What is Himeji Castle?
In Japan, there are fourteen UNESCO world cultural heritage sites. Do you know which site was listed first?
About 1 hour distance with a bullet train from Osaka, there stands Himeji castle in Hyogo prefecture. The castle was listed as the first UNESCO world cultural heritage site in 1993. It is also one of the “three great castles in Japan” and considered one of the best examples of Japanese citadel architecture.
NOTICE: Himeji castle is now under renovation and will be finished in March 2015. It is recommended that you visit following the completion of the renovations.
What to See?
1. White Egret Castle.
In 1609, in the period of Edo shogunate, Himeji castle was built as a residence of the local lord Ikeda Terumasa.
In the center of the castle, you can see the tallest building called Tensyu. It has five stories, and the lord was able to see his entire land from the top.
Since the castle’s elegant walls remind people of a white egret, Himeji castle is also called Hakuro-Jo (White egret castle).
2. Two Different Roof Designs.
When you see the roofs of each story of Tensyu, you may notice that there are two different designs. The ones that look like steep mountains are called Chidori-Hafu, and the ones that look like upside-down bowls are Kara-Hafu. The mixture of these two Hafu brings out the beauty of the white walls.
3. Military Construction
Himeji castle has many defense mechanisms.
While Tensyu appears to have only five stories, there are actually seven floors inside. It is meant to deceive and confuse invaders.
You will also notice the stone walls that support Tensyu are built in the shape of sectors. This design was used to prevent invaders from climbing up.
4. Various Shapes of Holes in the Walls
The walls of Himeji castle are spread out like a maze.
You can find many holes in the walls. Even though they were used for soldiers to stick out guns and arrows during combat, the holes were different shapes so they would not jeopardize the beauty of the castle.
The residences of lords required many military modifications. Himeji castle not only matched the military requirements, but also exceed them by adding numerous beautiful elements. From wherever you view Himeji castle, its beauty never diminishes. Himeji castle is, without a doubt, one of the best examples of Japanese citadel architecture, just as it has been for last 400 years.
Did You Know?
Himeji castle was once exposed to the dangers of extinction. It was in the middle of World War II.
The citizens who heard the air-raid alarm of the neighboring city tried to cover the Himeji castle with black cloths in an attempt to protect it. However, one bomb went through the window of the Tensyu. It was an intense moment. Fortunately, the bomb did not explode, as if the people’s entreaty saved it.
After the war, the figure of Himeji castle standing in the wasteland motivated citizens to rebuild their city. The castle has been a symbol of peace ever since.