Himeji Travel Guide 姫路
Under the Castle
Himeji, 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, sits 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, take the red retro Loop Bus (100 yen per ride), 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 renovation 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 Koko-en Gardens.
To the East of Himeji
In the distance, a large stupa can be seen above a hill. It's in Nagoyama cemetery, which 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 Engyo-ji temple. It's a little further out (30 minutes by bus from the station, then a cable car), but nonetheless gets a lot of visitors as this was where some sequences of the movie "The Last Samurai" were filmed.