Himeji Castle is a masterpiece of Japanese architecture. It’s amazing that throughout it’s history it has never been burnt in a fire, was never victoriously besieged by an enemy, and was never bombed during the second world war. Just witnessing a piece of 400 year old history alone makes it worth a visit. Not only is the castle aesthetically beautiful, but Himeji castle used to be a fully equipped military base.
This article will explain a few details about the world famous castle!
Please, read on!
Let’s begin exploring the castle!
The first thing you will see as you approach is the massive entrance called the “Hishi Gate”(Diamond gate).
The area inside and just beyond the “Hishi Gate” is the popular photo spot!
fter coming through the Hishi Gate, proceed to the left rear side just off the main route of the castle. In this area there is a beautiful Japanese traditional garden as well as the “Nishi-no-maru” (West Bailey) which was the residence for Princess Sen who married the 21st owner of the castle, Tadaoki Honda. Next, walk the “Hyakken Roka” corridor where Princess Sen’s servants lived. This corridor is 240m long and magnificent! After the 240m walk you will reach Princess Sen’s relaxation room “Kesho Yagura” where she did her make-up. Inside, the castle only has one-way traffic, so please visit this area before you go back and join the main route.
Now go back onto the main route towards the Daitenshu (Main keep). Proceed through 2 gates and you will see a slope of stone steps. This slope is called the “Shogun slope”. Enjoy the view of the Daitenshu just beyond the gently sloped stairs.
Take a good look at the above photo.
On the right side wall you can see circular, square and triangular holes.
These holes are called “Sama” and were used to attack invaders from a safe position inside the walls.
The circular, square and triangular holes were designed to fire guns from. Rectangular holes were for shooting a bow and arrow from. Himeji castle grounds still contain many implements of war.
There are still several gates to pass through before getting to the Daitenshu. The route is designed to get narrower, steeper and to appear as if one is getting farther away from the Daitenshu.
These clever architectural devices kept enemies away from the Clan king residing inside the castle.
However, Himeji Castle is now a tourist spot. Anyone visiting will quickly notice that this was not it’s originally intended design. Therefore one should show consideration for others by yielding politely when going up the main route.
Finally, the last gate! You are now facing the Daitenshu.
From outside, the Daitenshu appears to be a 5 story building, but it actually has a basement and 6 floors!
I’m excited to finally get inside! I haven’t included photos of the inside because i want you to see it for yourself!
In the basement, you will find a sewage system and washrooms. If you are into Japanese castles it’s an interesting area because it offers a glimpse into the daily life of that era.
On the first floor, you will see where “Ishi-otoshi” was done. From this spot they used to roll stones onto invaders trying to climb the walls of the castle. There is a miniature model of Himeji Castle displayed on this floor. You can see how many pillars and beams were used to build the castle.
On the 2nd floor, you’ll find the “Buki kake” which is a weapon rack used for weapon storage.
On the 3rd floor, there is a small room called “Musha-kakushi” where Samurais hid to ambush invaders who made it inside.
The highlight of the 4th floor is the “Ishiuchidana” which looks like a shelf or platform from which stones or small rocks were hurled at invaders. The shelf runs along the interior wall of the floor. This was used to gain higher ground and thus have an advantage over the enemy.
On the 5th floor, You will see the 2 pillars which support the Daitenshu. Be careful you don’t hit your head on the beam when you go to the top floor.
There is a small shrine on the 6th floor (top floor). There is a legend about Musashi Miyamoto the great swordsman and this shrine. While serving the master of Himeji Castle he slayed a monster which resulted in a god granting him his famous blade.
Wow! The panoramic view of Himeji city from the 6th floor is absolutely amazing! It made me wonder what the view was like for the castle owner in times past. It must have been exquisite.
After traveling back in time 400 years and imagining myself as clan king in the Daitenshu, I went back down to the southern square. From here you shouldn’t forget to take a close-up photo of Himeji Castle.
Next, proceed to the “Bizen gate” then to the south side through the “Rino-mon” gate, and you will see an open space. There, you will find a deep well called the “Okiku Ido”. There is a sad legend related to this well. Okiku was a female servant in the castle. She was falsely accused of breaking a plate which was a treasured heirloom of the master. For this transgression she was pitched into the well. It is said that at night, Okiku’s voice still comes up from the well and she can be heard counting plates again and again.
Lastly, you’ll go through the “Nuno mon” gate and then through the interestingly shaped “Runo mon” gate. It looks like a stone tunnel.
Beyond the “Runo mon” gate, you will see the mote filled with water. And that brings our exploration of Himeji Castle to an end. I hope you enjoyed touring Himeji castle with me.
There are many more sites to see and photos to take inside, so please take your time and attack the castle in your own way!
|Address||68 Honmachi, Himeji City, Hyogo|
|Open||9:00-16:00 * may change seasonally|
|closed on||December 29th, 30th|
|Admission||Adult ¥1,000, Child (Elementary school, junior high school, and high school students) ¥300|