The Best Things To Do in Himeji in One Day

Himeji pulls in the tourist crowds for one reason: the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Himeji Castle. But as I discovered, 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 more ideas for what to do in Himeji.

My comprehensive guide also includes information on how to get to Himeji, how to get around, where to stay, where to eat and recommended 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, expanded Himeji Castle 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 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 Spend a Day in Himeji

One day in Himeji gives you enough time to visit Mount Shosha, Himeji Castle and Koko-en Garden, and 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. If you are pushed for time, omit Mount Shisha and concentrate on the castle and garden.


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.

Buy your Shoshazan Ropeway Combination Ticket at the Shinki Bus Himeji Station Information Centre and 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.

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 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.

If you take the three-minute minibus ride to the temple entrance, this will increase the ticket cost. This includes the return bus journey. Otherwise, it’s a 10-15-minute uphill walk to the Niomon Gate at the temple’s entrance.

A 10-to 15-minute 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 up 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).


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: Ticket price applies


Visit Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is considered to be Japan’s most magnificent castle.

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

A brief history

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.

The castle passed hands between several 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 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, of which 21 remain intact. 

If the enemy made it through the gates, castle guards would attack them by 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 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. The castle’s grounds have two main sections: 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.


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

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

Admission fee applies

Stroll Around Koko-en Garden

Adjacent to Himeji Castle, Koko-en Garden comprises nine separate walled gardens across almost nine acres, each with a different theme. This modern reimagining (est. 1992) of an Edo period (16031868) samurai residence is wonderful.

trees in koko-en garden in himeji japan

I struggle to pick a highlight. I spent around an hour here but could have lingered longer.

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.

himeji castle reflected in pond in koko en garden

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
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, bamboo garden and flower garden.


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

Opening hours: 9 am-5 pm. Extended opening to 6 pm during the summer months. Last entry 30 minutes before closing time. Closed December 29 and 30.

Admission fee applies

Go Sake Tasting

Don’t leave town without trying some local sake (nihonshu). Sake is one of the things for which Japan is famous, and trying the local brew is 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 you’ll love.

Head downtown to Kokoromi, a stylish standing bar that serves over 270 varieties of local sake. 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 tasting notes


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. Here are my suggestions.

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

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 local and international artists.

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

Shosha Art & Craft Museum

Housed in a striking building in 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 work of Shimizu Kosho (1911-1999), the Himeji-born former head priest of Todaiji Temple in Nara.

On weekends and national holidays, craftspeople working in the museum offer visitors the opportunity to create their own artworks, from paper making to leather goods.

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

Miyuki Street Shopping District (Miyukidori)

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 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

Getting There

As its main attractions can be seen in one day, Himeji is a popular day trip from Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Hiroshima. Although it is doable as a day trip from Tokyo, I don’t recommend this as it involves considerable travelling time.

If you are there for only a day, travel to Himeji by train to maximise your time there.

City of originAverage one-way journey time to Himeji by train
Kyoto45 minutes
Osaka35 minutes
Kobe40 minutes
Hiroshima1 hour
Tokyo3 hours 20 minutes

Day Trip to Himeji from Kyoto

To visit Himeji on a day trip from Kyoto, take the Hikari shinkansen (bullet train). This will get you there in 45 minutes. Nozomi shinkansen also ply this route but are not included in the Japan Rail (JR) Pass.


A Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is your golden ticket to ride the country’s excellent rail network. Benefits of the JR Pass include unlimited access to all JR trains, some partner railways, buses and ferries for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days.

However, the JR Pass is not the bargain it once was. Unless you travel long distances over a short time, the Japan Rail Pass is unlikely to be good value.

You can check the price here.

If your train journeys are 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 of travel in the wider Kansai region)

Getting Around Himeji

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

tiered white exterior of himeji castle

Three JR lines operate 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

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.


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.

As you approach your stop, press the button to let the driver know 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 unless you have mobility issues.

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 to Visit Himeji

You can visit 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. 

details of sculptures on pitched roof of himeji castle

Where To Eat

One of my abiding memories of Himeji is that 1950s music was playing in most of the cafes I visited during my short time there. Here is a 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

Where to Stay

Whilst this article focuses on what to do in Himeji on a day trip, there’s a lot to be said for staying overnight. Himeji is a chilled and friendly Japanese city, it was the cheapest place I have stayed in on this Japan trip 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 decent hotels are affordable, this is not the city to save a few yen on budget accommodation.

Daiwa Roynet Hotel

I stayed at this new, business-style hotel, a five-minute walk from the train station towards the castle. The location cannot be beaten, and it also features a comfortable room, a 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 are a few more 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.


>>> Neither of these hotels take your fancy? Search for other accommodation choices in Himeji here.

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 for women travelling alone. Japan is one of the best solo travel destinations if you are a woman 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 – be careful with that sake! – and share your itinerary with someone back home, you should have a trouble-free day in Himeji.

Why Himeji Deserves More Than One Day

If things had gone to plan, I never would have visited Himeji. The looming threat of the 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 appears on many a Japan itinerary as a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto. It is close to both cities and many of its attractions, particularly its feudal castle, can be seen in one day. 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.

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at or follow her on social media.