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Ten views of Himeji Castle

Admiring the castle from ten different spots across the city

Himeji Castle is Japan's best known castle from the feudal period that has survived fires and major destruction. Completed in 1609, the well preserved castle is a national treasure and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 - one of the first world heritage sites in Japan. The grand castle is nicknamed the "White Heron", and one of the main reasons for that is the castle walls and roof tile joints are covered in white plaster, making the entire collection of main keep and turrets look like a white bird that is poised to take flight.

Today, visitors can enter the sprawling castle complex and observe up close the various interesting design and construction details. It takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to walk through the castle complex, but it is advisable to include buffer time.

As with a castle as exquisite and impressive like Himeji Castle, it would be a shame not to view it from the outside as well. Ten spots in the city have been selected by Himeji City as places to view the castle. Many of these spots are off the regular sightseeing route, and visiting them can be an interesting way to visit some off-the-beaten path places and get an almost 360 degree view of the castle complex. Below are the ten spots and a bonus mountain temple complex in Himeji City from where Himeji Castle can be viewed.

Himeji Station and Otemae Street

Himeji Station along the Sanyo Shinkansen is the gateway to Himeji Castle for travelers arriving by train. Himeji Castle can be seen from the station, and it is an approximately 20 minute walk straight down the main Otemae Street to the castle. There are many shops along Otemae Street, which make for a nice distraction while walking.

Access: Himeji Station is a 50 minute ride on the Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka.

Shiromidai Park

Shiromidai Park is immediately southwest of Himeji Castle, and its main attraction is a pair of 1.9 meter tall shachihoko, mythical carps with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. The shachihoko are a full scale replica of the ones on the roof of Himeji Castle. Visitors can take commemorative pictures between the shachihoko with the castle in the background.

Access: Shiromidai Park is approximately 15 minutes on foot from Himeji Station or less than five minutes on foot from Himeji Castle.

Sannomaru Hiroba

Sannomaru translates to the third circle of defense, and it was part of the inner grounds of the castle in the past. The Sannomaru Hiroba is free-to-enter and contains a spacious lawn surrounded by cherry trees. The Sannomaru Hiroba is a nice place to get pictures of the main castle keep up close and enjoy the cherry blossoms in spring, which are usually best around early April.

Access: The Sannomaru Hiroba is located on the grounds of Himeji Castle, which is an approximately 20 minute walk from Himeji Station.

Himeji City Museum of Art

The red brick building housing the Himeji City Museum of Art was constructed in 1905 to be used as a military warehouse. It was then was repurposed to be a museum in 1980 and became the Himeji City Museum of Art in 1983. Visitors can view two historical buildings from two different eras in one place at the museum's front garden.

Access: Himeji City Museum of Art is an approximately five minute walk east of Himeji Castle.

Shirotopia Memorial Park

Shirotopia Memorial Park is located immediately north of the castle grounds. This relatively quiet and large park contains a large grassy field, walking trails and a variety of trees and shrubbery, making it a nice place to see seasonal flowers and foliage. Visitors can see the northern face of the castle, and what is more, a mirrored installation by the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History provides a unique mirrored image of Himeji Castle.

Access: Shirotopia Memorial Park is an approximately ten minute walk north from either the above mentioned Himeji City Museum of Art or Himeji Castle.

Otokoyama Haisuiike Park

Otokoyama Haisuiike Park sits atop Otokoyama, a 57.5 meter tall mountain in Himeji City. The park is accessed by a relatively steep flight of approximately 200 steps up the side of the mountain. Due to the elevation of the park, visitors to the park are rewarded with almost eye-level views of Himeji Castle. Additionally, two shrines are located halfway up the mountain and one at the base.

Access: Otokoyama Haisuiike Park is an approximately 10 minute walk west of the above mentioned Shirotopia Memorial Park or around 15 minutes on foot from Himeji Castle.

Keifukuji Park

Keifukuji Park is a quiet park on a hill in Himeji City. The park is southwest of Himeji Castle and looks across Kokoen Garden, a Japanese garden next to the castle.

Access: Keifukuji Park is an approximately 10 minute walk southwest from the above mentioned Otokoyama Haisuiike Park or around 15 minutes on foot west of Himeji Castle.

Nagoyama Cemetery

Definitely off the typical tourist route is Nagoyama Cemetery, a spacious cemetery about one kilometer west of Himeji Castle. Several stupas can be found in the cemetery, one of which is a gift from the late Prime Minister of Nepal with the hope and prayers for eternal peace and happiness for mankind. The eastern end of the cemetery is where visitors can see Himeji Castle.

Access: Nagoyama Cemetery is an approximately 20 minute walk from the above mentioned Keifukuji Park or around 30 minutes on foot from Himeji Castle.

Tegarayama Chuo Park

Tegarayama Chuo Park is a spacious, family friendly park south of Himeji Castle and Himeji Station. Himeji Castle can be seen from the northern end of the park, where there are many cherry trees. In addition to a view of Himeji Castle, train spotters would also be delighted to know that the park is a good place to get pictures of the numerous bullet trains that pass through the city together with Himeji Castle.

Access: Tegarayama Chuo Park is an approximately 15 minute walk south of Himeji Station.

Masuiyama Pocket Park

Masuiyama Pocket Park is about 3.5 kilometers north of Himeji Castle and located about halfway up Mount Masuiyama, an approximately 260 meter tall mountain. Masuiyama and Himeji Castle are related to each other by their stones, in which tuff - a type of rock made of volcanic ash - from Masuiyama was used to built the stone walls. Rocks from Masuiyama can be found at the small park, and Himeji Castle can be seen in the distance when the weather is clear.

Access: The most convenient way to access the pocket park is by rental car, and rental car outlets can be found near Himeji Station.

Bonus spot: Mount Shosha

Mount Shosha is home to Engyoji Temple, an atmospheric mountain temple complex, that is said to be the Enryakuji - a famous mountain temple complex in Kyoto - of the west. Many buildings make up Engyoji Temple, and the main ones not to be missed are the centrally located wooden Maniden hall and the Mitsunodo, a set of three wooden buildings about 5-10 minutes on foot from the Maniden. The temple complex on the mountaintop can be accessed by ropeway, which takes less than four minutes to ascend the mountain. Note that while Himeji Castle can be seen from the observation point at Mount Shosha, it is extremely small and easy to miss.

Access: From the north exit of Himeji Station, take a bus bound for Mount Shosha Ropeway and get off at the terminal stop (30 minutes, 310 yen one way, 3 buses/hour). Transfer to the ropeway to go up the mountain (4 minutes, 1200 yen round trip, departures every 15 minutes). The central located Maniden hall is an approximately 15-20 minute walk from the upper ropeway station. Alternatively, there is a paid shuttle service between the temple entrance and the Maniden.