If you are planning to come to Hyogo prefecture, you must see Himeji Castle.
Himeji Castle is largest and most visited castle in Japan and it was registered
in 1993 as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country.
If you are fun of castles, I recommend seeing also Matsumoto Castle
in Nagano prefecture and Kumamoto Castle in Kumamoto prefecture
besides Himeji Castle since they are considered Japan’s three premier castles.
Most Japanese castle has its nickname and Himeji castle is called Shirasagi
(white heron) Castle because of its elegant appearance unified by the white
plastered earthen walls.
“History about Shirasagi-jo Castle”
A fort was constructed on Himeyama hill in 1333 by Akamatsu Norimura,
the ruler of the ancient the Province. In 1346, his son Sadonori
demolished this fort and built Himeyama Castle in its place. In 1545,
the Kroda 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 castle keep with an area of about 55㎡.
Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu granted Himeji Castle
to his son-in-low, Ikeda Terumasa, as a reward for his help in battle.
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 building to the castle complex,
including a special tower for his daughter-in-law, Princess Sen.
In the Meiji Period (1868-1912), 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 with the first gate, the Diamond Gate.
Although Himeji Castle was spared, Japanese castles had become obsolete
and their preservation was costly.
When the hand 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, USD 2,258 today.
The buyer wanted to demolish the castle complex and develop the land,
but the cost of destroying the castle was estimated to be too grant,
and it was again spared.
Himeji was heavily bombed in 1945, at the end of WWII,
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 fortunately 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 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.
Hyogo is located in Kansai or also called Kinki region
which is in Southern Central Honshu. Kansai region includes Kyoto,
Osaka, Nara, Shiga, Wakayama and Mie prefectures.
“Just finished Himeji Castle Renovation”
Himeji-jo had been undergoing a renovation for 6 years.
And it just finished this March 2015.
If you visit Kansai area, it is worth seeing Himeji Castle.
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