Himeji castle is National Treasure, National Heritage Building, one of the best 100 castles in Japan and UNESCO World Heritage Site. I think this castle is most well known and popular castle in Japan and I believe everybody agree with me.
Himeji castle is still under restoration work. But in this past June, whole part of exterior was unveiled. Now Himeji castle is so white! The following link is Kobe Newspaper in Japanese. But you can see two different photos, before and after.
All restoration work will be completed in March 27, 2015. But if you want to see “White” Himeji castle, now it is time to go.
In this post, I would like to explain about access to Himeji by several kinds of trains. Since Kobe is located on the way to Himeji, I also mention about Kobe. You can drop by when you go to Himeji easily.
Route and access
Let’s see the location map. Please see the map below:
There are three ways to get there.
Shinkansen — trip time 30 to 45 minutes (from Shin-Osaka) / 3130 yen (base fare and non reserved seat surcharge by Hikari, Sakura or Kodama)
JR Special Rapid train — average trip time 61 minutes (direct access from Osaka/Umeda) / 1490 yen fare
Hanshin-Sanyo Railway Limited Express from Umeda — average trip time 95 minutes (direct access) / 1280 yen fare
Shinkansen is the fastest train obviously, but expensive. And you have to go to Shin-Osaka to catch Shinkansen. Let’s see the available deals and frequency.
Shinkansen is the fastest way to get Himeji if you can catch the fastest run. There are several kinds of Shinkansen train on this segment, Nozomi, Mmizuho, Hikari, Sakura and Kodama. Kodama stops at all stations and takes sometimes 45 minutes to get Himeji from Shin-Osaka because Kodama waits for other faster trains on the way to Himeji.
If you take this “slow” train Kodama, it’s not much different from JR Special Rapid train. Because you will spend 5 minutes to get Shin-Osaka from Osaka by local train. And you will spend another 5 minutes at least to transfer from local train to Shinkansen. It will be 55 minutes and not much different from Special Rapid trip time 61 minutes.
If you intend to use Japan Rail Pass, Kansai WIDE Area Pass or Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass, Sanyo Sanin Area Pass, Shinkansen surcharge is covered by these deals.
*Kansai WIDE Area Pass and Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass cover only non reserved seat.
But if you will purchase single ticket, the fare is more than double of Special Rapid train. I don’t think it is not worth taking Shinkansen for such a short trip. Special Rapid is better train service in my opinion.
JR Special Rapid train
This train is most popular and the fastest commute service between Osaka and Himeji. You can catch this train by base fare only. And if you use Kansai Area Pass, this train is your choice. Of course other rail passes, Japan Rail Pass, Kansai WIDE Area Pass and Sanyo Area Pass cover this train too. Please see the link below to get more details about Special Rapid train service.
If you purchase single ticket from Osaka to Himeji, the fare is 1,490 yen. If you purchase Kansai Area Pass one day, the price is 2,200 yen (online advance purchase price). Kansai Area Pass is the best deal to Himeji from Osaka by Special Rapid train.
Hanshi/Sanyo Railway’s Limited Express
Sanyo Railway connects Himeji and Kobe area. Both Hanshin and Sanyo go through each other and both companies operate direct train service from Umeda to Himeji. But this is much slower than JR Special Rapid train. You will spend at least 30 minutes more than Special Rapid train if you move from Umeda (same location as JR Osaka station) to Himeji.
If you use Kansai Thru Pass, you cannot take any JR trains. Hanshin-Sanyo direct train is only you choice. The round trip fare is 2,560 yen. It is worth using Kansai Thru Pass for the trip to Himeji from Umeda.
If you stay in Namba, you can catch Hanshin Railway train at Osaka-Namba station. The transfer at Amagasaki station is usually same platform and very easy. If you use Kansai Thru Pass, you can take subway Midousuji line to Umeda and transfer to Hanshin Railway at Umeda. In this case, you have to exit subway station and enter Hanshin Railway station. Transfer at Amagasaki is much easier than changing train at Umeda. And the difference of trip time between Hanshin-Sanyo and JR is smaller if you start from Namba. As I mentioned, JR Special Rapid is much faster but you need to get Umeda by subway from Namba. If you take Hanshin railway, you can change trains at Amagasaki and it is transfer in the station. JR Special Rapid is still faster but the difference is 10 to 15 minutes. It is not a big issue.
This train is “Limited Express” but no express surcharge is required. This is same type of trains as Special Rapid.
In the map above, there is Hankyu Railway between Umeda and Sannomiya. You can take this train by Kansai Thru Pass too. But any Hankyu trains do not go through Sanyo Railway line. So it is not convenient and not recommended either.
Sanyo-Himeji station is located at the north side of JR Himeji station. It is 20 minutes away from Himeji station by walk. Please find the detailed about Himeji station and how to access to Himeji castle at the link below:
Drop by Kobe
Sannomiya is the core place of Kobe. You can take any train other than Shinkansen to drop by Kobe. But if you go to Kobe only, any kinds of passes do not work. Single ticket is much cheaper than any deals.