Photo: Tom Fay

A New Way to Experience Himeji Castle

Photo: Tom Fay
Tom Fay   - 4 min read

Sat proudly overlooking the city streets below, Himeji Castle is a UNESCO-registered masterpiece of traditional wooden architecture. It is undoubtedly one of Japan’s finest castles – its sprawling maze-like grounds, built on multiple levels and divided by numerous walls, ramparts and gates, lead up to a designated national treasure, the elegant and beautiful main castle keep.

Also known as the ‘White Heron Castle’ thanks to its dazzling white-plastered exterior, these days it is mostly tourists—rather than samurai—who stroll through the castle’s wooden corridors, before climbing the steep stairs up to admire the panoramic views from the top of the six-storied keep. Thanks to the countless original features and fittings, plus some exquisite restoration work using period-accurate techniques and materials (most recently between 2009–2015), the castle retains all the splendor of its heyday, making it a must-see attraction.

But now there is a brand new, immersive way to explore Himeji Castle that will no doubt enhance the visitor experience. Using Auris, a novel sensory technology, visitors can don spectacles equipped with an audio device, allowing for a hands-free aural guide and a musical soundtrack to accompany your walk around the castle.

Auris’s sensor technology is able to scan your surroundings, automatically triggering relevant audio tracks into action upon entering specific areas. These audio tracks include an entertaining narration of interesting facts about the castle, such as aspects of the castle’s design, as well as stories and history waiting for you around every corner.

At other times you will be accompanied by a background soundtrack of period music, which makes exploring the castle a truly atmospheric experience as you wander around at your own pace. As a dynamic system, Auris is updated seasonally and for special events, meaning the audio experience is ever-changing and sure to reward repeat visits.

Himeji Castle has always been an incredibly popular sightseeing spot, but now you can get to know the castle at an even deeper level on this unique audio tour which really brings the castle, and its long and fascinating history, to life.

Getting there

Himeji Castle is an easy day trip from Osaka or Kyoto.

From Osaka Station and Kyoto Station, take the JR Special Rapid train to reach Himeji Station in 60 mins and 95 mins respectively.

Alternatively, the JR Sanyo Shinkansen line provides a quicker (but more expensive) option: Himeji Station is about 40 minutes from Osaka Station, and about 50 minutes from Kyoto Station.

The castle grounds are a 15 to 20mins walk up Otemae-dori Street from Himeji Station’s north exit. Visitors may also choose to take a 5min bus from the same exit, priced at ¥100 per passenger.

Entry to the castle costs ¥1000 for adults and ¥300 for children.

Himeji Castle is open from 9am–5pm (6pm between April 27th and August 31st). Entry is allowed until one hour before closing time.

More info

Find out more about Himeji Castle.

Tom Fay

Tom Fay @tom.fay

Writer living in Japan since 2007, based in Osaka/Kyoto. I enjoy hiking, mountaineering, photography, and travel. Guidebooks: Must-See Japan (2016); Hiking and Trekking in the Japan Alps and Mt Fuji (Cicerone Press, 2019); Experience Japan (Lonely Planet, 2022); Hokkaido (Bradt Travel Guides, 2023).