Himeji is justifiably famous for its dazzling white castle, one of the most intact and best-preserved feudal-era castles in Japan today. Shirasagijo – or White Heron Castle, as it is sometimes known – perches high over the city, encircled by walls, fortification, grand gates and cherry-treed lawns.
The view of the keep from the gardens outside can be enjoyed free of charge, but this is one of the best opportunities to see the interior of a 400-year old national treasure. A meticulous restoration that was finished in 2015 now allows visitors to see an authentic snapshot of a bygone time – though be aware that the narrow and steep stairs may be a bit tricky to scale for some.
The elegant and iconic castle is easy to reach from the train station – taking a few hours here is a great way to break up a journey along the Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen route. If you have a little longer to spare though, the atmospheric temple of Enyogi – in the dense forest atop Mount Shosha – is a worthwhile diversion. The shooting location for countless films and TV shows in Japan – as well as the Hollywood movie The Last Samurai – you can easily believe you have stepped back in time as you explore the wooden buildings within pristine natural surroundings. A ropeway takes you the majority of the way up to the temple complex, but be prepared for a bit more of a hike to reach the summit.