Himeji, with its pristine castle resembling a majestic white heron, is a historic jewel waiting to be discovered. When in Osaka, seizing the opportunity for a day trip to this UNESCO World Heritage site is a must. Allow us to guide you through a day trip to Himeji from Osaka.
Getting to Himeji from Osaka:
Your journey to Himeji begins at the rail track. Here’s what you need to know:
- Shinkansen (Bullet Train): From Shin-Osaka Station, hop onto the JR Shinkansen bound for Himeji. Not only is it the quickest route, but also the smoothest.
- JR Special Rapid Services: Available from Osaka Station, this route is slightly longer but significantly cheaper than the Shinkansen.
Journey Duration: Shinkansen: About 50 minutes. JR Special Rapid: About one hour 20 minutes.
Cost: Shinkansen: Around ¥4,300 one-way. JR Special Rapid: Roughly ¥1,500 one-way.
Morning Ventures in Himeji:
1. Himeji Castle
Often touted as Japan’s most beautiful castle, Himeji Castle is a historical marvel. Its multi-tiered white edifice, ornate gates, and expansive grounds are simply enchanting. Wear comfortable shoes as exploring its vast grounds and climbing the main keep involves a good amount of walking. Do remember to soak in the panoramic view from the top!
Summary based on multiple reviews from travelers who visited Himeji Castle:
- Castle Interiors
- Castle is airy and spacious with many floors to explore
- Visitors are allowed to climb the staircases to the upper floors
- Original layout with traditional Japanese architecture
- Requirements to take off shoes for the indoors visit
- Some exhibits and an audio tour to explain artifacts
- Castle Exteriors and Grounds
- Majestic and large castle
- Beautiful views from the top
- Well-maintained grounds with lush gardens
- A good photo opportunity spot
- Accessibility and Location
- Close proximity from the Hemeji Station
- City build around the castle offering plenty of local attractions
- Tickets and Pricing
- Combined tickets recommended for the castle and gardens, reasonably priced at 1050 yen
- Physical Requirements
- Steep stairs to climb, not recommended for those with mobility issues
- Low hanging beams, caution for tall individuals
- Large area to cover, hence involves a lot of walking
- Visitor Services
- Helpful and informative staff onsite
- Possibility for a guided tour
- Several stores for souvenirs and snacks
- Availability of vending machines for drinks
2. Kokoen Garden
Situated adjacent to Himeji Castle, Kokoen is a collection of nine Edo-period themed gardens. Whether it’s the koi-filled ponds, the intricate tea houses, or the immaculately manicured landscapes, the garden oozes serenity.
Summary based on multiple reviews from travelers who visited Kokoen Garden:
- Location and Historical Significance
- Located at the precise location of the old West Resident of the Landlord in Himeji, built in 1992.
- It was constructed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Himeji city.
- Adjacent to Himeji Castle, providing views of the castle as a backdrop.
- Structure and Layout
- The garden is spread over 3.5 hectares and comprises 9 separate themed gardens.
- Each section is unique with a variety of flora and landscapes, and traditional Japanese elements.
- Includes features like roofed corridors, guest houses, a hill and pond, and even a bamboo garden.
- Entrance Fee and Tickets
- Entrance fee to the garden is 310 yen.
- A combo ticket with the Himeji castle ticket can be purchased for 1050 yen.
- Last entry is at 4.30 pm, so visitors need to allocate sufficient time.
- Ambience and Experience
- The garden provides a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere, ideal for relaxation.
- Visitors can interact with koi fish in the pond.
- The garden is well-maintained with every feature tended with care.
- It’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Himeji Castle and city life.
- Several Instagram-worthy spots and a serene setting near a waterfall.
- Facilities and Services
- Small structures for exhibitions and resting.
- Japanese tea house with terrace overlooking a koi pond. Limited seating capacity. Possible queue.
- Points of Interest
- There are themed gardens such as the Tea Ceremony Garden, Garden of Flowers, and Garden of Summer Trees.
- The Garden with a Hill and Pond and the Garden of Pine Trees are also distinct attractions.
Lunch Tip: The area around Himeji Station offers numerous dining options. If you’re in the mood for something local, try out Himeji Oden, a specialty stew brimming with flavorful ingredients.
3. Himeji City Zoo and Museum of Art
If you’re traveling with family, the city zoo, located close to Himeji Castle, is a fun stop. Adjacent to it is the Himeji City Museum of Art, showcasing both traditional and contemporary pieces.
4. Mt. Shosha and Engyoji Temple
For those who’d like a dose of nature with history, take a bus from Himeji Station to the base of Mt. Shosha. From there, a ropeway whisks you to the summit. Engyoji Temple, situated atop, is a sprawling wooden complex with stunning views. Movie buffs, take note: parts of the Hollywood film The Last Samurai were shot here!
Summary based on multiple reviews from travelers who visited Mt. Shosha and Engyoji Temple:
- Access and Travel
- Cable car (ropeway) ride to mountaintop
- Availability of a bus for less physically able travelers
- Hiking trail access
- Amenities such as toilets and a cafe
- Consider round trip ropeway ticket for convenience
- Costs for ropeway (cable car), bus, and entrance fee
- Discounts for children
- Temple Grounds and Surroundings
- Majestic halls and intricate statues
- Peaceful, historic, and natural environment
- Interesting architecture and facades of temples
- Beautiful shrines and mountain views
- Statues lined along the road towards the entrance
- Mitsudo Halls at Engyo-Ji Temple associated with “The Last Samurai” movie
- Hiking Tips and Experiences
- Bring drinks, snacks, and wear a decent pair of shoes for comfort
- Paths are sometimes steep and rocky
- Approximate hiking time to the temple (15-20 minutes)
- Scenic views along the hiking trail
- Trail does not lead back to parking area, consider ropeway for convenience
- Time Management
- Approximate time needed to visit main hall (around 2 hours)
- Possibility to spend a full day exploring the site and surroundings
- Benefit of an early morning visit to enjoy peaceful surroundings
5. Shopping at Miyukidori Shopping Street
A bustling shopping arcade near Himeji Station, Miyukidori is perfect for picking up souvenirs or indulging in local street food.
Top Tips for Your Day Trip to Himeji from Osaka:
- Himeji Loop Bus: After alighting at Himeji Station, consider taking this bus. It conveniently loops around the main attractions.
- Footwear: Whether you’re scaling the castle stairs or hiking up Mt. Shosha, comfy shoes are your best companion.
- Weather-wise: Himeji can get quite hot in summers. Hydration and sun protection are key. Conversely, winter brings a chilling wind, especially around the castle area, so bundle up!
- Language: Having a translation app or a phrasebook handy always helps. However, major tourist spots in Himeji offer English information.
- Duration: While Himeji Castle and Kokoen can be covered in half a day, adding Mt. Shosha would require a full day. Plan according to your interests.
Heading Back to Osaka:
The last trains back to Osaka run late, but always double-check timings to ensure a hassle-free return.
Himeji, with its amalgamation of rich heritage, scenic beauty, and warm hospitality, offers a fulfilling day trip to Himeji from Osaka. As you return, the illuminated silhouette of Himeji Castle against the night sky promises a lingering memory of a day well spent.