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Scenic Beauty

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Himeji-jo Castle

A classic example of Japan's beautiful castle architecture
The world of bygone days still lingers

Hyogo prefecture

Because its pure white appearance with white plaster coating looks like a dancing Shirasagi (Egret) with wings spread, this famous castle is also called the "Shirasagi-jo" or "Hakuro-jo". It was spared from damage during the war and from many other disasters and is in a remarkably preserved state compared to other castles. Seventy-four structures within the castle site including a tower and gate are designated as important cultural assets of Japan.

The year of establishment was 1346. Later, the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), who ruled over most of Japan, built a full-scale castle wall, which became the base for present-day Himeji-jo. At the start of the Edo period, the castle underwent considerable renovation over a 9-year period to create the magnificent appearance we see today.

If you are confident in the strength of your legs and back to climb up and down, you should take a look around the inside of the castle. Clearly, beauty was not the only priority of those in power throughout the ages. Its complicated structure, particularly the three tall watchtowers connected by columns and winding maze-like passages, functions well as a war fort and conceals a mechanism to halt the invasion of enemies and throw them into confusion. The design is intended to prevent access to the tallest watchtower and castle keep, situated at the heart of the castle, which functions as a center, so beware if you go there without a map, you may get lost!

Among the many gates are the remains of gate mechanisms for dropping stones on the enemy if they manage to enter, or gates with an extremely narrow passageway so that not many people could pass at once. Numerous holes to shoot from are made in the castle wall and there are windows from which to drop gigantic stones on the enemy, too. It is very interesting that there is a kitchen in the inner court in case the castle falls under siege or an attempt is made to starve out the occupants. By the way, the thick coating of white plaster on the outer surface is not just there for aesthetic purposes but also for defense, because of its excellent resistance to fire and bullets.

The castle keep rising from the peak of Mt. Hime-yama is built with a total height of 32 m on a stone wall approx. 15 m high, and the view from the top of the keep is spectacular. On a fine day, you can imagine the emotions of a feudal warlord with his ambitions to dominate the whole country. At night, the entire castle is lit up, so a visit after sunset is highly recommended as well.

Himeji City, Hyogo prefecture

Directions

Approx. 15-minute walk from the JR Himeji station or Sanyo Dentetsu Sanyo Himeji station.

 

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