The Best Things To Do in Himeji in One Day: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Although Himeji pulls in the tourist crowds for one reason – the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Himeji Castle – it is not a one-trick pony. 

To make the most of your time in this charming city in Hyogo Prefecture, here are the best things to do in Himeji in one day. If you have extra time here, I’ve included some additional options that you might want to check out.

This article also includes information on how to get to Himeji, how to get around, hotel recommendations, where to eat and suggested reading.

himeji castle which is one of the best things to see in himeji in one day

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A Brief History Of Himeji

Himeji was originally the capital of the Harima Province, established in the 7th Century. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, one of the most important battles in Japanese feudal history, Ikeda Terumasa was given the Harima Province.

The so-called “Shogun of Western Japan” established the Himeji Domain and expanded Himeji Castle, dating from the 14th century, and developed its castle town.

The modern city of Himeji was established in 1889.

Although Himeji incurred heavy damage from Allied bombing raids during World War II, Himeji Castle survived intact, despite a direct hit from one bomb. To this day, some believe that Himeji Castle is divinely protected.

Himeji Orientation

Finding your way around central Himeji couldn’t be easier.

If you are arriving in Himeji by train, Himeji Castle is clearly visible from the north exit of the railway station. From here, it’s an easy 15-minute walk along Otemae-dori Street to the castle.

Many of Himeji’s attractions are clustered in the castle area.

Mount Shosha, which lies north of the city centre, is the site of Engyo-ji Temple.

Tegarayama, in the southwest of the city, is home to the city’s aquarium and botanical garden.

map of the best places to see in himeji in one day
Map of Attractions in Central Himeji (click on image for interactive map). Map data @ 2021 Google

How to Get to Himeji: Day Trips by Train

As its main attractions can be seen in one day, Himeji is a popular day trip from Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Hiroshima.  Whilst it is also feasible to take a day trip to Himeji from Tokyo, this involves considerable travel time.

If you are spending just one day in Himeji, travel by train to maximise your time there, as this is the quickest way to reach the city.

City of originMinimum one-way journey time to Himeji by train
Kyoto1 hour
Oskaka40 minutes
Kobe40 minutes
Hiroshima1 hour
Tokyo4 hours
people standing in front of railway indicator board at kyoto station japan

Day Trip to Himeji from Kyoto

To visit Himeji as a day trip from Kyoto, take the Hikari shinkansen (bullet train) which will get you there in just under an hour.

Although the Nozomi shinkansen also plies this route, Nozomi trains are not included in the Japan Rail (JR) Pass.

SHOULD YOU BUY A JR PASS?

Travelling through Japan by rail is a breeze and the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is one of the world’s best travel bargains. This golden ticket allows unlimited access to all JR trains, as well as some partner railways, buses and ferries for 7, 14 or 21 days.

As a rule of thumb, if you are making at least one long-distance return journey on a shinkansen, it is likely a 7-day JR Pass will be worth the money. If your train journeys are likely to be confined to the Kansai region, consider one of the JR Kansai Passes:

  • JR Kansai Area Pass (one to four consecutive days travel in the Kansai region)
  • JR Kansai Wide Area Pass (five consecutive days travel in the wider Kansai region)

It is considerably cheaper to buy your JR Pass before leaving home.

Day Trip to Himeji from Osaka

Himeji is also an easy day trip from Oskaka. From Shin Osaka station, the Hikari shinkansen will get you there in around 40 minutes.

As before, avoid the Nozomi shinkansen if you are a JR Pass holder.

Day Trip to Himeji from Kobe

To spend a day in Himeji from Kobe, take the JR Special Rapid Service from Sannomiya station. The journey will take around 40 minutes.

Day Trip to Himeji from Hiroshima

To visit Himeji as a day trip from Hiroshima, take the Sakura shinkansen. The journey will take around one hour.

Once again, avoid the Nozomi shinkansen if you are a JR Pass holder.

Day Trip to Himeji from Tokyo

To visit Himeji from Tokyo, take the Hikari shinkansen.  As this is close on a four-hour one-way journey, I don’t recommend visiting Himeji as a day trip from Tokyo. Do yourself a favour and stay overnight instead.

How to get around Himeji

If you are just visiting Himeji Castle and attractions in the castle area, you are unlikely to need to use public transport. However, if you are planning to visit city attractions which are further afield, here are your transport options.

Using trains to get around Himeji

JR Lines

There are three JR lines operating in Himeji, all of which depart from Himeji Station:

  • Kishin Line – for the Sakurayama Hills area
  • Bantan Line  – for Himeji Central Park
  • Sanyo Honsen – the main Line serving Himeji

Sanyo Electric Railway 

Also known as the “Seaside Express”, the Sanyo Electric Railway runs parallel to the coast, linking Himeji with Kobe and Osaka. It is useful for reaching Tegarayama.

Trains leave from Sanyo-Himeji Station, a short walk northwest of JR Himeji Station. The entrance and platforms are on the second floor of the Sanyo Department Store.

Using buses to get around Himeji

The two-tone orange Shinki buses provide a service across the city.

Himeji city buses are boarded from the rear and exited from the front. Take a numbered ticket from the dispenser when you enter the bus.

When you are approaching your stop, press the button to let the driver know that you want to disembark. The screen at the front of the bus will show your number and fare.

Pay the driver the exact amount as you exit the bus. If you don’t have the exact fare, there is a change machine at the front of the bus

For convenience, the ten major prepaid IC cards or the local Nicopa card can be used to pay the fare on Himeji’s buses.

A Himeji castle Loop one-day bus ticket is also available from the Shinki Bus Information Centre in front of Himeji Station. This allows you to take the bus from Himeji Station and hop on and hop off an unlimited number of times at the stops in the castle area.

However, as Himeji Castle is a short walk from the station, I question the value of this day pass. It costs 400 yen (2021 price). Pass holders also receive a 20% discount on admission to Himeji Castle, Kokoen Garden and the City Museum of Art.

Getting around Himeji by bicycle

If you’re feeling fit and the weather is good, why not rent a bike from the Himeji City Tourist Information Centre for free?

When Is The Best Time of Year to Visit Himeji?

pink blossom in kyoto

You can spend the day in Himeji year-round. 

Visit in springtime for temperate weather and to welcome the cherry blossom (sakura). Himeji Castle makes a magnificent backdrop for those coveted sakura shots. 

Another great time of year to visit Himeji is autumn when the castle appears to float above the kaleidoscopic display of fall foliage. As with sakura, the timing is a bit of a gamble, but you can check out the fall foliage forecasts here.
 
If you are visiting Himeji in spring or autumn, expect to do battle with the crowds.

Visit in winter for the chance to see Himeji Castle in the snow. 

How Should You Plan A Day in Himeji?

One day in Himeji give you enough time to visit Mount Shosha, Himeji Castle and Koko-en Garden, and to sample locally brewed sake.

Start your day by taking the bus to Mount Shosha and Engyoji Temple.  In the afternoon, visit Himeji Castle and Koko-en Garden, before hitting the sake.
 
Reckon on spending around three hours visiting Mount Shosha (including transportation), two hours in Himeji Castle and one hour in Koko-en Garden.  And drinking sake? That’s entirely up to you.

For maps and information, stop by the Himeji City Tourist Information Centre at the train station.
 
Save money getting to Mount Shosha by purchasing a Shoshazan Ropeway Combination Ticket (1,420 yen in  2021). This ticket includes a round trip journey by bus between Himeji Station and the Mount Shosha Ropeway Station plus a round trip ride on the ropeway between the base station and summit.
  
Buy your ticket at the Shinki Bus Information Centre near Bus Stop 7 in front of Himeji Station.

The Best Things To Do in Himeji in One Day

Visit Mount Shosha and Engyo-ji

Mount Shosha, on the northern fringes of Himeji, is home to Engyo-ji, a Tendai Buddhist complex built in 966. Visiting Engyo-ji’s buildings, scattered over a densely forested area on the mountain top, is one of the best things to do in Himeji in one day.

Once you’ve bought your Shoshazan Ropeway Combination Ticket, take bus #8 from stop #10 at the bus station at Himeji JR Station, bound for Shoshazan Ropeway. This journey will take you around half an hour and buses leave approximately every 20 minutes.

Alight at the last stop (Mount Shosha Ropeway) and take the ropeway (cable car) up to Mt. Shosha. The bus arrival times are timed to coincide with the cable car timetable (cars depart every 15 minutes).  

Alternatively, if you’re feeling very energetic, you could hike to the summit in around an hour.

At the summit, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee to visit the temple (500 yen in 2021). If you choose to take the three-minute minibus ride to the temple entrance, this will increase the ticket cost (1000 yen in 2021), which includes the return bus journey. Otherwise, it’s a 10-15-minute uphill walk up to the Niomon Gate at the temple’s entrance.

A further 10-15 minutes’ walk from the Niomon Gate brings you to the Maniden (Main Temple of Kannon Worship). Although the original building burned down in 1921, this sympathetic reconstruction is a beautiful wooden building, constructed on pillars on a steep slope.

main temple of engyo-ji in himeji
Engyo-ji by Tetshuiro Terada, licensed under Flickr Creative Commons

A short walk along forest trails brings you to the mitsunodo, an enormous temple hall. Resembling Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-Dera, this is divided into three parts: the Daikodo (great lecture hall), Jikido (lodging and dining hall) and Jogyodo (gymnasium).

Did You Know?

The mitsunodo was used as a filming location for the movie The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, as well Japanese historical dramas.

ENGOYI-JI VISITOR INFORMATION

Address: 2968 Shosha, Himeji, Hyogo 671-2201, Japan

Opening hours: 8:30 am to 6 pm (closing times vary seasonally by +/- one hour). No closing days, but the ropeway is out of service for maintenance for one week around February.

Admission fee: In 2021, admission to Engoyi-ji costs 500 yen.

Visit Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is considered to be Japan’s most magnificent castle. Unlike Osaka Castle which I visited earlier in this Japan trip, this is the real deal.

As well as having a defensive function, Japanese castles were home to the feudal lords and a symbol of their authority and power. They evolved from the wooden stockades of earlier centuries to the graceful architecture typified by Himeji Castle.

However, only 12 Japanese castles retain their original castle keep. The rest only have original outlying buildings, often with a reconstructed keep (like Osaka Castle), or are in ruins. As a so-called “original construction” castle, Himeji Castle is the cream of the crop.

facade of himeji castle

History of Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle started life as a wooden fort in 1333, constructed by Akamatsu Norimura, a samurai and the governor of Harima province. In 1581, Hashiba Hideyoshi, a politician of the late Sengoku period (1467 – 1615) and the second “Great Unifier” of Japan, developed the fort into a three-storied keep.

30 years later, Ikeda Terumasa was given control of the castle and began work on the current Himeji Castle, with its five-storied keep and triple moat.

Did You Know?

From the outside, the keep appears to have five floors. However, appearances can be deceptive as the second and third floors from the top appear to be a single floor. It actually has six floors plus a basement.

The castle then passed hands between a number of families until its abandonment at the start of the Meji period (1868 – 1912).  Since then, Himeji Castle has undergone two restorations, most recently between 2009 and 2015 at a cost of 2.4 billion yen.

Design of Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle owes its nickname “White Heron Castle” (Hakuro-jo) to its gleaming white exterior, which is thought to resemble a white heron in flight.

But this is beauty with a purpose.

Although the castle never saw battle, Himeji-jo incorporates the most cutting-edge defensive mechanisms of the time.

Himeji Castle was surrounded by a grand total of three moats, two of which you can see today (the outer moat is buried). If would-be invaders made it across the moat, they faced further security features.

Designed to confuse enemies, the castle grounds were a maze of paths, spiralling their way to the keep. There were also 84 gates to contend with, 21 of which remain intact. 

If the enemy made it through the gates, they would find themselves under attack by castle guards throwing large stones from the many platforms by the windows. Alternatively, guns or arrows could be fired through one of the 997 loophole openings in the walls and towers called Sama. There were four shapes of Sama: oblong for bows and round, triangular and square for guns.

sweeping path and steps leading up to himeji castle

Visiting Himeji Castle

You enter Himeji Castle via the Otemon Gate into the admission-free third bailey (Sannomaru). This is a popular spot for taking photographs of the castle and for viewing cherry blossoms.

Head to the ticket booth at the far end of the Sannomaru to buy your ticket, and then enter the paid area through the Hishi Gate. There are two main sections to the castle’s grounds: the main keep and the West Bailey (Nishi-no-maru Bailey).

From the Hishi Gate, walk along walled paths and through multiple gates and baileys to the main keep. After exiting the keep, retrace your steps to explore the West Bailey, which served as the residence of Princess Sen.

HIMEJI CASTLE VISITOR INFORMATION

Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012, Japan

Opening hours: Himeji Castle is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm (until 6 pm from late April through August). Admission ends one hour before closing. It is closed on December 29 and 30.

Admission fee: In 2021, admission to the castle costs 1000 yen. However, if you are visiting Kokoen Garden buy a joint ticket for 1050 yen.

Stroll Around Koko-en Garden

Adjacent to Himeji Castle, Koko-en Garden comprises nine separate walled gardens set across almost nine acres, each with a different theme. This modern reimagining (est. 1992) of an Edo period (1603-1868) samurai residence is a delight.

trees in koko-en garden in himeji japan

It’s hard to pick a highlight. The pond of the garden of the Lord’s residence, the first (and largest) garden in Kok-en, is home to around 250 colourful carp. 

pond in koko-en garden in himeji japan with small water cascade
Bonus Tip!

One of the best views of Himeji Castle is from the first garden of Koko-en, where the castle is perfectly reflected on the garden’s pond.

pond in koko en garden himeji with himeji castle in background

There’s the Souju-an tea ceremony house where you can enjoy a cup of matcha whilst looking out onto Himeji Castle (additional fee applies). Other highlights are a pine tree garden, a bamboo garden and a flower garden.

I spent around an hour here but could have lingered longer.

KOKO-EN VISITOR INFORMATION

Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012, Japan

Opening hours: 9 am-6 pm (until 5 pm from September to mid-April). Last entry 30 minutes before closing time. Closed December 29 and 30.

Admission fee: In 2021, admission to Koko-en costs 310 yen. However, if you are visiting Himeji Castle buy a joint ticket for 1050 yen.

Go Sake Tasting in Himeji

Don’t leave town without trying some local sake (nihonshu), one of the very best things to do in Himeji.

Harima province, has a long and proud history of sake (rice wine) production. Himeji and its surroundings are home to around twenty of the region’s oldest breweries, producing some of the best sake on the planet.

rows of sake bottles

If I had more time in Himeji, I would have joined a sake brewery tour, but there is a fantastic alternative that I know that you’ll love.

Head downtown to Kokoromi, a stylish standing bar that serves over 270 varieties of local sake. To order your chosen nectar, make your selection by taste, price, grade and origin (search West Harima for Himeji) from a touchscreen. Your 65ml pour is accompanied by a card with a description of the sake and a picture of the bottle for future reference.  

woman called the flashpacker holding sake glass in bar
glass of sake with information card

 

Now that’s my type of Himeji souvenir!

Kokoromi is at 125 Minamiekimaecho Vierra Himeji, Himeji 670-0926.

If You Have More Than One Day in Himeji ….

Perhaps you are lucky enough to be able to spend more time in this lovely city and are looking for more things to do in Himeji?

If so, here are a few suggestions for other tourist attractions in Himeji.

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History

If you’d like to learn more about the history of Hyogo Prefecture and Himeji Castle, visit the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History, close to Himeji Castle.

Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012

Opening hours: 10am-5pm, Closed Mondays

Admission fee applies

 

Himeji City Museum of Art

If art is more your thing, check out the Himeji City Museum of Art, housed within a red brick building just south of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History. It has an impressive collection of over 3,700 works of art,  with works by both local and international artists.

Address: 68-25 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012

Opening hours: 10am-5pm.  Closed Mondays

Admission fee applies

Himeji City Museum of Literature

Visit the Himeji City Museum of Literature for its cutting-edge design by the world-renowned architect Ando Tadao, blending manmade materials with nature. On the museum’s grounds, there is a manor named Bokeitei, built in a classic Japanese style, as well as a Japanese garden and teahouse.

Address: 84 Hyogo, Himeji, Yamanoicho 670-0021

Opening hours: 10am-5pm; last entry at 4:30pm. Closed Mondays and December 25 – January 5

Admission fee applies

Shosha Art & Craft Museum

Housed in a striking building set amongst bamboo groves, the Shosha Art & Craft Museum features a collection of traditional and contemporary crafts, including historical Japanese folk toys and traditional Buddhist art. The museum focuses on the works of Shimizu Kosho (1911-1999), the Himeji-born former head priest of Todaiji Temple in Nara.

On weekends and national holidays, craftspeople who work in the museum offer visitors the opportunity to make their very own souvenir to take away. Whether it’s paper making, leather goods, and woodturning you’re interested in, this makes a very special souvenir.

Address: 1223 Shosha, Himeji, Hyogo 671-2201, Japan

Opening hours: 10am-5pm; last entry at 4:30pm. Closed Mondays, the day after all national holidays and over the New Year period.

Admission fee applies

 

Miyuki Street Shopping District (Miyukidori)

I confess that I’m not the most enthusiastic shopper on the planet, but even I liked Himeji’s Miyuki Street, a pedestrianised covered shopping arcade linking Himeji Station and Himeji Castle. Home to small shops and cafes, it’s a lot less busy than many other shopping streets in Japan and a good place to pick up essentials or gifts for those back home.

Himeji City Aquarium

Located in the Tegarayama hills to the southwest of the city, the small Himeji City Aquarium exhibits all manner of aquatic life, from penguins to turtles. It also features a touch pool to allow visitors to make contact with hermit crabs, starfish and so on.

Address: 440 Nishinobusue Tegarayama Chuo Park, Himeji 670-0971, Japan

Opening hours: 9am-5pm; last entry at 4:30pm. Closed on Tuesdays

Admission fee applies


Is Himeji Safe for Solo Travellers?

Japan is one of the safest solo travel destinations in Asia, if not the world. This is a country that takes pride in its safety, uniformity and order, and has a very low crime rate.

Safety as a solo traveller is a particular concern of women travelling alone.

Whilst you shouldn’t be complacent, you don’t have to be concerned about pickpocketing or walking alone at night as much as you would in other countries. If you use your common sense, watch your belongings, drink alcohol in moderation – careful with that sake! – and share your itinerary with someone back home, you should have a trouble-free day in Himeji.

Where To Eat In Himeji

One of my abiding memories of Himeji is that 1950s music was playing most of the cafes I visited during my short time there. Here is one place that I can highly recommend.

Hanamoto Coffee

This cosy, traditional café on the way to Himeji Castle serves excellent coffee in a convivial environment. An excellent choice for breakfast as they serve free toast and boiled egg with every hot drink. Make sure that you order extra ‘almond butter’ toast.

exterior of hamamoto coffee shop in himeji japan

The cake and toasted sandwiches are also very good.

Address: 49 Nikaimachi, Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture

Opening hours: 7am-6pm. Closed on Thursdays.

Where to Stay in Himeji

Whilst this article focuses on seeking out the best things to do in Himejiin one day, there’s a lot to be said for staying overnight. Himeji is a relatively chilled and friendly Japanese city, it’s the cheapest place that I have stayed in Japan and an overnight stay will allow you to linger over the sake.  

If you plan to stay the night in Himeji here are my recommendations. As you should be able to get a room in a 4-star hotel for well under 50 GBP, this is not the city to save a few yen on budget accommodation.

Daiwa Roynet Hotel

I stayed at this new, business-style hotel, which is a five-minute walk from the train station towards the castle. The location cannot be beaten, and it also features a comfortable room, walk-in shower and an all-important self-service laundry.

hotel room with bed at daiwa roynet hotel in himeji japan
self-service washing machine at daiwa roynet hotel in himeji japan

I liked that the in-room TV tells you not only which machine machines are free and how far through the cycle the ones in use are, but also how busy the breakfast buffet is.

If the Daiwa Roynet is full, here’s an alternative choice of a centrally located Himeji hotel:

Dormy Inn Himeji Natural Hot Spring

A three-minute walk south of Himeji station, this 3-star hotel is  slightly further from Himeji Castle but can be cheaper than the Daiwa Roynet.

It also has a coin-launderette and features a rooftop onsen.

Japan: Suggested Reading

Do you want to learn a little bit more about Japan? Here’s my pick of books to read either before travelling to Japan or whilst you are there.

One of my favourite books ever, Hiromi Kawakami’s gentle novel sets three national obsessions - dining out at izakaya, hanami (flower viewing) parties during cherry blossom season and discussing baseball – against the growing relationship between a thirtysomething woman and a much older man. The literary equivalent of being wrapped in a warm blanket.Buy on Amazon
There had to be at least one Murakami book on this list and this is my current favourite. In this tale of love, friendship, and loss, the main protagonist tries to make sense of being abandoned by his closest friends. Unforgettable and heartbreaking.Buy on Amazon
Ever since reading The Remains of the Day, Ishiguro has become one of my favourite authors. This excellent novel set in post-war Japan features an artist who uses his skills promote the military government’s imperialist ambitionsBuy on Amazon
Sayaka Murata’s offbeat but wonderful novel delivers a message of non-conformity wrapped up a great read. Keiko Furukura doesn’t really ‘fit’ anywhere until she finds purpose and happiness working at a convenience store.Click Here

Packing a good guidebook to help you to plan your trip to Japan, and explore the country whilst you are there, is a wise move. I can recommend the Rough Guide, which includes a free e-book that you can load onto your phone for information on the go.

Why Himeji Deserves More Than One day

f things had gone to plan, I never would have visited Himeji. The looming threat of a coronavirus pandemic forced me to put a red marker through a planned journey across Kyushu, teaching me some valuable travel lessons at the same time.  But, as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.

Himeji was this particular silver lining.

Because of its close proximity to Osaka and Kyoto, and many of the city’s attractions, particularly its feudal castle, can be seen in one day, visiting Himeji as a day trip is very popular. However, as compelling as these reasons may be, this city deserves more than a fleeting visit.

Himeji has a laid-back vibe, its people are amongst the friendliest that I have encountered in Japan and its accommodation is inexpensive compared with other popular cities.

Just a few reasons why Himeji is the perfect place to briefly hit pause during what often be a hectic Japan itinerary.

PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO JAPAN

Getting There

Skyscanner is my go-to platform to search for flights. I like having the ability to filter results by cabin class and to compare the price of flights across an entire month. Skyscanner also supports multi-city options in searching for open-jaw flights.

Staying there

Check accommodation availability on Booking.com. Many of their competitive room rates offer free cancellation.

To check accommodation reviews and prices across a range of booking platforms, go to TripAdvisor.

Getting around

If you’re visiting more than one city, you may save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass. Find out how a JR Pass may be a travel bargain.

Travel insurance

Wherever you travel in the world it’s important to have comprehensive travel insurance to protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. Check if World Nomads will cover your needs.

 

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