Himeji Castle 姫路城
Founder Ikeda Terumasa
Year 1601
Type Hilltop
Condition Original
Alternate Name Shirasagi-jo (White Heron castle)
Structure 5 levels, 6 stories
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Historical Site Special Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles, National Treasures, Important Cultural Properties, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Historical Artifacts National Treasures:
Ha Watariyagura, Ni Watariyagura, main tenshu, East Kotenshu, I Watariyagura, Ro Watariyagura, Inui Kotenshu, West Kotenshu, Ha Watariyagura, Ni Watariyagura

Important Cultural Properties:
I Watariyagura, Ho Yagura, He Watariyagura, Obi Yagura, Ikaku Yagura, Chi Yagura, Ri Watariyagura; (1st & 2nd sections), Nu Gate, Kesho Yagura, Ka Watariyagura, Nu Yagura, Hishi gate, To Yagura, Orimawari Yagura, Taiko Yagura, Yo Watariyagura, Ru Yagura, Ta Watariyagura, Wo Yagura, Re Watariyagura, Wa Yagura, I Gate, Ha Gate, Ni Gate, He Gate, To no Ichi Gate, To no Ni Gate, Chi Gate, Ri Gate, Mizu no Ichi gate, Bizen Gate, To no Yon Gate East Wall, To no Yon Gate West Wall, To no Ni Gate East Wall, He Gate East Wall, He Gate West Wall, Mizu no Ichi Gate North Tsuiji Wall, Mizu no Ichi Gate West Wall, Ni Yagura South Wall, Mizu no Go Gate South Wall, I Watariyagura South wall, Ni Gate Upper East Wall, Ni Gate Lower East Wall, Ro Yagura East Wall, Ro Yagura West Wall, Ha Gate East Wall, Ha Gate West Wall, Ha Gate South Wall, Ro Gate East Wall, Ro Gate Southwest Wall, Kesho Yagura South Wall, Wa Yagura East Wall, Ka Yagura North Wall, Hishi Gate West Wall, Hishi Gate South Wall, Hishi Gate East Wall, I Gate East Wall, Taiko Yagura South Wall, Taiko Yagura North Wall, Obikuruwa North Wall, Ikaku Yagura South Wall, To Yagura South Wall, Ro Watariyagura, Obikuruwa Yagura, Ro Yagura, Ni Yagura, Ka Yagura, Ro Gate, To no Yon Gate, Mizu no Ni Gate
Location Himeji, Hyogo prefecture
Map Google Map
Access Himeji Station (Sanyo Honsen/Shinkansen), walk 15 minutes.
Website Himeji City Website
Visited February 1996; December 1997; August 1998; March 21, 2004; November 15, 2009
Notes Himeji Castle is the most spectacular example of a Japanese castle in existence. The beauty of the main keep is unrivalled throughout Japan and the extent of surviving structures is amazing. Even for someone who is not particularly interested in castles or history a trip to Himeji-jo is fascinating. This can be a half day side trip on the way to Hiroshima or a short day trip from Osaka or Kyoto.
History Toyotomi Hideyoshi first built a small castle on this site for his campaigns in western Japan from 1577-1580. You can still see some of the remnants of Hideyoshi's castle in Himeji castle as Ikeda incoporated some of the stone walls into his castle. Ikeda Terumasa, an ally of Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Sekigahara, was awarded this province (Harima) for his alliance during the war. Ikeda Terumasa built the main keep of Himeji-jo and erected the castle as it is known today. Himeji-jo's nickname Shirasagi-jo means "White Heron Castle" because the main keep with its three smaller towers resembles a white heron. Himeji-jo was granted "World Heritage" status by UNESCO in 1993.
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Comment on this castle
  • johnsonb on My Page    November 13, 2016 at 07:08 AM
    Visited 2008, 2013, 2014
  • snoworion on My Page    September 20, 2016 at 05:17 PM
    Visited in 2009 and re-visited on 8 September 2016. this is the premier castle in Japan and it is a must-go for all Japanese castle enthusiast. To say it is a magnificent specimen of a Japanese castle is to do it a gross injustice. Its beautiful, original and both the castle and the castle grounds exhibit all the charms one comes to expect from the culture and history that is Japan. A cannot-miss castle.
  • signupstu    June 28, 2016 at 04:59 PM
    I went here last in October. The scaffolds were up, but I got some great shots in of the (South?) side without scaffolding.
  • Jpuddybuc    June 13, 2016 at 10:00 PM
    Went today, a Monday, around 10:30am to 2PM and didnt have to wait anywhere for anything. In fact there were really no crowds at all, and we had interior areas all to ourselves a lot of the time. Ive been here 3 times previous, going back to 96' and a lot of things have changed, but I'd still say this is the one castle that is a must see. The weapons inside are gone, and a lot of the grounds are roped to corral the (apparent) crowds, but we still had no issue exploring every area we wanted; though it helps to speak the language. After 3 previous trips, this castle still amazes.
  • lidiamq on My Page    June 01, 2016 at 07:24 PM
    2001. I can't barely remember the surroundings and all the characteristics but since it was my first castle I have a very fond memory of it.
  • furinkazan on My Page    March 29, 2016 at 09:21 PM
    I'm back in Japan, but I'm not going to do a castle-run this year. I'm accompying a friend's daughter for her first journey to Japan. Of course this castle could not be left aside for the voyage. Today we went to the castle. We had to do the queue for one hour before entering the tenshukaku, then it was some kind of a constant walk in the donjon, because so much people were inside. It was still interesting to see the structure without the weapons and armors. I saw also a model of the castle during the time of Kuroda Kanbei. Of course it had nothing to do with the actual castle. Doing the queue was somehow annoying but i still enjoyed the visit. For info the staff closed the castle's entry earlier, because of the great number of visitors.
  • Eric    February 20, 2016 at 09:06 AM
    Anonymous, when do you plan to visit? Since winter, I hear it is much better on weekdays now but on the weekends and holidays people still line up to get into the main keep. One of the rear gate areas is under repair but otherwise it's pretty good. If you're interested I'd say try to go on a weekday if you can. If not, try to get there first thing in the morning, even before they open up and it will surely help a lot. I was hoping to plan a trip there myself as I still haven't been since repairs were started.
  • Anonymous    February 17, 2016 at 10:08 AM
    Eric or Raymond, or anyone else experienced, have you been since the end of the restoration work? What Malcolm is saying is very disheartening, especially since I've never been - I'm in Japan for the first time right now and nowhere nearby sadly. I'm a huge castle fan, and have been through Europe and India, but unfortunately my girlfriend's plans haven't left me much room for Japanese castles in this trip and I'd hate to think I'd missed out on Himeji in its prime.
  • Anonymous    November 21, 2015 at 05:19 AM
    um actually thats wrong it was built in 1346 by Akamatsu Sadanori bye felicia
  • Anonymous    November 21, 2015 at 05:17 AM
    um actually thats wrong
  • Grea    August 21, 2015 at 10:30 PM
    Um, this castle was not of any particular importance to the empire. It's famous today for its beauty, size, and surrounding structures but it was never among the most important castles from a historic perspective.
  • important    August 20, 2015 at 06:40 PM
    ummmmm very helpful but I am doing this for a history task and need to know why is it important to the Japanese empire. Thanks vm.
  • menemo    August 12, 2015 at 07:30 PM
    I am researching this for history task and I like it but why is it important to the Japanese empire?
  • Anonymous    July 23, 2015 at 01:58 PM
    Doing this in history (:
  • GOOD MATE    June 05, 2015 at 06:08 PM
    awesome castle!!! I am doing research task on it- MEGA interesting
  • rebolforces on My Page    April 21, 2015 at 08:39 PM
    Returned again after restoration. Windy & raining, didn't feel like battling the crowds, so took pictures from 5th floor roof top, where covered street walkway ends. Good zoom helps, but straight on from this position is not the most flattering angle. But I've still good shots from previous visits.
  • Malcolm Fairman    April 20, 2015 at 09:40 PM
    Restored, some say badly. Be warned, from a distance it looks lacklustre, too white, close up it is stunning. Best time to see it is early morning or late afternoon. Be warned if going in, lots of it have been fenced off to control the thousands and thousands who line up for up to 90 minutes to go around the keep, again, parts of this have now been roped off and all the weapons that used to be on racks have disappeared. I planned to film each gate but most you don't go through now, they simply lead you the quickest route to the keep so you actually miss a lot of stuff. Maybe when the mad crowds flocking to see it have died down, the inside of the keep and the walkways around the many gates will be restored. Personaly I could have done without going into the keep and wasting 90 minutes. It's stripped bare and other then the view from the top there was no reason to be there. (And few Japanese cities are beautiful). Plus at a 1000 yen I felt somewhat cheated as I didn't get to see all the gate and with lines of people stacked all the way back to the entrance, photography just was pointless. So if going, stick to the outside at this stage and enjoy the stunningly lovely views.
  • Eric    April 16, 2015 at 09:41 PM
    Author of what? I author everything on this site unless otherwise noted.
  • caden    April 16, 2015 at 04:47 AM
    what is the authors name
  • kiddus_i2003 on My Page    June 02, 2014 at 02:19 PM
    Considered the best in Japan , definitely one that must be visited by all visitors to Japan.
  • Dick Harris    October 01, 2013 at 03:12 AM
    I have visited Himeji many times and it has always been an awe inspiring time. In my opinion it is the most beautiful castle in the world. Everyone's photos show slightly different views., so here are mine if you'd care to look. http://dickh.zenfolio.com/p355488586 "Slideshow", upper right displays full size photos.
  • buchanangm    September 14, 2013 at 06:47 PM
    This was my first castle of the 12 and it was amazing. It really showed me the past. The Japanese know how to show off there treasures.
  • furinkazan    April 28, 2013 at 06:22 PM
    I visited this one for the third time. I made my reservation one month ago for being in the first group to enter the scaffolds. When i arrived at 08.20am, there where but a few people. The entrance opens at 09.00am. But afterwards the line grew steadily and when i left at 11.40am the people waiting to enter was a very big crowd. I heard by a guide that the outside restoration is done, but that they are now strengthening the tenshukaku to make it more resitant during earthquakes. Then it will take almost 1 year to take of the scaffolds. This is even now a very nice castle to visit.
  • ROBERTO    October 02, 2012 at 11:26 PM
    He visitado este hermoso castillo , ya hace unos años , y quede impresenionado de tanta perfeccion y estetica ejemplo de la cultura del Japon , cada vez que veo fotos referentes a Himeji me trae a mi memoria gratos recuerdos
  • RaymondW    May 13, 2012 at 08:28 PM
    I made it to this castle again today in conjunction with a visit to Akashi Castle. Himeji Castle is certainly more crowded on the weekend, but my gf and I only waited around 15 minutes for the lift to take us up to the 8th floor to view the renovated roof. You can see the two “wooden horns” protruding from the roof where the new shachihoko will be placed. We also went to the 300m long covered turret in the West Bailey, finishing up in the Kesho Yagura (Comestic Turret). The room in the Kesho Yagura is now open to the public with red carpet covering the tatami mats and the two fiberglass figures of the ladies playing karuta are now right against the wooden windows. Of course, there is now a security guard in the room making sure people do not step off the red carpet.
  • Craig    April 27, 2012 at 01:37 PM
    Himeji castle should dominate the city of Himeji. Looking down the mainstreet from the station one should be faced with a magnificent view of the castle atop its hill looking down upon the city.... But...due to the construction works....this isn't the case. My first thoughts in Himeji were ones of utmost dissapointment. Even after checking out the beautiful garden next to the castle (totally worth visiting btw, I'm not a big garden person but it was beautiful), I was unsure on whether I would bother paying to go in the castle itself. I did and...yes, I was glad of it. Even without the main keep it is a very cool place.
  • Frank T. on My Page    October 17, 2011 at 11:28 AM
    (In hushed tones of awe and reverence): This is the king of Japanese castles; there is none higher. . . . Unfortunately, everybody in the Japanese islands knows that and can afford the price of admission. There are ALWAYS crowds here. There's no way around it, though, and you can mitigate the crowd factor by visiting on a weekday, I suppose. Be sure to explore the grounds since there's so much more going on than just the keep, spectacular as it is. Imagine a Japan where more castles had been left as intact as Himeji--not just the keep, but gates, turrets, moats, everything. As it is, we've only got 12 original keeps, and many of those sites have lost outlying parts. Too bad there was a vendetta against the feudal past during the Meiji Period.
  • justin.takacs on My Page    May 31, 2011 at 09:01 AM
    Best castle ever
  • yargy    May 19, 2011 at 11:04 PM
    this castle is RAD.
  • a22cricket on My Page    May 16, 2011 at 06:54 PM
    Definitely the best in Japan. Unfortunately, it's presently under construction so the exterior is covered up. Heard from a friend that the scaffolding actually offers a great view of the roof. A plus side to the construction process.
  • Bob the builder    February 15, 2011 at 08:28 AM
    This castle is coooooooooool.
  • Anonymous    February 15, 2011 at 08:27 AM
    This castle is coooooooooool.
  • Alamo6400    January 08, 2011 at 04:33 PM
    HIMEJI JO IS LIKE AMAZING Ikeda teremasa is one of the officers of the oda army so HIMEJI CASTLE IS ODA,TOYOTOMI, AND TOKUGAWA AMAZING!!
  • James    January 06, 2011 at 06:53 PM
    A truly magnificent place to visit and as many others have said, if you only visit one castle in Japan then make sure its Himeji, the climb to get the stamp at the top is well worth the effort and delivers a wonderful view of the surrounding area.
  • Kris    December 28, 2010 at 01:52 AM
    I sound like I didn't have much fun. I did. Himeji Castle is beautiful and absolutely amazing to walk around. Definitely must see. Also, did anyone else see that photo where the scaffolding was used for Christmas illumination? I'm not sure how I feel about that.
  • Kris on My Page    November 14, 2010 at 11:48 PM
    Himeji is beauty on a grand scale. It's a treasure among castles – unfortunately I just didn't have much fun there. When I saw Himeji it was raining buckets. I was stuck behind a family complaining loudly about how steep the stairs were and how 'someone should at least fix them a little bit.' I then got stuck behind another family telling their son that, 'the Japanese never used guns because they were samurai.' In one yagura I got splinters in my knees. Still, I'd like to go again, perhaps in 2015, at 8AM, when it is sunny. Or at night, when no one is there, to see if Okiku's ghost really does come out of the well and count to 9. I have to go back one day to get the stamp.
  • john    May 23, 2010 at 09:36 PM
    yep, this is THE iconic japanese castle. if you see a japanese castle on telivison, in a movie or in a book, it'll almost inevitably be Himeji-Jo
  • Raymond W    March 18, 2010 at 09:56 PM
    Forgot to mention in my message below. Kudos to the webmaster here for keeping us informed about Himeji and other castles' renovation. Himeji Castle is certainly worth visiting, but I am not sure that I can deal with the huge crowds now. For people coming from far away aka overseas and outside the Kansai Region, try to get to Himeji Castle when it opens at 8 in the morning. From 20th March until 11th April, the castle is opened from 8am. In that way, you get to enjoy the inside of the castle keep without inching your way through the keep in a long, long queue.
  • Raymond W    March 16, 2010 at 08:12 PM
    I went to Himeji on 14th March. It was chockers. I guess lots of people wanted to go and see it before they put it under wraps (until the end of 2014), and it isn't even cherry blossom season yet. A big crane is already up, so from most distant vantage points, you will get a beautiful photo of the castle plus the crane. If you go, go early in the morning. An announcement was made at regular intervals in the afternoon saying that it took three hours to do your sightseeing in the castle. I guess that is because it got jammed up in the castle keep. Yeah, I have experienced such congestion at Hikone Castle and Matsumoto Castle. Believe me, it's not fun. I didn't go in this time because of the crowds. Instead, I opted to walk around its outer defensive walls and moat.
  • Julian (from Canada)    October 23, 2009 at 09:28 AM
    I'm glad I saw this castle when I did, six years ago. I hope they will do a good job with their renovations and not fill the thing with Hello Kitty nonsense. Definitely the best castle in the world in my opinion. I would also like to say that I haven't looked at this site for a long time, but I'm glad it's still here and going strong. Well-organised and very informative.
  • Raymond    October 03, 2009 at 11:30 PM
    Jane, I guess the scaffolding hasn't gone up yet. On the official Himeji Castle website (in Japanese), it says that renovations are to commence this autumn and will last until the end of 2014. They are going to "wrap it up" and encase it in some structure while they renovate it. Think Nishi-Hongaji Temple in Kyoto, and you will know what I mean. There are a couple of PDF files in English about the renovation. Here is the URL for them: http://www.city.himeji.lg.jp/s70/2845684/_11311/_17981.html So for those who want to see Himeji Castle in all its glory, you had better hurry. I went twice in August as I know that I won't be seeing it again until after the renovations are done in 2014! Cheers Raymond
  • Jane    September 26, 2009 at 05:25 PM
    Himeji Castle is AMAZING! It's so big, and it's completely original! It deserves to be called one of the world's best castles. Please support it by voting for it here: http://www.vote7.com/node/6374 There are other Japanese castles, too. They are: Himeji Castle, Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, Matsumoto Castle, and Matsuyama Castle. Show that Japanese castles can rival those in Europe!
  • Raymond    August 09, 2009 at 09:11 PM
    I went to Himeji Castle after going to Akashi and Tatsuno Castle on an awesome 3-castle day-trip on Saturday. It was my fifth or sixth time to visit Himeji since 1998. As most of my previous visits were in the morning, I decided to do an afternoon visit to take photos of the castle with the light coming from the west. This is a fabulous castle to visit, and all castle lovers should visit it if you are coming to the Kansai Region. BTW, the entrance to the Nishi Maru (West Bailey) Tamon Yagura is undergoing some renovation, so the outside is covered in scaffoldings.
  • furinkazan    August 04, 2009 at 01:12 AM
    I visited twice this castle. 5 years ago in april and last year in january. The first time there was a downpour and the second time it began to snow. I was really unlucky about the weather. But this is a so magnificent castle, i can only recommend to visit this one.
  • Jackson C    May 30, 2009 at 03:31 PM
    wow, this is such a great castle
  • Anonymous    May 02, 2009 at 06:25 PM
    I heard that maintenance will be done on Himeji Castle from this Fall and that it will be closed for 3 years!
  • nate    April 16, 2009 at 02:34 AM
    hey guys
  • steve    April 08, 2009 at 03:37 AM
    I visited Himeji-jo in 2007 just as many of the cherry blossoms in the adjacent park were falling. The view with the castle as a backdrop was breathtaking. Mere words can't describe it.
  • austin    October 14, 2008 at 10:47 PM
    god you people who have visited it are soooo lucky!!!!!
  • Raymond    August 16, 2008 at 04:39 PM
    This is THE castle to visit in Japan. If you get there in the morning, take a walk to the eastern side of the moat near the Himeji City Art Museum and take some photos of Himeji Castle from there. The morning sunny will be behind you in your photos. Most people do not venture out to this part of the castle.
  • Rick    July 05, 2008 at 11:36 PM
    I saw this beautiful Japanese Castle in 1962. It's a must see if you go to Japan. Photos just don't do it justice.
  • sabrina    May 22, 2008 at 01:50 AM
    this is a very pretty castle i have beeen there and it looks even better when u c it in person
  • June    April 21, 2008 at 06:13 AM
    I've been here and its absolutely amazing! Its so beautiful.
  • MM    March 16, 2008 at 07:05 AM
    I would deffinately say that if you can only go to one Japanese castle, go to Himejijo.
  • Dani    March 15, 2008 at 02:13 AM
    This castle is very beautiful. I love the way the levels and stories are set up, and the landscape is amazing!
  • kim    March 05, 2008 at 04:01 AM
    this castle is beautiful!!!!!!
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Himeji, Hyogo prefecture
Himeji Castle views
Himeji Castle Tenshu Hishi gate
tenshu tenshu and Nishinomaru bailey.
Kesho Yagura and connected yagura I Gate
Ro Gate Tenshu, Ha Gate, walls, stone walls
Ha Gate Ha Gate
Ro Yagura Ni Gate
main tenshu, Inui connected tenshu and Nishi connected tenshu. Ho Gate
Aburakabe Mizu Ni Gate
Mizu Go Gate. Tenshu
I and Ro Watariyagura Ha Watariyagura
He Gate To-no-ichi Gate and Chi Gate
To-no-ni Gate To-no-yon Gate
stone walls , Obi Yagura Bizen Gate and Orimawari Yagura
Ri Gate, Taiko Yagura Nu Gate
Ru Gate tenshu