Imagine a pair of enormous chopsticks, about 30 meters high, fitting from a size of about 38 inches to the bottom. This is all that has remained in Himeji Castle, among one of the most indispensable historic structures in Japan. It stands tall for 400 years, after all the earthquakes, bombing raids, and with the threats of environmental issues and weather calamities.
I am standing in between the “chopsticks”, that has been dimmed and polished through the years. They are remarkably bamboozled for a building with such precision. I was speaking to one of my Japanese friends. “This kind of imperfection is very stunning in Japan.” She warned. It is the idea of Wabi-Sabi, to show a flaw or asymmetry, which somehow seems to play a role in the feudal citadel.
The only living existence of the primary tower of Himeji is even more amazing, considering that most of the other Japanese Castles are a duplication. In addition to that, the large pillars are of a fir tree, a Cypress that only offers limited and basic architectural reinforcement. Over the past 5 years, this world heritage site, which houses 5 out of the 8 nominated National Treasury Castle Structures (the main tower is one), has actually been covered in a scaffold throughout a huge restoration of 24 billion yen (₤ 143 million). It reopened its doors last month, which is undoubtedly the event of the century in the rest of the city, and also a national news.
Himeji Castle World Heritage Site
My very first imagination of the Castle was when I got in Himeji by bus at night time. Submerged, it resembles a magical mountain: vast, rugged, bright white and sparkling. I explained to the Japanese person beside me that I will most certainly write about the Castle which will essentially cheer – this is first of the many enormous pride that the residents of the area have for the “White Heron”, as what they commonly call the Castle.
Tokugawa Ieyasu, the wonderful founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, got the construction of Himeji in 1601, on the site of an existing Fort, as part of its technique of building a castle territory. Ieyasu’s peacekeeping strategy was such a success that the tusks of Himeji, a combination of moats, columns and windings, and walled alleys which was 83 structures in total were never attacked, well unless you count the battle scene in the ‘You’ film.
If you remembered clearly, oath stays secret in a “Ninja Training School”, mission for a very dodgy “Japanese” character with an indulgent Japanese bride. The links between the Ninja and the historical structures in Japan may be considered as weak or to no relevance at all. (no Ninja has actually entered the “Ninja Temple” in Kanazawa for instance), but Himeji is different. A Ninja troop, the caste spies from the classified mountain areas of Mie prefecture, lived in the lands of Himeji. As lower caste warriors, the Ninjas were ruled out as deserving of a place in the castle itself, and their secret nature kept them away from the rest of the castle’s existence. The essence of disguise and stealth of the Ninja was abundantly nourished since the very conception of the Castle.
“It was made to ensure that the enemies could be surprised from behind”, said by my guide Kazuyathe “Kenny” Haga, wearing his enormous black cape and a melon hat. The design is imaginative, with spiral aisles, dead marks, concealed hatches and barriers that can be completely blocked in seconds. The Portuguese had actually presented devices in Japan a couple of years before and the Castle for that reason has vents for weapons, in addition to archery slots and ground hatches allowing to pour boiling water on the invaders. All ends considered, one cannot help but agree that it is almost a pity that Himeji’s defences have never been inspected.
At the end of the restoration, its only right that Himeji will continue its spot as the primary tourist destinations in Japan. This would actually require for the historic spot to draw in approximately 10,000 tourists per day during the upcoming months. I am just lucky to be the first stranger to see inside the tower while it is under renovation.
“I’m so delighted, so thrilled!”, said Kenny as he was approaching the main tower, going in through 10 doors with a budding cherry blossom and grapefruits abundantly filled at his side. It is also his first look through after the reconstruction. As Kenny explains, when it rains very hard it will enable us to witness how the complex drainage system which keeps the water streaming through the structure be useful in case of fire.
At the main tower, I need to put on a pair of little plastic slippers gently as chosen by the Japanese in such state (somehow, I mean since foreigners seem absurd). However, I am just amazed to discover that the pieces inside are almost entirely empty or vacant. I still remembered in in the past few years, there are still the existence of different shops. “This time, we have actually removed anything,” said Haga-San while he proudly displays his iPad. “You see?” instead of showing weapons and shields, tourists will now download and install an application that provides an X-Ray sight of the Castle Woods. Anywhere you run your phone or tablet, together with the reconstructions, it will record the people who lived right there. The large jars that once worked as toilet bowls stay in their storage rooms, but I had the pleasure of seeing them.
Discover Japan's most important cultural and historical monuments Himeji Castle
We climbed from the basement to 6 other floors, of which only 5 shows up from the outside, an additional tower of tenacity of Himeji. On the 7th floor there is a watchtower and a Shinto Shrine. The view is just incredible.
Throughout its building, Himeji have 3 moats, the first is less than a kilometre from the castle itself, near the Himeji station, with a structure of watchtowers and homes for about 10,000 families of Samurais, the Castle Park, the Ninja Army. Respecting 10,000 individuals were needed to build the Castle. Their job was a kind of heavy duty as they use ache and granite from the surrounding mountains. This granite base, with a combination of a very adjustable framework, helped Himeji to adjust when earthquakes occurred. Naturally, these columns vibrate like some sort of a seismic pitch.
It was almost unimaginable that at the end of the 19th century, it would knockdown the castle and also transform it with army barracks. Later on, the castle was auctioned for the equivalent amount of ₤ 2 000. However, its destruction manifested to be pricey too. Once again, the castle made it through. The city was totally thumped during World War II. But, the castle remained standing even after the tremendous Hanshin quake in 1995.
Currently, Himeji Castle is a national high valued possession just like the tower of London. It’s restoration has also been treated tremendously well too. Artisans from all over the country have actually worked to develop a substitute clay floor tiles and also help maintain the job of the wood and also the plaster. All best efforts have actually been made to recreate the practices of the past while utilizing raw materials. And a good development has actually been accomplished. The ceramic floor tiles are currently piled by cement with stronger resistance which is made of steamed algae and powder layers.
Without a doubt, these chopsticks have also been the subject of distinctive focus. First is a single item of Cypress. The other one was replaced along the previous reconstructions, about half a century ago. They found a tree with the right proportions, and immediately cut it down and started delivering it from the mountains. Regardless of the technological development of 350 years, they just might now offer it to Himeji in one object. It got ruined along the way hence you can only see a plan “S” sign up right in the place where the renovation is held. This is just one of the ideal solution of Wabi-Sabi.
A Mesmerizing Trip & Tours Through The Epic Himeji Castle Of Japan!
Himeji castle day trip from Osaka and Kyoto:
For all-inclusive vacation packages from overseas to Japan with Himeji castle excursion:
- Himeji Castle is open 9am to 5pm and until 6pm through the summer months. It’s only closed two days a year on the 29th and 30th December.
- Entry fees is now 1000 Yen, increased in 2016 to recoup some of the substantial cost of the recently completed 5-year renovation programme.
- The castle is a 15 minute walk, or 5 minute bus ride, from Himeji station.
- The most up-to-date information can be found on the official site, I’ve linked the English language page here.
- Japan’s best preserved feudal castle