1.1 miles, Half day
Himeji-jo is a hilltop castle,as opposed to a flatland or mountain complex,and comprises of 83 wooden buildings that are recognised as either "National Treasures" or "Important Cultural Properties".It is also listed as a "UNESCO World Heritage Site". The castle is occasionally known as "Hakurojo" (White Egret Castle) or "Shirasagijo" (White Heron Castle)because of it's brilliant white exterior and it's supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight.
Himejo-jo dates back to 1333, when Akamatsu Norimura (a Samurai and Clan leader)built a fort atop of Himeyama (Mt Hime), but, in 1346, the fort was dismantled and rebuilt as Himeyama-jo. Then, two-centuries later, the castle was remodelled and renamed Himeji-jo. In 1581, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (a Daimyo or territorial Lord) significantly remodelled the castle and added a 3-story castle keep. From 1601 to 1603 the castle was completely rebuilt, expanding it into a large castle complex,then,from 1617 to 1618, several more buildings were added to the complex. For more than 400-years, Himeji-jo has remained intact, even throughout the extensive bombings of Himeji, during World War II, Natural Disasters,such as the 1995 "Great Hanshin Earthquake", and various typhoons. Today Himeji-jo still survives in it's original form.
I will commence and finish the trail at the J.R. Himeji Station,and take you along the main-street, directly in front of you as you exit the station, to the main entrance of Himeji-jo.Once inside the complex I will leave your itinerary up to you. Take your time wandering-around the grounds (the castle can been seen from many angles, and, whatever angle you look as it from,it is an imposing sight),then, once you enter the castle itself,again,don't be in a hurry.
I have an exercise that may help you in the appreciation of the complex. When you enter the complex itself,close your eyes for a minute.Then imagine you are in the era when the castle was in use (for the purpose of this exercise, lets say it is 1620), now open them. As you wander about the castle try an imagine what it must have been like back then. I do this exercise, when I visit a complex, and it helps me appreciate the era and imagine what it was like to live back then.
From April 2010 through to March 2014, Himeji-jo will be going through some major renovation work on the castle keep's roof and walls. Although the castle will still be open to the public,there may be some inconvenience to the public.I have attached a link that will give regular updates as to the progress and what parts of the castle will be viewable.
The castle is open from 9am to 5pm (9am to 6pm late April to August)and is closed on December 29th & 30th. Admittance to the castle is 600-yen, extra if you wish to visit the museum.
Access is very-easy. Himeji is on the J.R. Main Line and can be reached from all the main cities in Japan. The Shinkansen (Bullet Train) also stops here.