Himeji Castle, also known as Himeji-jo is one of Japan’s “Three Famous Castles” and is the most visited castle in the country. This 17th century castle is one of the finest surviving example of Japanese castle architecture and is a masterpiece of construction in wood. The breathtaking castle consists of 83 buildings with defensive and protection devices that date back to the beginning of the Shogun period. With its tall stone foundations and white plastered walls, the castle is truly breathtaking when seen in contrast with the natural elements of the area. Himeji castle was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1993 thanks to its cultural and architectural significance.
Another staple of Japanese castle architecture is the layout of the buildings within the complex; which are placed specifically to create a maze that would slow down attackers. There are also many slopes through out the grounds, making it more difficult for attackers to reach the towers of the castle. The castle originally started off as a fort constructed in 1333 and then in 1581, a three-story castle was built on the land by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. In 1601 Terumasa Ikeda, son-in-law of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa began rebuilding it into a five-story castle with three small towers. Himeji Castle has been quite lucky throughout its existence and has never been seriously damaged in a war. It came out amazingly unscathed by World War II; although the surrounding area was burned to the ground, the castle survived intact, being hit only by a single firebomb that incredibly did not explode. Restoration efforts on the castle began in 1956 and thankfully the entire structure is extremely well preserved and will be around for many generations to enjoy and appreciate.
Himeji Castle is open year round except from December 29-31. It is located about 30 miles west of Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture and can be reached in about four hours by bullet train from Tokyo. From September through May the castle is open to the public from 9 am to 4 pm, from June through August 9am to 5 pm. Depending on the exchange rates, the admission price for adults is about $7(600 Yen) and tickets for children 3-14 will run you about $2.25(200 Yen). Free tours for English speaking visitors are provided by an association of volunteer guides. The tour teaches you about the construction and history of the castle and its inhabitants. It will definitely increase your understanding and appreciation of Himeji Castle.
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