Visiting the “White Heron Castle” in Himeji

As fun as Tokyo was, I was ready to leave the city behind and see something different. Something beautiful. So when we arrived to our friend’s home in Kobe and she suggested seeing a nearby castle, we were definitely in. I didn’t know that this castle would be Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest and most-visited castle in Japan.

Himeji Castle is also known as the “White Heron Castle” or the “White Egret Castle”, mainly because this beautiful castle can look like a bird taking flight. The origins of this castle dates back to 1333 where a fort was first built on this site by a Japanese samurai turned governor. It was turned from a fort into a castle, then remodeled and added to, until the early 1600’s, where it pretty much took the form that stands today despite major earthquakes, abandonment, and the bombings of World War II.

Gate leading into the Himeji Castle Grounds

Fun fact: I just learned (through Wikipedia) that the sister castle to Himeji Castle is the Château de Chantilly, which is right in my neighborhood! (Post of that French castle coming soon!)

Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to visit the castle itself (according to our friends, it takes a whole day), but I hope to visit one day in the future. Although the castle itself was beautiful and definitely the highlight of our visit to Himeji, the city itself was also fun to explore.

A little bit of modern architecture in this old city

Of course, this being Japan, there had to be a cute mascot for this castle. The castle mascot, which can be found all over Himeji, is Shiromaru Hime, which means “White Round Princess”. She even has her own website (link in Japanese). Our new friends that we met in Himeji were so sweet – when they found out that I liked the mascot, they bought me this adorable box of cookies. The cookies were almost too cute to eat. Almost.

Konnyaku in the shape of Himeji Castle

Besides its castle, Himeji is also known for its oden (not to be confused with udon). Oden is a fun dish to try, with different ingredients such as egg, daikon (Japanese radish), tofu, fish cake, and konnyaku (made from konjac potatoes) sitting in a bit of soy sauce broth. It’s a perfect winter dish (which I really wish I had right now), but not so great in the 85-degree weather that we were visiting in. Thank goodness for A/C.

Good friends, good food and beautiful sights – what more can one ask from a visit to Himeji (besides cooler weather)? For a city and a castle that wasn’t on our radar in the first place, we really enjoyed our brief time in Himeji. We hope to return one day to explore this beautiful white palace a little more.

Next stop on our Asian detour: Kobe & Osaka…

5 responses to “Visiting the “White Heron Castle” in Himeji

  1. This looks like such a beautiful place to visit (and how many places have such a cute castle mascot?)! We’ll definitely try to put Himeji on our itinerary for our next trip to Japan. Do you reckon staying for one day is enough?

    • We did it as a day trip from Kobe and it was enough time to see the exterior of the castle and look around nearby, but not enough time to go inside (according to our friends). If you want to see more of the castle, I would recommend either getting an earlier start in the day or staying overnight. If you do that, then one day should be enough.

  2. Always enjoy your travel journal! Makes my armchair travels enjoyable & entertaining! Another great post of a day trip!

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