Himeji Castle: The Unconquerable citadel of Japan

Asia | | October 20, 2010 at 12:05 am


Make the Himeji city of the Hyogo region your halt for a while when you visit Japan the next time. This is because here you will come across the true legendary gem called the Himeji Castle standing proudly in the downtown. This national treasure is the complex of more than 80 buildings of wood atop the hill of Himeyama. Rightly acknowledged as a World Heritage Site and a National Treasure with the other adjacent five edifices, this stunningly shimmering white castle is also known as the Hakurojo or Shirasagijo meaning the ‘White Heron Castle’.

Himeji Castle in Japan

The design

The Himeji Castle is adorned with a plethora of architectural and defensive elements making it an outstanding Japanese fortress of the medieval era. It features white walls, eaves, and pillars each of which is coated with the white plaster. These plasters with the wooden furnishings make the entire castle fireproof giving it full protection from fire. So, the first reason for making it unconquerable and unbreakable is its fireproof buildup.

Next, the complex’s design is like a complicated maze wherein many confusing ways and walls raise the chances of being lost while being on the way to reach atop the hill. This is true even though the routes to the castle are marked. This plan was implemented purposely so that no invader would ascend successfully to reach the castle. This is the second reason why this castle was conquered by nobody. Today, it has become a little risky for the tourists to ascend all alone and so it is recommended to be with your group! Now, you can imagine as to why this castle is still intact. In fact, during the bombing of the Second World War II, the Himeji Castle’s floor survived miraculously without any harm.

Himeji Castle architecture

Looking at the standard features that are seen in the other Japanese castles, this strong edifice possesses some typical layout features such as the tall stone creations, stone-dropping niches, and gun emplacements. These special features aided in keeping an eye on the invaders who can then be fired upon. Further, the main attraction is actually its defensive structure wherein all the baileys, gates, and outer walls are positioned in such a manner that one can easily reach several dead ends spirally instead of reaching the main castle. This forms the last and third reason for the castle remaining undefeated.

A visit

Before visiting this castle, I had done some research and so knew that reaching here is not easy. So, like me, even you should ascend the hill with an English-speaking guide. And believe me; the path is so bewildering that I myself did not remember it while coming back. With the guide, we first spotted the Main Tower on the way to the castle, which is the hub of other small towers linked via corridors and are considered as the national gems.

Coming to the castle, its grounds are divided into two areas – inner and outer walled zones surrounded by a double moat. In the center of the inner walled area, the highest location is adorned with the royal donjon complex – the hub of the complex boasting five protruding roofs, a basement, and six inner storeys. Surrounding this complex, you will come across the watchtowers, long earthen walls showing off the defensive plans, and gates. Check out the cultural treasures here – 27 yagura, the Cosmetic Tower, 15 gates, and the walls.

Himeji Castle tour

Going inside the castle is just like stepping in a world of serenity and protection. Herein, you will come across several moats that act as a protector at each level. Now, just go ahead of these moats and there is another wall with several turns and levels via which one can reach the castle. This means that one needs to pass via a sequence of the defensive layers.

Himeji Castle inside

Reaching the castle

It is recommended to come here by a train from Osaka or Kobe. From Osaka, it is a journey of 60 minutes; while from Kobe, it takes some 45 minutes to be at the J.R. Himeji station. Once you are here, only a few minutes of walk suffice to reach the place.

Kindly note that you actually have to spend some 90 minutes at the minimum to visit this castle because it is very tough to climb the hill.

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  1. WADE NEWMAN says:

    If you go to Japan you can’t possibly miss this! It is the best Japanese castle, which inspite of being affected by various natural disasters is still intact. The castle is really large and it would take approximately three hours to see the entire castle and the gardens inside the castle.

  2. WADE NEWMAN says:

    The best time to visit the castle is between late March to early April. The castle is really stunning and spectacular! The castle ground is surrounded by huge moats..There is a huge garden or rather a park inside with lovely cherry trees. It took us two hours in all to complete the entire trip. We had lunch from a shop on the main pathway.

  3. EDUARDO HALE says:

    Hi, I visited the Himeji Castle (Himeji-jo) during May..It was crowded that time but, we saw the exterior and the gardens were really amazing! Would love to go back to properly view the interiors of the castle!

  4. BARBARA JONES says:

    Himeji is queer and obstrusive as a town, lying to the South-West of Osaka it can be reached by an Express train or Shinkasen bullet train..All the ancient historical glory of the Himeji Castle (Himeji-jo) has been retained..It is a very well-kept and authentic Castle sight in Japan!

  5. HELEN HARRIS says:

    The grounds of Himeji Castle in Japan are really huge and lovely, with a jig-saw puzzle like appearance of gardens and parks around this area and the peacefulness and quaintness of the entire town draws me to this place no end!
    Thanks for the lovely post :-)

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