Explore 3 Unique and Impressive Realms of Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture!

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  • Himeji. By just looking at the word, most people will only think of one thing.. Himeji Castle. Himeji Castle is a stunning castle that was bestowed the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as “One of Japan’s three premier castles”. Himeji Castle is definitely worth a visit. However, despite these bold titles, Himeji Castle should not be viewed as Himeji’s only attraction. To me, Himeji is a gateway to many different “realms”.

    Whether you want to see the wonders of the world such as the Pyramids or be in a Hollywood movie, Himeji has it all. This article recommends 3 other “realms” outside of Himeji Castle which can give you the best experience of this magical area!

    1. Taiyo Park (太陽公園): The Wonder Realm

    Taiyo Park is one of the lesser known attractions in Himeji but is one that will give you a jaw dropping experience. Upon entering the grounds of Taiyo Park, you will be wonderstruck by a majestic white castle towering above you. However, don’t be fooled. What you see is just the tip of the iceberg of what Taiyo Park has in store for you!

    Taiyo Park consists of two main areas; The Ishi Area (石のエリア) and the Castle Area (城のエリア). Most will want to rush to see the castle area to view the castle. However, I would recommend visiting the Ishi Area first before heading to the Castle Area.

    Ishi Area

    In the Ishi Area, you will get to enjoy many of the world’s greatest attractions including, but not limited to, The Arc de Triomphe, Tian An Men Square, The Entrance of the Great Wall of China and The Pyramids of Egypt. If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing these attractions, the Ishi Area of Taiyo Park is just the place.
    The attractions may be replicas, but the attention to detail in the making of these replicas makes it seem real. Furthermore, you’ll be able to take a perfect photo with the attraction of your dreams, without the issue of huge crowds or limited space.

    Castle Area

    After being impressed by the world’s greatest attractions, you can then visit the stunning Shiratori Castle (白鳥城). Shiratori Castle is modeled after the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and is even bigger than the famous Himeji Castle. To add to the grandness of this Castle, you can take a scenic monorail ride to access it. However, before going up, you might want to take some time to admire the European like structures next to the monorail.

    Upon arriving, you will once again be struck by the sight of the castle in front of you. Take your time to appreciate the exterior before heading into the castle.

    The interior of the castle is an art museum, and inside is a trick art gallery. In this museum, you will get to enjoy the various art works and be amazed by how easy it is to trick the human eye. Remember to take some interesting pictures such as sitting on the throne, before leaving. It is recommended to spend at least half a day to enjoy all that Taiyo Park has to offer.

    How to Get There

    Taiyo Park is easily accessible by bus No 35 or 45 at platform 4 from Himeji Station North Exit and departs at Uchikoshi Nishi (打越西). Please note that bus 35 only operates on weekends and public holidays.

    Taiyo Park Website *Japanese Only
    Access

    2. Mount Shosha Engyoji Temple (書寫山圓教寺): The Movie Realm

    Mount Shosha is a mountain located about 6km away from Himeji Castle. It houses a beautiful old temple, Engyoji Temple, with a history of over a thousand years. It is also an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, being 1 of the 33 Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage temples. However, in recent years, Mount Shosha has also gained popularity in the movie industry.

    Looking at pictures of Mount Shosha, some of you may begin to feel a sense of familiarity. A quick search will tell you that the location was featured in the movie “The Last Samurai”. According to the official site of Mount Shosha, it was said that the director chose Engyoji Temple as the location for the film because the ancient buildings and tense atmosphere was able to enhance the theme of the movie.

    To enhance the experience of your trip, I highly recommend that you watch the movie again, or for those who have not watched it, you should see it before heading up to Mount Shosha. Not only will you get to see a famous Hollywood movie film location, but you will also be able to get a sense of what the actor (Tom Cruise) felt when he was making the movie. You can take some “Movie Pictures” while you are there.

    In addition to the Last Samurai, Engyoji Temple on Mount Shosha was also featured in a couple of NHK drama programs such as Gunshi Kanbei (軍師官兵衛) and Musashi (武蔵), as well as movies such as The Assassin. If you have watched any of these, you will be able to reminisce about the scenes as you stroll through the temple compounds.

    How to Get There

    To get to Mount Shosha, you can take the bus No 8 from Himeji Station platform 10 (North Exit) or from the bus stop near Himeji Castle Otemon Gate (城大手門前), and alight at Mount Shosha Ropeway (書写山ロープウェイ). You can choose to either hike or take the railway. If you have plenty of time, I would recommend walking up as you will get to enjoy the healing effects of the lush greenery on the way up. Walking should take you about one hour.

    Mount Shosha Engyoji Temple Website
    Access

    3. Tegarayama Central Park(手柄山中央公園): The Local Realm

    Tegarayama Central Park is a spacious park containing several attractions. Although the park was originally built for the Himeji Expo in 1966, many of the attractions remain till today for all to enjoy. At the park, you will get to enjoy a multitude of activities however the main attractions include a western style castle, an aquarium, an amusement park and a rotating observatory.

    Castle

    It is said that great things come in threes and likewise, Himeji offers you three stunning castles. Though it is not as famous as Himeji Castle nor as grand as Taiyo Park’s Castle, the design of the tallest tower will make you feel as if you are in the movie Rapunzel. As there is no admission fee, do enjoy taking some beautiful photos while visiting the castle.

    Aquarium

    The aquarium features the fishes that are local to Himeji. Though it may seem that the fishes there are not rare nor have anything unique, you will be surprised at the knowledge you will obtain from the aquarium. Do note that the information is mainly in Japanese however, it is still worth looking at the biodiversity on display.

    Amusement Park

    If you get bored from all the walking and museums, why not go for a different kind of adventure at the amusement park. At the park, rides such as a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel are available. However, the main attraction would be the huge pool and water activities that you can enjoy during the summer from July to September. Though not so popular in the other seasons, the park provides a good break from sightseeing.

    Regardless of where you start from in the park, the rotating observatory is a perfect way to conclude your trip at Tegarayama Park. The rotating observatory is actually a café where you can relax, have a slice of cake and sip a cup of coffee while enjoying a view of everything you have seen, or as a break during your visit. As the observatory rotates, you will also get to view Himeji Castle from a distance which is a stunning view!

    Tegarayama Park may not be on many tourist itineraries because many of its attractions can be found in most cities in Japan. However, Tegarayama Park has a reputation among the locals as a place to spend time with family, go on dates or even just relax. This makes it the perfect spot for those who wish to experience the local Himeji lifestyle!

    How to Get There

    To access the park, take the Shinki bus 94 (神姫バス) from platform 1 of Himeji’s north exit and alight at the stop called Tegarayama Chuokoen Kuchi (手柄山中央公園口).

    Tegarayama Central Park Website *Automatic Translation Available
    Access

    You now know the fun that awaits you outside of Himeji Castle. Even at this point, you may still be wondering whether it is really worth extending your stay in Himeji. Well, think no further. Open your itinerary and insert at least one, if not all of the other “realms” that Himeji has to offer you. If you don’t, the only realm you will enter is that of regret as you leave Himeji. I know, because I regretted it after my first trip.

    Would you like to stay in Himeji? Check out all the hotels in the area here!