Himeji Castle

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Travel Guide Asia Japan Honshu Kansai Himeji Himeji Castle

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Introduction

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

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Himeji Castle, also known as the White Heron Castle, was designated as a UNESCO cultural site in 1993 and is known as the must see castle in Japan. The interior of the castle was restored in the traditional manner with wood, not concrete and is the greatest look into medieval Japanese castle construction. The castle also provides an excellent look into life of Japanese nobility in the 16th century.

Himeji Castle is the largest and most visited castle in Japan. The area within the middle moat of the castle complex is a designated Special Historic Site and five structures of the castle are also designated National Treasures. Along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle, Himeji Castle is considered one of Japan's three premier castles. In order to preserve the castle buildings, it underwent restoration work for several years and reopened to the public on March 27, 2015. The works also removed decades of dirt and grime, restoring the formerly grey roof to its original brilliant white colour.

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Brief History

Himeji Castle's construction dates to 1333, when a fort was constructed on Himeyama hill by Akamatsu Norimura, the ruler of the ancient Harima Province. In 1346, his son Sadanori demolished this fort and built Himeyama Castle in its place. In 1545, the Kuroda clan was stationed here by order of the Kodera clan, and feudal ruler Kuroda Shigetaka remodeled the castle into Himeji Castle, completing the work in 1561. In 1580, Kuroda Yoshitaka presented the castle to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and in 1581 Hideyoshi significantly remodeled the castle, building a three-story keep with an area of about 55 m2.

Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu granted Himeji Castle to his son-in-law, Ikeda Terumasa, as a reward for his help in battle.[3] Ikeda demolished the three-story keep that had been created by Hideyoshi, and completely rebuilt and expanded the castle from 1601 to 1609, adding three moats and transforming it into the castle complex that is seen today. The expenditure of labor involved in this expansion is believed to have totaled 25 million man-days. Ikeda died in 1613, passing the castle to his son, who also died three years later. In 1617, Honda Tadamasa and his family inherited the castle, and Honda added several buildings to the castle complex, including a special tower for his daughter-in-law, Princess Sen (千姫 Senhime).

In the Meiji Period (1868 to 1912), many Japanese castles were destroyed. Himeji Castle was abandoned in 1871 and some of the castle corridors and gates were destroyed to make room for Japanese army barracks. The entirety of the castle complex was slated to be demolished by government policy, but it was spared by the efforts of Nakamura Shigeto, an army colonel. A stone monument honoring Nakamura was placed in the castle complex within the first gate, the Hishi Gate (菱の門 Hishinomon). Although Himeji Castle was spared, Japanese castles had become obsolete and their preservation was costly. When the han feudal system was abolished in 1871, Himeji Castle was put up for auction. The castle was purchased by a Himeji resident for 23 Japanese yen. The buyer wanted to demolish the castle complex and develop the land, but the cost of destroying the castle was estimated to be too great, and it was again spared.

Himeji was heavily bombed in 1945, at the end of World War II, and although most of the surrounding area was burned to the ground, the castle survived intact. One firebomb was dropped on the top floor of the castle but failed to explode. In order to preserve the castle complex, substantial repair work was undertaken starting in 1956, with a labor expenditure of 250,000 man-days and a cost of 550 million yen. In January 1995, the city of Himeji was substantially damaged by the Great Hanshin earthquake, but Himeji Castle again survived virtually undamaged, demonstrating remarkable earthquake resistance. Even the bottle of sake placed on the altar at the top floor of the keep remained in place.

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Opening Hours

Himeji Castle is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm, with the last opportunity to enter at 4:00pm. Closing time will be extended to 6:00pm between April 27th and August 31st. [1]

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Cost

For an adult the cost is 600 yen. You can buy combination tickets for Himeji castle and Kokoen park for 720 yen. And a combination ticket for Himeji castle and the Hyogo Museum of History for 800 yen.

Himeji Castle Walkway

Himeji Castle Walkway

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Tours

There are English-speaking volunteer guides available for tours. Because they are volunteer guides there are no set times for tours and they are not able to be booked in advance. Ask at the ticket office for availability. A guided tour takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete.

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Getting There

By foot

Himeji castle is a 15-minute walk from JR Himeji station. Go out the north side of the station and walk north. Follow either Otemae-dori, the main street in Himeji, or the Miyuki-dori shopping arcade towards the castle.

By Taxi

Himeji Castle is a 5-minute taxi ride from JR Himeji station. Go out the north side to the taxi stand. Ask the taxi driver to take you to Himeji-jo. It should cost less than 1,000 yen.

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References

  1. 1 http://www.himeji-kanko.jp/en/spot/ss001.html

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This is version 5. Last edited at 12:39 on Aug 18, 17 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

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