Himeji Castle (White Heron's Castle) in Japan - a beautiful example of Japanese architecture
Location show on map
68 Honmachi, Himeji, Japan
Date of build
1333 - 1346
Himeji Castle is one of the best preserved examples of Japanese castle architecture from the early 17th century. It consists of 83 buildings with highly developed defence systems and ingenious protective devices.
Of these 83 buildings, 74 are marked as important cultural assets, with 11 corridors, 16 towers, 15 gates and 32 ground walls.
The protection systems date back to the beginning of the Shogun's period, while the hill itself, where the castle is located, was the site of a holy sanctuary.
The castle has never suffered serious damage, either from the forces of nature or from man. It survived both the bombing of the city during World War II and the great Hanshin earthquake in 1995.
Originally there were 84 gates around the castle, but now there are only 21 intact gates left. A confusing maze of paths in the shape of circles, triangles, squares and rectangles leads to this huge castle, which was supposed to allow defenders armed with tanegashists or archers to shoot at their attackers without being exposed.
There were three moats in the castle complex, one of which (the outer moat) is currently buried.
In 1346 the fort located here was dismantled and rebuilt into Himejama Castle, two centuries later it was rebuilt into Himeji Castle. In 1581 it was significantly rebuilt, then Toyotomi Hideyoshi added a three-storey fortress.
Ikeda Terumasa completely rebuilt the castle between 1601 and 1609 into a huge castle complex.
Between 1617 and 1618 Honda Tadamasa added several more buildings to the castle complex.
The building itself is a masterpiece of wooden construction, combining function with aesthetics, both in an elegant appearance unified by white plastered earthenware walls and in the subtlety of the relationship between the body of the building and the multilayer roof structure.
The building is 950-1600 meters long from east to west and 900-1700 meters long from north to south.
The highest wall of this complex is 26 meters high.
The entire complex covers an area of 233 hectares (576 acres), while its perimeter is 4,200 meters.
The castle complex is joined by the Koko-en Garden, a Japanese garden, created in 1992 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Himeji.
After the abolition of the feudal system in 1871, Himeji Castle was put up for auction. It was purchased by a Himeji inhabitant for 23 Japanese yen (currently about 200 000 yen). The buyer planned to demolish the castle complex and develop the land, but the cost of destroying the castle was estimated too high and the castle was spared.
Himeji Castle was recognized as a national treasure in 1931. In 1993 the castle was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The five buildings of the castle are considered to be National Treasures: the Main Fortress, the north-western small fortress, the western small fortress, the eastern small fortress, and I, Ro, Ha, the Ni-Korridors and the kitchen.
In order to preserve the castle buildings, it has undergone conservation work since April 2010 and was reopened to the public on 27 March 2015.
This is the most visited castle in Japan, which was visited by more than 2,860,000 people in 2015.