Himeji-jō information

Himeji , Japan
68 Honmachi
adult/child ¥1000/300, combination ticket with Kōkō-en ¥1040/360
Opening hours
9am-5pm Sep-May, to 6pm Jun-Aug
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Japan's most magnificent castle, Himeji-jō is one of only a handful of original castles remaining (most are modern concrete reconstructions). Its nickname Shirasagi-jō ('White Egret Castle') comes from its lustrous white plaster exterior and stately form on a hill above the plain. There's a five-storey main keep (tenshū ) and three smaller keeps, and the entire structure is surrounded by moats and defensive walls punctuated with rectangular, circular and triangular openings for firing guns and shooting arrows.

The main keep's walls also feature ishiotoshi – narrow openings that allowed defenders to pour boiling water or oil onto anyone trying to scale the walls after making it past the other defences. On balance, we recommend visitors to pay the admission charge and enter the castle by legitimate means.

Although there have been fortifications in Himeji since 1333, today's castle was built in 1580 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and enlarged some 30 years later by Ikeda Terumasa. Ikeda was awarded the castle by Tokugawa Ieyasu when the latter's forces defeated the Toyotomi armies. In the following centuries it was home to 48 successive lords.

Now is prime time to visit because much of the castle was closed for a five-year renovation.

It takes around 1½ hours to follow the arrow-marked route around the castle. Last entry is an hour before closing.