Himeji Castle

From Jcastle.info
Castle Properties
English Name Himeji Castle
Japanese Name 姫路城
Alternate Names Shirasagi-jo (White Heron castle)
Founder Ikeda Terumasa
Year Founded 1601
Castle Type Hilltop
Castle Condition Original main keep
Designations Top 100 Castles, UNESCO World Heritage Site, has Important Cultural Properties, has National Treasures, Special Historic Site
Historical Period Edo Period
Main Keep Structure 5 levels, 6 stories
Artifacts I Watariyagura, Ho Yagura, He Watariyagura, Obi Yagura, Ikaku Yagura, Chi Yagura, Ri Watariyagura; (1st & 2nd sections), Nu Gate, Kesho Yagura, Ka Watariyagura, Nu Yagura, Hishi gate, To Yagura, Orimawari Yagura, Taiko Yagura, Yo Watariyagura, Ru Yagura, Ta Watariyagura, Wo Yagura, Re Watariyagura, Wa Yagura, I Gate, Ha Gate, Ni Gate, He Gate, To no Ichi Gate, To no Ni Gate, Chi Gate, Ri Gate, Mizu no Ichi gate, Bizen Gate, To no Yon Gate East Wall, To no Yon Gate West Wall, To no Ni Gate East Wall, He Gate East Wall, He Gate West Wall, Mizu no Ichi Gate North Tsuiji Wall, Mizu no Ichi Gate West Wall, Ni Yagura South Wall, Mizu no Go Gate South Wall, I Watariyagura South wall, Ni Gate Upper East Wall, Ni Gate Lower East Wall, Ro Yagura East Wall, Ro Yagura West Wall, Ha Gate East Wall, Ha Gate West Wall, Ha Gate South Wall, Ro Gate East Wall, Ro Gate Southwest Wall, Kesho Yagura South Wall, Wa Yagura East Wall, Ka Yagura North Wall, Hishi Gate West Wall, Hishi Gate South Wall, Hishi Gate East Wall, I Gate East Wall, Taiko Yagura South Wall, Taiko Yagura North Wall, Obikuruwa North Wall, Ikaku Yagura South Wall, To Yagura South Wall, Ro Watariyagura, Ha Watariyagura, Ni Watariyagura, Obikuruwa Yagura, Ro Yagura, Ni Yagura, Ka Yagura, Ro Gate, To no Yon Gate, Mizu no Ni Gate, main tenshu, East Kotenshu, I Watariyagura, Ro Watariyagura, Inui Kotenshu, West Kotenshu, Ha Watariyagura, Ni Watariyagura
Features main keep, gates, turrets, water moats, stone walls, walls
Visitor Information
Access Himeji Station (Sanyo Honsen/Shinkansen), walk 15 minutes.
Visitor Information
Time Required
Website http://www.city.himeji.hyogo.jp/guide/castle/index.html
Location Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture
Coordinates 34° 50' 17", 134° 41' 37"
Admin Visits
Year Visited 1996, 1997, 1998, 2004, 2009, 2012
Visits February 1996; December 1997; August 1998; March 21, 2004; November 15, 2009
Added 1999
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Himeji1.jpg


History

Toyotomi Hideyoshi first built a small castle on this site for his campaigns in western Japan from 1577-1580. You can still see some of the remnants of Hideyoshi's castle in Himeji castle as Ikeda incoporated some of the stone walls into his castle. Ikeda Terumasa, an ally of Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Sekigahara, was awarded this province (Harima) for his alliance during the war. Ikeda Terumasa built the main keep of Himeji-jo and erected the castle as it is known today. Himeji-jo's nickname Shirasagi-jo means "White Heron Castle" because the main keep with its three smaller towers resembles a white heron. Himeji-jo was granted "World Heritage" status by UNESCO in 1993.

Visit Notes

Himeji Castle is the most spectacular example of a Japanese castle in existence. The beauty of the main keep is unrivalled throughout Japan and the extent of surviving structures is amazing. Even for someone who is not particularly interested in castles or history a trip to Himeji-jo is fascinating. This can be a half day side trip on the way to Hiroshima or a short day trip from Osaka or Kyoto.


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4.92
(66 votes)
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Kikima34Peasant

16 days ago
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This castle was amazing and the garden was beautiful! I also saw a cute cat.
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ARTHatamoto

7 months ago
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Figured I'd post here what I wrote up about my visit to the castle, if it's not too long: As every castle fan will be aware, Himejijō was under renovation from April 2010 to May 2015, its beauty hidden from us for five long years. Now some people think that the “White Heron Castle” (Shirasagijō) is too white. Well, you can’t please everyone, can you? The Heisei Restoration (get it?), as it is referred to, employed 15,000 people (and they reckon it only took 10,000 people to actually build the castle in the first place). Thank the kami that it’s all over now. On my fourth visit to Himejijō I was able to see the beautiful main tower for the first time. It dominates the town and is in clear view the whole stretch of the main avenue which leads from the station to the castle. Himejijō is much more than just its main keep, but since that was the main focus of my latest visit, I think it pertinent that I talk about that first. Then I will talk about other structures in the castle complex, personalities associated with the castle, ghost stories and, finally, I will give brief outline of the castle’s history and preservation. 天守閣Tenshukaku: Himejijō tenshukaku is a five-tiered tower containing seven storeys. The middle tier is two storeys and there is a dug-out in the tenshudai (stone base) which serves as a basement. Two large pillars extend up from the basement to the fifth floor. The west pillar is made two cypresses with a collective age of 1,415 years. The east pillar is made from an ancient fir. The first floor contains two entranceways which are doubly reinforced by an inner and outer door, as well as three ishi-otoshi-mado (chutes for dropping rocks from) in three corners. The second floor features a spacious hafu-no-ma (room formed in the interior of a gable). The third floor contains a Mushakakushi (warrior hiding space) in each corner. These are half doors above waist height which open into secret rooms to hide soldiers so that they may emerge suddenly and ambush attackers. The fourth floor has high windows designed to ventilate out smoke from the discharge of firearms. The tower’s thickly latticed windows protect defenders from projectiles and prevent attackers from stealthily climbing in from the outside. I was amazed by the amount of weapon racks in the tenshu, especially on the second floor. If they were all full, no defender would be lack a spear or rifle to hand. I tried to photograph a raised platform along the walls of the fourth floor which was used by defenders as a perch from which to hurl stones out of the high windows. The very top of the tenshu offers fantastic views and contains a shintō altar. The height of the tenshu is 31.5m on a stone foundation of 15m (so about 46.5m altogether). Other structures: Himejijō has 27 turrets, 21 gates, 32 white-plastered earthen wall segments with 997 sama (loopholes), of which it may interest you to know, only 153 are designed for bows, whilst 844 are meant for guns. The oblong slits are for archers whilst the circular, square and triangular openings are for riflemen. The white plaster of the walls, turrets and tenshu, is made from mixing slated lime, shell ash, hemp fibres and seaweed. The plastering protects the structures from fire damage. A bare mud wall withoutplaster (abura-kabe) is also extant. Dating to 1581, it is made from a mix of mountain soil, pea gravel, rice-washing water and rice gruel. Of the sentry towers, most famous are Taiko Yagura (drum tower), marked 1599, and Keshō Yagura (make-up tower), used by Princess Sen. Of the gates, most well known are Hishimon (Diamond Gate), built against ishigaki on one side, and Bizenmon. If you look at Bizenmon upon entering the honmaru / bizenmaru, you can see to the right a large oblong block of stone. This is a coffin. It seems they ran low on quality stone during construction. The ishigaki (stone walls) of Himejijō curve up ever steeper in a shape said to resemble a folding fan, making scaling them very difficult. The covered corridor along the outer edge of Nishinomaru (western bailey) is 240m long and housed Sen-hime and the ladies-in-waiting. Sen-hime (Princess Sen): Princess Sen was the granddaughter of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa married her to Toyotomi Hideyori (son to Toyotomi Hideyoshi) at age 7 and she lived with him in Ōsakajō until she was 19. At the siege of Osakajō which resulted in the extermination of the Toyotomi, Sen-hime was rescued from a burning building. Her in-laws and the child she had had to Hideyori were compelled to commit suicide along with her husband (#singlelife). Now Tokugawa may have once forced his own son to commit seppuku but by all accounts he had gotten a bit softer in his old age. So he ordered Sen-hime to be rescued. He hinted that her rescuer could have her hand in marriage. Her rescuer, it is said (as opposed to being historically verifiable), was Sakazaki Naomori, Daimyō of Tsuwano-han. Unfortunately, he sustained disfiguring burns to his face whilst rescuing the princess. This was mostly unfortunate for the princess, because she found that she now much more preferred Honda Tadatoki, lord of Harima-han, to burnt-up Sakazaki, and, to be fair, Tadatoki is said to have been rather handsome. Sakazaki made things awkward for everybody involved by loudly proclaiming that the princess had been promised to him. Tokugawa mustn’t have remembered that conversation though because Sakazaki was made to commit seppuku the next year and Sen-hime married Honda. The princess had a happy married life thereafter but tragedy was not far off. In 1626 her son to Honda died aged 3. They were not able to have another child and in 1631 Honda died of tuberculosis. As per the widow’s tradition, Sen-hime shaved her hair and became a nun. The history of Princess Sen is brought to life with exhibits in the castle’s west bailey. The Keshō Yagura where she often relaxed is spacious, well lit with natural light and fitted with tatami matting. 播州皿屋敷 Banshū Sarayashiki: Okiku Ido is a well in Himejijō. Now don’t freak out or anything but it is totally haunted. Around 1500 Aoyama Tetsuzan, a traitorous vassal, conspired with Chōnotsubo Danshirō to kill Kodera Norimoto, the then lord of Himeji. Kinugasa Motonobu, a loyal retainer, arranged for his girlfriend Okiku to serve as a maid in the Aoyama house in order to ascertain their plans, undercover kunoichi style. Okiku discovered the murder plot and passed on the information to Kinugasa. Kodera fled to Ieshima so as to avoid being assassinated. Chōnotsubo took over the castle and tried to force Okiku to marry him, but she was loyal to Kinugasa. He tried to coerce Okiku by hiding one of ten treasured dishes belonging to the Aoyama family, and framing her for its theft. Okiku would still not co-operate though so Chōnotsubo became enraged, slit her throat, and hurled her body down the well which would come to bear her name. If you listen carefully even now, peering over the edge of the well into the deep darkness and straining your ears, you can still hear the lamentations of Okiku as she counts over and over again the Aoyama plates, always stopping at nine… History: The first castle on Himeyama dates back to Akamatsu Sadanori who built Himeyamajō in 1346. The tenshu we see today was completed in 1609 and was built by Ikeda Terumasa. Ikeda had been awarded with lordship of Harima-han for his alliance to Tokugawa during the Battle of Sekigahara. Preservation: Himejijō was listed as one of 56 castles to be spurred demolition by the Meiji authorities. Barring royal intervention, most castles were torn down. After the last lord of Himejijō gave up the castle, which he called “returning the land to the people,” the army moved in. They knocked down some roofed corridors and gates as they considered obstructions. The army was considering pulling down everything but Colonel Nakamura Shigeto resisted this and the casle was prevented from suffering further damage. Though the Meiji authorities didn’t order HImejijō destroyed, they weren’t interested in paying for its upkeep either and the land was auctioned off, according to one source, for the bargain price of 23 Yen. That’s equivalent to 200,000 yen today (what a lower paid worker can expect to earn in a month). The buyer wanted to destroy all the buildings and farm the land, but he didn’t have enough money to pay for the demolition and so it all just got left. Himejijō was designated a national treasure in the 1930s and the Shōwa government began looking after it properly, restoring the dilapidated parts. In 1945 Himeji was subjected to Allied aerial bombardment. A firebomb was dropped on the top roof of the tenshu, according to one account, but failed to detonate. The castle was untouched by the firebombing of town. The castle then survived untouched the Great Hanshin Earthquake which reduce swathes of nearby Kōbe to rubble. A cup of sake placed on the altar in the tower’s summit did not so much as spill. I don’t know how tall these tales are but it shows at least I think the efforts of the brilliant builders and architects who proofed the castle against disaster, using plaster to protect from fire and shoring up the tenshu with great pillars. That, and a little bit of luck, has preserved Himejijō over all these years.

I sometimes say, no matter where you are staying in Japan, make a trip to such-and-such castle. I have said this for Kakegawajō and Hikonejō. So what should I say for Himejijō? It’s worth making a trip to Himeji Castle, no matter where you are in the world.
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JohnsonbPeasant

12 months ago
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Visited 2008, 2013, 2014
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SnoworionGunshi

14 months ago
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Visited in 2009 and re-visited on 8 September 2016. this is the premier castle in Japan and it is a must-go for all Japanese castle enthusiast. To say it is a magnificent specimen of a Japanese castle is to do it a gross injustice. Its beautiful, original and both the castle and the castle grounds exhibit all the charms one comes to expect from the culture and history that is Japan. A cannot-miss castle.
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SignupstuPeasant

17 months ago
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I went here last in October. The scaffolds were up, but I got some great shots in of the (South?) side without scaffolding.
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Anonymous user #1

17 months ago
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Went today, a Monday, around 10:30am to 2PM and didnt have to wait anywhere for anything. In fact there were really no crowds at all, and we had interior areas all to ourselves a lot of the time. Ive been here 3 times previous, going back to 96' and a lot of things have changed, but I'd still say this is the one castle that is a must see. The weapons inside are gone, and a lot of the grounds are roped to corral the (apparent) crowds, but we still had no issue exploring every area we wanted; though it helps to speak the language. After 3 previous trips, this castle still amazes.
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LidiamqPeasant

18 months ago
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2001. I can't barely remember the surroundings and all the characteristics but since it was my first castle I have a very fond memory of it.
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FurinkazanHatamoto

20 months ago
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I'm back in Japan, but I'm not going to do a castle-run this year. I'm accompying a friend's daughter for her first journey to Japan. Of course this castle could not be left aside for the voyage. Today we went to the castle. We had to do the queue for one hour before entering the tenshukaku, then it was some kind of a constant walk in the donjon, because so much people were inside. It was still interesting to see the structure without the weapons and armors. I saw also a model of the castle during the time of Kuroda Kanbei. Of course it had nothing to do with the actual castle. Doing the queue was somehow annoying but i still enjoyed the visit. For info the staff closed the castle's entry earlier, because of the great number of visitors.
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JcastleHatamoto

21 months ago
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Anonymous, when do you plan to visit? Since winter, I hear it is much better on weekdays now but on the weekends and holidays people still line up to get into the main keep. One of the rear gate areas is under repair but otherwise it's pretty good. If you're interested I'd say try to go on a weekday if you can. If not, try to get there first thing in the morning, even before they open up and it will surely help a lot. I was hoping to plan a trip there myself as I still haven't been since repairs were started.
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Anonymous user #1

21 months ago
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Eric or Raymond, or anyone else experienced, have you been since the end of the restoration work? What Malcolm is saying is very disheartening, especially since I've never been - I'm in Japan for the first time right now and nowhere nearby sadly. I'm a huge castle fan, and have been through Europe and India, but unfortunately my girlfriend's plans haven't left me much room for Japanese castles in this trip and I'd hate to think I'd missed out on Himeji in its prime.
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RebolforcesAshigaru

31 months ago
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Returned again after restoration. Windy & raining, didn't feel like battling the crowds, so took pictures from 5th floor roof top, where covered street walkway ends. Good zoom helps, but straight on from this position is not the most flattering angle. But I've still good shots from previous visits.
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Kiddus i2003Ashigaru

42 months ago
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Considered the best in Japan , definitely one that must be visited by all visitors to Japan.
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Anonymous user #1

50 months ago
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I have visited Himeji many times and it has always been an awe inspiring time. In my opinion it is the most beautiful castle in the world. Everyone's photos show slightly different views., so here are mine if you'd care to look.

http://dickh...m/p355488586
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BuchanangmPeasant

51 months ago
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This was my first castle of the 12 and it was amazing. It really showed me the past. The Japanese know how to show off there treasures.
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FurinkazanHatamoto

55 months ago
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I visited this one for the third time. I made my reservation one month ago for being in the first group to enter the scaffolds. When i arrived at 08.20am, there where but a few people. The entrance opens at 09.00am. But afterwards the line grew steadily and when i left at 11.40am the people waiting to enter was a very big crowd. I heard by a guide that the outside restoration is done, but that they are now strengthening the tenshukaku to make it more resitant during earthquakes. Then it will take almost 1 year to take of the scaffolds. This is even now a very nice castle to visit.
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RaymondWHatamoto

67 months ago
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I made it to this castle again today in conjunction with a visit to Akashi Castle. Himeji Castle is certainly more crowded on the weekend, but my gf and I only waited around 15 minutes for the lift to take us up to the 8th floor to view the renovated roof. You can see the two “wooden horns” protruding from the roof where the new shachihoko will be placed. We also went to the 300m long covered turret in the West Bailey, finishing up in the Kesho Yagura (Comestic Turret). The room in the Kesho Yagura is now open to the public with red carpet covering the tatami mats and the two fiberglass figures of the ladies playing karuta are now right against the wooden windows. Of course, there is now a security guard in the room making sure people do not step off the red carpet.
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CraigPeasant

67 months ago
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Himeji castle should dominate the city of Himeji. Looking down the mainstreet from the station one should be faced with a magnificent view of the castle atop its hill looking down upon the city.... But...due to the construction works....this isn't the case. My first thoughts in Himeji were ones of utmost dissapointment. Even after checking out the beautiful garden next to the castle (totally worth visiting btw, I'm not a big garden person but it was beautiful), I was unsure on whether I would bother paying to go in the castle itself.

I did and...yes, I was glad of it. Even without the main keep it is a very cool place.
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Frank T.Gunshi

74 months ago
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(In hushed tones of awe and reverence): This is the king of Japanese castles; there is none higher. . . . Unfortunately, everybody in the Japanese islands knows that and can afford the price of admission. There are ALWAYS crowds here. There's no way around it, though, and you can mitigate the crowd factor by visiting on a weekday, I suppose. Be sure to explore the grounds since there's so much more going on than just the keep, spectacular as it is. Imagine a Japan where more castles had been left as intact as Himeji--not just the keep, but gates, turrets, moats, everything. As it is, we've only got 12 original keeps, and many of those sites have lost outlying parts. Too bad there was a vendetta against the feudal past during the Meiji Period.
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Anonymous user #1

79 months ago
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this castle is RAD.
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A22cricketAshigaru

79 months ago
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Definitely the best in Japan. Unfortunately, it's presently under construction so the exterior is covered up. Heard from a friend that the scaffolding actually offers a great view of the roof. A plus side to the construction process.
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Alamo6400Peasant

83 months ago
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HIMEJI JO IS LIKE AMAZING Ikeda teremasa is one of the officers of the oda army so HIMEJI CASTLE IS ODA,TOYOTOMI, AND TOKUGAWA AMAZING!!
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JamesPeasant

83 months ago
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A truly magnificent place to visit and as many others have said, if you only visit one castle in Japan then make sure its Himeji, the climb to get the stamp at the top is well worth the effort and delivers a wonderful view of the surrounding area.
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KrisGunshi

84 months ago
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I sound like I didn't have much fun. I did. Himeji Castle is beautiful and absolutely amazing to walk around. Definitely must see. Also, did anyone else see that photo where the scaffolding was used for Christmas illumination? I'm not sure how I feel about that.
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KrisGunshi

85 months ago
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Himeji is beauty on a grand scale. It's a treasure among castles – unfortunately I just didn't have much fun there. When I saw Himeji it was raining buckets. I was stuck behind a family complaining loudly about how steep the stairs were and how 'someone should at least fix them a little bit.' I then got stuck behind another family telling their son that, 'the Japanese never used guns because they were samurai.' In one yagura I got splinters in my knees. Still, I'd like to go again, perhaps in 2015, at 8AM, when it is sunny. Or at night, when no one is there, to see if Okiku's ghost really does come out of the well and count to 9. I have to go back one day to get the stamp.
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RaymondWHatamoto

93 months ago
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Forgot to mention in my message below. Kudos to the webmaster here for keeping us informed about Himeji and other castles' renovation. Himeji Castle is certainly worth visiting, but I am not sure that I can deal with the huge crowds now. For people coming from far away aka overseas and outside the Kansai Region, try to get to Himeji Castle when it opens at 8 in the morning. From 20th March until 11th April, the castle is opened from 8am. In that way, you get to enjoy the inside of the castle keep without inching your way through the keep in a long, long queue.
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RaymondWHatamoto

93 months ago
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I went to Himeji on 14th March. It was chockers. I guess lots of people wanted to go and see it before they put it under wraps (until the end of 2014), and it isn't even cherry blossom season yet. A big crane is already up, so from most distant vantage points, you will get a beautiful photo of the castle plus the crane. If you go, go early in the morning. An announcement was made at regular intervals in the afternoon saying that it took three hours to do your sightseeing in the castle. I guess that is because it got jammed up in the castle keep. Yeah, I have experienced such congestion at Hikone Castle and Matsumoto Castle. Believe me, it's not fun. I didn't go in this time because of the crowds. Instead, I opted to walk around its outer defensive walls and moat.
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Anonymous user #1

98 months ago
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I'm glad I saw this castle when I did, six years ago. I hope they will do a good job with their renovations and not fill the thing with Hello Kitty nonsense.

Definitely the best castle in the world in my opinion. I would also like to say that I haven't looked at this site for a long time, but I'm glad it's still here and going strong. Well-organised and very informative.
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Anonymous user #1

99 months ago
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Himeji Castle is AMAZING! It's so big, and it's completely original!

It deserves to be called one of the world's best castles. Please support it by voting for it here:

http://www.vote7.com/node/6374

There are other Japanese castles, too. They are: Himeji Castle, Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, Matsumoto Castle, and Matsuyama Castle.

Show that Japanese castles can rival those in Europe!
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RaymondWHatamoto

100 months ago
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I went to Himeji Castle after going to Akashi and Tatsuno Castle on an awesome 3-castle day-trip on Saturday. It was my fifth or sixth time to visit Himeji since 1998. As most of my previous visits were in the morning, I decided to do an afternoon visit to take photos of the castle with the light coming from the west. This is a fabulous castle to visit, and all castle lovers should visit it if you are coming to the Kansai Region. BTW, the entrance to the Nishi Maru (West Bailey) Tamon Yagura is undergoing some renovation, so the outside is covered in scaffoldings.
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FurinkazanHatamoto

101 months ago
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I visited twice this castle. 5 years ago in april and last year in january. The first time there was a downpour and the second time it began to snow. I was really unlucky about the weather. But this is a so magnificent castle, i can only recommend to visit this one.
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Anonymous user #1

104 months ago
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I heard that maintenance will be done on Himeji Castle from this Fall and that it will be closed for 3 years!
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Anonymous user #1

105 months ago
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I visited Himeji-jo in 2007 just as many of the cherry blossoms in the adjacent park were falling. The view with the castle as a backdrop was breathtaking. Mere words can't describe it.
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RaymondWHatamoto

112 months ago
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This is THE castle to visit in Japan. If you get there in the morning, take a walk to the eastern side of the moat near the Himeji City Art Museum and take some photos of Himeji Castle from there. The morning sunny will be behind you in your photos. Most people do not venture out to this part of the castle.
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Anonymous user #1

114 months ago
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I saw this beautiful Japanese Castle in 1962. It's a must see if you go to Japan. Photos just don't do it justice.
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Anonymous user #1

115 months ago
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this is a very pretty castle i have beeen there and it looks even better when u c it in person
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Anonymous user #1

116 months ago
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I've been here and its absolutely amazing! Its so beautiful.
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Anonymous user #1

118 months ago
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I would deffinately say that if you can only go to one Japanese castle, go to Himejijo.
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Anonymous user #1

118 months ago
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This castle is very beautiful. I love the way the levels and stories are set up, and the landscape is amazing!