Under the Castle
Leaving the Kansai westward, the capital of Hyogo owes its fame to the castle that dominates it.
Halfway between Kobe and Okayama, Himeji was from the beginning conceived as a fortress city in the ancient feudal province of Harima, controlled by the Akamatsu clan. It was after building its famous castle in the fourteenth century, that the surroundings were populated, and Himeji became the capital of the (future) Hyogo region.
The Celebrity of Himeji Castle
The castle, which can already be seen from a distance on your arrival by train, lies majestically above a leafy park at the end of the wide thoroughfare, Otemae-dori, between the train station. From there, one can opt for walking, use the red retro Loop Bus (100 yen one way) or cycle. The two tourist offices in the city (located in the station and on Otemae-dori, right sidewalk towards the castle) offer free bicycles to tourists.
After a long period of work, the famous "White Heron Castle" has regained its luster (the keep reopened in March 2015). It's surroundings are also popular sites for tourists, especially the Koko-en Gardens.
To the East of Himeji
In the distance, a large stupa can be seen above a hill. It is the Nagoyama cemetery, and both can be visited. The stupa (shrine containing a Buddha relic) contains statues, mosaics, pictures of Kannon (Buddhist figure of Mercy), and the ashes of Buddha offered in 1954 by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The cemetery is devoted to some 111,000 graves of past Japanese soldiers since the beginning of the Meiji era (1868).
Further north, perched on a hill lies Engyō-ji temple. It is a little further out (30 minutes by bus from the station, then a cable car), but nonetheless gets a lot of moviegoers as this was where some sequences of the film The Last Samurai were filmed.