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A (Half?) Day Trip to Himeji from Osaka

How long do I need to visit Himej?

For a day trip to Himeji from Osaka, we don’t think you need more than half a day. If you’re industrious with your wake up time and your travel options, you can definitely see the sights in Himeji and get back to Osaka for a late lunch!i

Himeji Station Exterior Castle View

Upon arriving in Himeji from Osaka, the first thing you’ll see upon exiting the station is the world-famous Himeji Castle.  To be honest, if you’re in Himeji, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise as this is the main attraction in this historic town.  The Japanese take deep pride in Himeji Castle being the first-in-Japan UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Himeji Castle dates back to 1333, but as you’ll learn touring the site, it has been frequently ransacked, damaged, rebuilt, and expanded.  The current complex is famous for its white and black color scheme and is often referred to as the “White Heron Castle” as a result. 

Himeji Castle still towers over the surrounding town as it did in years past when its hilltop location was a critical part of its defensive strategy.  As soon as you exit the train station, you can’t get lost because the castle is at the end of the main thoroughfare.

 

Himeji Castle from a distance

Getting to Himeji from Osaka

Normally, we’d leave the directions for the end of the post.  However, since we’re advocating doing in Himeji in half a day, it’s important to take this into consideration from the jump.  For anyone using the JR Rail Pass, there is shinkansen service from Shin Osaka to Himeji.  The route is beautiful and curves along the southeastern coast of Honshu, providing beautiful views.  This route only takes about 40 minutes.

Originally, we had planned on taking this route as well even though we weren’t using the JR Rail Pass.  This would’ve cost us about 3000 Yen ($24.32 as of March 2022) but then we discovered a route that was half as expensive for only about 20 minutes extra of travel time.  From Osaka Station, you can take the Tokaido-Sanyo Line Special Rapid which is about 1500 Yen and takes roughly an hour.  Even taking this slightly slower route, Himeji is still definitely doable in half a day.  Additionally, we were tickled to find this train gate at Osaka Station, something we had never seen before.

 

What to do when getting to Himeji?

The castle opens from 09:00 am and so for those trying to do a half day trip, we recommend leaving Osaka by around 8:00am.  Once you arrive in town, it’ll still be fairly quiet, so we recommend making a beeline for the castle.  Even though it’s a big space, once international tourism resumes, things are likely to get significantly more crowded.

 

Himeji Castle Admission Tickets

once you get to the castle, you’ll need to buy a ticket to enter the grounds.  The castle has printed information in multiple languages as well as QR Codes and VR elements to make for an immersive experience.  The ticket just to entrance Himeji Castle is 1000 yen, but if you’re considering visiting the nearby garden, the combo ticket is only 50 yen more!  We highly recommend doing both even if you’re not sure you’ll go to the garden as it will save significant money.

Touring Himeji Castle

Once you enter the Himeji Castle grounds, the tour is largely self-guided.  If you’re interested in walking through the majority of the grounds, it will likely take 2 – 3 hours.  A word of warning to those for whom walking may be a challenge, the stairs up to the top of the main keep are very, very steep and have low headroom.  There are guides on each floor to assist!

Along the tour, there are a variety of exhibits that share the history of the castle grounds.  We were fortunate enough to meet an Osaka-based, English speaking tour guide on our journey who helped bring more of the history to life.  If you’re a huge history buff, you may want to look into a guided tour with a licensed guide.  Since this is the main attraction in Himeji, you’ll want to get as much out of your time as possible!  For more casual travelers, a walk through and the accompanying exhibits is probably enough!

Wrapping up at Himeji Castle

Famous Fish Toppers on Himeji Castle

Once you’ve finished at Himeji Castle, if you’re going to explore the adjacent gardens, you may want to grab a snack at any of the vendors across the street from the castle.  From here, we walked to a nearby hill to get a good vantage point back to the castle before circling back to the downtown.

Where to eat in Himeji Castle?

We knew we wanted to dinner back at Dontonbori when we returned to Osaka.  But, after several hours of castle walking, we also desperately needed lunch.  Fortunately we found a completely unexpected, but cool find in Johson Burgers (information in Japanese)!

Parallel to the main street running from the station to the castle is a number of covered shopping streets.  While there were all of the chain amenities one would expect to find in Japan, there were definitely a few hip spots, including Johson.

The staff was incredibly friendly and the vibe was very cool.  Further down the street closer to the train station, they have a bar concept.  For those doing a half day, it might be a little early to knock off for a pint, but we’re not here to judge if you do!

Shopping Streets in Himeji

Depending on how quickly you want to get back to Osaka, you may want to skip the covered shopping streets.  If you have time though or are on the hunt for Himeji souvenirs, it’s definitely worth walking through the streets.  No matter what type of Japanese food or goods you’re looking for, they’ve got them! 

One trend we anticipate for travelers to Japan in 2022 is the need for spots to get telework done.  Given the increased flexibility in remote work around the world, we think travelers to Japan will choose to extend their time on the ground in exchange for a doing a bit of work while on the go.  In Himeji, we recommend checking out Robust Coworking and Cafe.  Robust’s convenient location right between the station and the castle gives you time to get some work done before sightseeing or while giving your legs a break.

Hotels in Himeji

Whether you want to spend a half or a full day in Himeji, we still recommend getting back to Osaka or your next destination for the evening.  That way you’re well positioned for your next day of sightseeing.  If you really, really want to stay overnight then we recommend the Hotel Nikko Himeji.

Hotel Nikko Himeji

Hotel Nikko Himeji

A stay at Hotel Nikko Himeji places you in the heart of Himeji, within a 5-minute drive of Himeji City Aquarium and Himeji City Zoo. Featured amenities include complimentary wired Internet access, dry cleaning/laundry services, and a 24-hour front desk. Self parking (subject to charges) is available onsite.


Returning to Osaka from Himeji

after day trip to himeji from osaka

As we said, one of our favorite things about staying in Osaka is the amount of day trips.  But then when you’re done exploring Himeji, Nara, or beyond, you can come back and explore the famous Osaka cuisine and nightlife.

What’s your favorite place to visit using Osaka as a base?  What’s your favorite place to spend the evening in Osaka?  We’ll be back again soon with additional Osaka recommendations!

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