Himeji White Heron Castle – The treasure of Japan
Being one of the "Three Greatest National Treasure Castles" of Japan, along with Matsumoto castle and Kumamoto castle, Himeji has emerged as an example of the greatest ancient castle in Japan. Let's discover this treasure building with me! ^^
Leading the list of Three Greatest National Treasure Castles, Himeji castle, which is located in Himeji city, Hyogo prefecture, is the only ancient castle of Japan, the National Treasure, and also recognized as the World Cultural Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1993.
Himeji castle was first built in 1400s, then expanded to surrounding areas and completed in 1609. With over 400 years of age, it is the castle having the oldest architecture of Japan remaining intact until now.
The building's structure was completely made of wood and covered by white plaster. Looked from a distance, the castle resembles a heron about to take off, so it was favorably named White Heron Castle by Japanese people.
Himeji castle is not only beautiful, magnificent and bears significant historical values, it is also a masterpiece of ancient architecture.
Being constructed on the top of a hill that is 45.6 metres above the sea, the castle complex covers an area of 233 hectares, including 83 buildings from the main hall, warehouse to the corridor, etc.
Though there are signposts for tourists, people will get lost easily if they are not careful, because the castle has extremely complicated architecture, like a maze with a series of winding gates and paths. This is due to the fact that their ancestors wanted to prevent outside intrusion, as explained by local people.
With tiled attics, watchtowers, sturdy gates, earthen walls and rock slopes surrounded by a dug canal, this is a great example of ancient Japanese castle architecture. These constructions reminded me of the warlords, geisha girls or bravos in the old manga and films of Japan.
Himeji castle was also chosen to be the "stage" of the world famous film called The last Samurai, with the participation of actor Tom Cruise ^^
Inside the main building looks like a small museum where ancient objects are stored and displayed. The stories are connected by narrow and small wooden staircases. You can view the whole sight of Himeji city when standing on the top floor.
The uncle working in the castle was very friendly. He said when coming here at the weekend, the tourists will be welcomed by an army of guards wearing armors and the ninjas equipped with all kinds of weapons like swords, darts and so on. Unfortunately, I went on the weekday, so I did not have a chance to take photos with the ninja group here.
In front of the castle is a large Japanese style park called Kokoen that has various kinds of trees, especially cherry blossoms. In the sakura and red leaf seasons, a lot of Japanese visitors often bring along a mat coming here to admire the flowers and leaves, and see the building - their pride at the same time.
You should try to spend at least 1.5 hours to visit the castle, or longer depending on your free time ^^
Going to Himeji is very convenient, regardless of which large city in Japan you are living in. From Osaka/Kobe/Kyoto, it only takes around an hour going by bullet train. From Tokyo, the time will be about 3 hours.
The entrance ticket: 1,000 yen/person.
Japan is really a wonderful country in the world. There are always mysterious things that evoke people's exploration, discovery and experience.
See you in the next parts about other amazing destinations! ^^
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