For an unforgettable day trip from Osaka, venture to Himeji and stop in Kobe for dinner on the way back. Discover the awe-inspiring Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its stunning architecture and rich history. Then, indulge in the culinary delights of Kobe, renowned for its picturesque harbor and world-class Wagyu beef. This allows you to immerse yourself in Japan’s feudal past and savor the finest foods the region has to offer. It may turn out to be one of the highlights of your trip (as it was mine). It’s really easy to DIY this day trip, but there are guided tours available if you are interested.
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Himeji Castle, often referred to as the White Egret Castle, is a true gem that stands out among Japan’s historic sites. Its gleaming white color and intricate details make it stunning to behold, and it truly offers a fascinating glimpse into Japan’s past. There is a listening app that acts as a guided tour (I could not get mine to work). You could also inquire about checking out an audio tour device. A combo ticket grants entry to both the keep and the gardens, allowing you to explore the castle’s interior and the highly manicured flora of the grounds.
The interior of the castle tower is mostly empty to accommodate for visitors. To get the most out of your visit, take note of informational signs which show floor plans of how the rooms were used in the past. As you climb to the top of the keep, be prepared for breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Just be mindful that the ascent requires navigating (many, many) steep stairs. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply in search of remarkable architecture, the castle is a must-visit destination that will leave a lasting impression.
The city of Himeji has plenty to offer if you’d rather keep the day trip to one city. There are plenty of excellent places for dinner if you do not want to dine in Kobe. As for other things to do, right outside of Himeji Station there is a multi-story mall with something to suit every shopper. Just outside the castle and keep, you will find a series of shop windows selling food, regional sweets, and tourist souvenirs. There is also a wide, grassy park at the base of the castle that is perfect for a picnic, if you want to save money by picking up food at a convenience store.
You can purchase a Himeji day pass which services a loop of interesting sites and runs an antique-looking bus. If you plan to visit the other sites (various museums), it is worth it, but if you plan to only visit the castle and garden, it is a better price to take the normal bus and use your usual transit card (such as Suica).
Dinner in Kobe
On the back half of your Himeji day trip, you can easily disembark your train in Kobe. This city is celebrated for its picturesque harbor and, of course, its world-class Wagyu beef. Indulge your taste buds with the delicacy that has made Kobe famous. Numerous renowned restaurants in the city offer mouthwatering Kobe beef dishes, each prepared with exceptional care and precision. Check this site for more recommendations. After dinner, take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront and admire the captivating city skyline.
By the way, after a few days in Japan, I discovered that reservations are a good idea. Before your day trip, work with your concierge to make dinner reservations for you in Kobe, otherwise you may end up at a tourist trap (which honestly will still be delicious).
Note: We didn’t actually get to Kobe but we did have Wagyu beef somewhere else. I regret not fitting this stop in because it sounds like a very doable two-part day trip.
Don’t forget, to get the most out of your Himeji day trip you should use a JR pass. You can get to Himeji in 30 minutes on the Shinkansen or 1 hour on the non-express train. On the way back, get off the train at Shin-Kobe and then catch another train from Shin-Kobe to return to Osaka at the end of the evening.
Have you visited any castles in Japan or otherwise? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments… and as always, thanks for reading!
Photos by Doug and Staci Jackson for The Voyageer.