. It’s immense size and cultural significance has placed it rightly as a world heritage site and national treasure.
But too bad we couldn’t get into the main fortress. Yup, just our luck we picked a time when the main structure was under major renovation and will be open to the public again March 2015.
So we walked around the castle grounds and made the best of it. Because Himeji Castle is so massive and filled with natural beauty there is still plenty to see. It’s amazing to see that this castle that is basically built during feudal wars has so much beauty surrounding it.
Through Japan’s feudal period, Himeji Castle was expanded through various clan controls. Which resulted in a lot of history. And because Himeji Castle was largely untouched by war and natural disasters what you see today is basically what it looked back then.
Wandering around the gardens you can’t help but admire the beautiful architecture. The way the buildings are combined with nature is amazing.
Himeji Castle is also a museum of sorts. Throughout the castle surroundings you can find these nooks and crannies with educational exhibits. And you can learn all sort of things such as life during feudal Japan. There is even a nice little exhibit for the kids showing the methods of how the fortress was built and assembled.
But of the course the biggest treat is walking around the well kept gardens. And there are so many ponds filled with giant koi fish. I learned somewhere that Japanese gardens are all planned and designed. Certain stones and trees are carefully laid out to make a garden more pleasing to the eye.
You don’t have to be a total castle fanatic like me to appreciate the awesomeness of Himeji Castle. Anyone will appreciate the beauty and history surrounding the castle.