Two creative foodies out to discover enticing flavours and food ideas. When we aren't tucking into our latest delicious find, we're photographing and designing our hearts out.
Published April 23rd 2015
The wait is over to visit Japan's top UNESCO heritage site
Over the last five gruelling years, Himeji Castle has been under major restoration - until now. Reopened on March 27, 2015, we were one of the lucky entrants just three days after opening. You can now view this magnificent castle from inside the main keep as well as from the outside and sub-buildings. It's so white, you would think it's been dunked in bleach hence why the Japanese have appropriately nicknamed it 'the White Heron'. Tickets are around $10AU for entry, and if you get in early that includes a limited ticket for entry inside the main keep. The beauty of the garden surrounds as well as the history within the castle itself make this an essential destination for your next holiday to Japan.
Himeji Castle oversees the city below in all its shining glory.
Himeji Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is said to be one of the best castles in Japan. Built in the 17th century from wood, the castle features intricate woodwork and carvings as well as sophisticated architecture for its time. The castle and surrounds are made up of 83 buildings in total.
The interesting architecture makes for great pictures in the morning sun.
Inside the wooden beams and internal structure are just as amazing.
A little bit of information for all you history buffs out there: The fort was first built back in 1333, but it wasn't until 1581 that the castle was built into a similar structure as it stands today. What makes Himeji Castle so remarkable, is how it has stood the test of time for over 400 years including surviving World War II and the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. Even this major restoration only included replacing the roof tiles and replastering to aid in the preservation of the main structure.
From the entrance, you can see how large the grounds of the castle are. Allow 2-3 hours to see everything.
Access from Osaka and Tokyo couldn't be easier. Himeji station can be reached in as little as an hour from Osaka station or three hours from Tokyo by Shinkansen, with a 15 minute walk to the castle. We recommend planning ahead and using the JR (Japan Rail) Rail Pass for this if you can. The castle itself towers over the city, and can be reached by travelling down the main road called Otemae-dori. Further details on prices and transport are available here.
A building this white, and this big, there is no chance of getting lost on your way from the train station.
If you are travelling from Osaka, we recommend doing this as a day trip. You would have plenty of time to visit the castle in the morning, with time for lunch afterwards, as well as shopping or another sightseeing destination in the same area before making the return trip.
We caught an early Shinkansen to avoid the crowds and arrived at 8:30am at the Himeji Castle gate. Even that early, there were many people arriving with their cameras madly snapping away. We were lucky to get away with a 15 minute wait before entering the main keep with our limited entry tickets. We recommend paying the extra 40 yen (around $0.45AU) for access to the nearby Kokoen garden as well.
This is the line you want to see when you are leaving, not when you arrive.
Once inside the main keep, groups are shuffled together up each floor where you get a chance to look outside the windows and inside at the architecture, historical items and information on show. Inside the main keep, visitors can climb up the 6 floors to the top where you can view spectacular views of Himeji city and take the time to pray at the shrine or just catch your breath.
Breathtaking views from the top.
The stairs are very steep, narrow and low - so if you are tall, make sure to watch your step and your head!
We had a great experience all up, even with the crowds, as we knew it would be busy we just accepted this and allowed for extra time just in case. Make sure this fantastic place is on your to do list, they have done an incredible job of the preservation and it really is awe-inspiring. We also timed our visit with the cherry blossoms, making it even more spectacular. Just remember: Plan ahead and arrive early.
Get there early to avoid getting blocked by this lovely two hour wait sign.