Sights in Himeji
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This museum has good displays on Himeji-jō and other castles around Japan. In addition, the museum covers the main periods of Japanese history, with some English explanations. At 10.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm, one lucky person can even try on a suit of samurai armour or a kimono (ask at the front desk to be included in the lottery).
The museum is a five-minute walk north of the castle. Enter by 30 minutes before closing.
Just across the moat on the western side of Himeji-jō is Kōko-en, a reconstruction of the former samurai quarters of the castle. There are nine separate Edo-style gardens, two ponds, a stream, a tea arbour (¥500 for matcha powdered green tea and a Japanese sweet) and the restaurant Kassui-ken, where you can enjoy a bentō (boxed meal; ¥1575) of anago (conger eel, a local speciality) while gazing over the gardens. While the garden doesn't have the subtle beauty of some of Japan's older gardens, it is well done and especially lovely in the autumn-foliage season.
Note that a joint ticket to both the Kōko-en and Himeji-jō costs only ¥560, a saving of ¥140. These can be…
The most magnificent castle in Japan, Himeji-jō is also one of only a handful of original castles in the country (most others are modern concrete reconstructions). In Japanese it is sometimes called shirasagi, or 'white heron', a title that derives from the castle's stately white form.
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.
The castle has a five-storey main keep (tenshū) and three…