Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Himeji-jo

After an hour fast train ride from Osaka via the the Shin-Osaka line, and a 15 minute walk, we arrive at the magnificent Himeji-jo castle. The castle is the finest surviving example of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture. It is located in Himeji City, in the Hyogo Prefecture, an area that has been an important transportation hub in West Japan since ancient times. The castle property, situated on a hill summit in the central part of the Harima Plain, covers 107 hectares and comprises eighty-two buildings. It is centred on the Tenshu-gun, a complex made up of the donjon, keeps and connecting structures that are part of a highly developed system of defence and ingenious protection devices dating from the beginning of the Shogun period. The castle functioned continuously as the centre of a feudal domain for almost three centuries, until 1868 when the Shogun fell and a new national government was created. 

The principal complex of these structures is a masterpiece of construction in wood, combining function with aesthetic appeal, both in its elegant appearance unified by the white plastered earthen walls – that has earned it the name Shirasagi-jo (White Heron Castle) – and in the subtlety of the relationships between the building masses and the multiple roof layers visible from almost any point in the city.

It is approximately an hours climb  on several stairs to reach the top of the castle especially during summer where everyone seems to be visiting the structure to pay homage to their king whose remains are located at the topmost part of the castle. I was about to give up midway through the climb when I noticed that several senior citizens were climbing.  At the top, one can see beautiful city. On the way down one can see several rooms including the suicide or harakiri rooms.