Ilya Genkin Fine Art Landscape Photography, Travel Photography

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Himeji

Hyogo Prefecture, Kansai Region, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Himeji is a small city located in Hyogo Prefecture, at the western edge of the Kansai region of Japan. Himeji is most famous for its magnificent castle, Himeji Castle, widely considered to be Japan's most beautiful surviving feudal castle. The castle is designated both a national treasure and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Himeji Castle is a hilltop Japanese castle complex located in Himeji that is regarded as the finest surviving example of 17th century Japanese castle architecture. It comprises a network of 83 buildings with advanced defensive systems from the feudal period. The castle is frequently known as Hakurojo ("White Egret Castle") or Shirasagijo ("White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior and supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight. Himeji castle captures perfectly the spirit of the samurai-age architecture. Its massive stones, white plastered walls and wooden interior make it the best possible representative of all Japanese castles. The history of Himeji start in 1333, when Akamatsu Norimura built a fort at the current location. After Tokugawa Ieyasu's decisive victory at Segigahara (1600), his son-in-law Ikeda Terumasa started the digging of three moats and the erection of the present castle, completed in 1609. The Honda family, who inherited the castle, added some building in 1618. The castle subsequently passed to the Matsudaira, Sakakibara and eventually Sakai families, until its nationalization when the end of the feudal system came in 1868. The main tower is 46m high and covers an area of 2400 sq. meters. The inner grounds of the castle stretch on 23 hectares (57 acres), but the outer grounds are 10 times as large. The Himeji Castle miraculously survived World War Two bombing and neglect. The Himeji castle has appeared in several films. In the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, Himeji Castle was the training center for Tiger Tanaka's band of ninjas. It also served as a location for Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha and Ran. More recently, Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai used the Castle as a background.

Koko-en/Kokoen Garden (sometimes called Himeji Koko-en) is a Japanese garden located next to Himeji Castle. It was constructed in 1992 at the site of the lord's west residence (Nishi-Oyashiki), to commerate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Himeji municipality. The garden is about 3.5 hectares and has nine different gardens designed in various garden styles of the Edo period. Among the gardens are the garden of the lord's residence which features a pond with a waterfall, a tea garden where visitors can enjoy green tea in a tea ceremony house, a pine tree garden, a bamboo garden and a flower garden. The name "Koko-en" is derived from "Koko do" the name of Japan's sixth provincial school founded in 1692 in Himeji by the last Lord of Himeji, Lord Sakai.

Mount Shosha (Shoshazan) is the site of Engyo-ji/Engyoji, an atmospheric temple complex with a history of over 1000 years. Located at the edge of Himeji City, the mountain can be accessed in only 30 minutes from the city center by bus and ropeway. Engyo-ji's temple buildings are spread over a spacious, densely forested area on the mountain top. From the ropeway station it takes a 10-15 minute walk uphill to reach Niomon Gate, and another 10-15 minutes to reach the Maniden, a beautiful wooden temple hall, constructed on pillars on a steep slope. Another five minute walk along forest trails brings you to the three massive wooden temple halls, known as mitsunodo: the Daikodo (main hall), Jikido (lodging and dining hall, now exhibiting temple treasures) and Jogyodo (gymnasium). More temple buildings and an observation point with nice views over the urban sprawl of Himeji, are located even further along the trails in the Okunoin area. In recent years, Mount Shosha has gained some fame overseas by having served as a film location for the Hollywood movie "The Last Samurai".