Himeji Castle is commonly regarded as the most beautiful castle in all of Japan. Not only do its famous white walls and incredible 600-year history make it a national treasure, but it is also an official World Cultural Heritage Site.
Himeji Castle Fast Facts
Owner: Ministry of Education, Sports, Science & Technology
Management Organization: Himeji City
Height of the Main Keep: 91.9m above sea level
Weight of the Main Keep: 5,700 tons (estimated)
Number of Towers: 27
Number of Gates: 21
Number of Firing Holes (Sama): 997
A Dramatic History
1333 – Akamatsu Norimura raises an army by order of the Imperial Prince and constructs a fort on Hime-yama Hill.
1346 – Akamatsu Sadanori builds a large-scale castle on Hime-yama Hill.
1467 – The Onin War; The Kodera Clan of the Akamatsu family is assigned to Himeji Castle.
1581 – Hashiba Hideyoshi builds the 3-storied keep in Himeji Castle.
1600 – After the battle of Sekigahara, Ikeda Terumasa becomes the lord of Himeji Castle.
1609 – Ikeda Terumasa’s construction of the present-day 5-storied keep is completed.
1639-1749 – The castle domain is taken control of by a new family almost every 10 years.
1749 – Flooding causes major damage to the castle town.
1867 – Taiseihokan, return of political power to the Emperor.
1868 – Sakai Tadakuni, the last lord of the domain, proposes that the land and the people should be returned to the Emperor.
1871 – The Himeji domain is abolished and replaced by Himeji Prefecture, due to the abolition of the domain system in 1871.
1873 – A decision was made to preserve Himeji Castle under the Ordinance for Keeping and Disposal of Castles.
1889 – Himeji City is established.
1910 – “The Meiji Era Restoration” begins and is completed in 1911.
1931 – The main keep of Himeji Castle is designated as a National Treasure.
1945 – Air raids on Himeji; the castle miraculously survives.
1951 – The eight keeps of Hmeji Castle are designated as National Treasures.
1993 – Registered as Japan’s first UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, listed for Japanese wooden castle architecture.
2009 – “The Heisei Era Restoration” maintence and repair of the main keep begins, making national news for its large budget and modern restoration methods.
2015 – Maintenance and repair of the main keep is completed.
Himeji Castle’s Defense – Beauty & Strength
One of the features making the castle so beautiful is the roof covered with a variety of flat and round tiles. Eight different family crests can be seen on the tiles, as proof of the repairs den by the lords of the past.
Retaining the style of the Azuchi-Momyama period, there are 21 gates, including the massive Hishi-no-mon Gate and the Bizen-mon Gate.
Sama (Firing holes)
There are 997 openings called sama in the walls from which arrows and guns were fired. They come in four different shapes – oblong, round, triangular, and square.
The thickly-latticed windows are to prevent enemy intrusions and the entry of arrows and bullets. The more ornately decorated windows are styled in the same way as many Buddhist temples.
There are 32 walls designated as Important Cultural Properties. Wooden framework was popular at the time; however, the castle’s walls are actually made by stacking blocks of clay finished with white plaster to enhance the beauty of the exterior.
Visit Himeji Castle
Hours of Operation:
Sept 1st – Apr 26th: 9am – 5pm (Last admission at 4pm)
Apr 27th – Aug 31st: 9am – 6pm (Last admission at 5pm)
*Closed on Dec 29 & 30
Adult: 1000 yen
Child: 300 yen (from Elementary School to High School students)
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