Himeji Castle, Himeji, Honshu, Japan

Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture, Kansai region, Honshu Island, Japan

Himeji Castle, also called Hakurojo or Shirasagijo (“White Heron Castle”) due to its white outer walls and it is widely considered Japan’s most spectacular castle. Unlike many other Japanese castles, Himeji Castle was never destroyed in wars, earthquakes or fires and survives in its original form. It is the best preserved castle in all of Japan. It serves as a classic example of Japanese castle architecture, having been designated a national treasure in 1931. Incorporating both strategic design as well as a very conscious awareness of space, it functions as a military command, a center for political life, and as a monument to the glories of an earlier age.

Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture, Kansai region, Honshu Island, Japan

Himeji serves as an excellent example of the prototypical Japanese castle, containing many of the defensive and architectural features most associated with Japanese castles. The tall stone foundations, whitewashed walls, and layout of the buildings within the complex are standard elements of any Japanese castle, and the site also features many other examples of typical castle design, including gun emplacements and stone-dropping holes.

Himeji Castle at Night, Hyogo Prefecture, Kansai region, Honshu Island, Japan

One of Himeji’s most important defensive elements, and perhaps its most famous, is the confusing maze of paths leading to the main keep. The gates, baileys, and outer walls of the complex are organized so as to cause an approaching force to travel in a spiral pattern around the castle on their way into the keep, facing many dead ends. This allowed the intruders to be watched and fired upon from the keep during their entire approach. However, Himeji was never attacked in this manner, and so the system remains untested.

Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture, Kansai region, Honshu Island, Japan

The castle’s sight is spectacular, especially during the short and crowded cherry blossom season, that usually takes place in the first half of April. Along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle (I will show you photos of these two castles later, so stay tuned), it is one of Japan’s “Three Famous Castles”, and is the most visited castle in Japan.

Himeji Castle is located in the center of Himeji City, about 50 kilometers west of Kobe and about 650 kilometers west of Tokyo. It takes about fours hours by bullet train from Tokyo. From Himeji Station, the castle can be reached in a 15-20 minute walk or 5 minute bus or taxi ride along the broad Otemae-dori Street, which leads straight from the station to the castle.

More information:
Himeji Castle on Wikipedia
Himeji Castle on Japan Guide
Himeji Castle on Japanese Lifestyle

More images: Gallery of Himeji Stock ImagesJapan Stock Photography.

Himeji Castle/Himeji-jo (姫路城), Himeji (姫路市), Honshu (本州), Japan (日本国)

Ilya Genkin is a Sydney, Australia photographer whose subjects include the Pacific coast, Australian outback and deserts, rainforests, lakes and rivers, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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