Himeji is home of one of Japan's best preserved castles. It's known as the White Herring Castle. Construction of the castle, in its current form, began in 1601 under Ikeda Terumasa. It is Japan's most visited castle. From Kyoto
, it's roughly a one hour ride by the fastest (most expensive) bullet train.
Be warned that if you're planning to visit, they're planning to repair the plaster walls on the outside of the main keep starting in April 2010. The walls will be hidden by scaffolding and they expect the repairs to take a few years.
These are replicas of the gargoyles on top of the castle keep. These are found on the short walk from the train station to the castle. The castle is very easy to find. Just take the Himeji Castle exit from the train station and walk straight to the castle.
The outer moat of Himeji Castle.
This is the bridge crossing the outer moat. You can see the castle keep in the distance.
This is a little window in the wall for shooting arrows or dropping other nasty things on the enemy.
Inside the walls and getting closer to the main keep.
This is part of the West Bailey Building. The Princess Senhime lived in this building. Visitors must remove their shoes inside. A plastic bag is supplied to carry your shoes. Sandals are also provided.
This is another view of the corridor in the West Bailey Building.
The gray skies we had become so accustomed to on this vacation suddenly turned blue. In the sun, we didn't even need to wear jackets and this was the day before Thanksgiving!
A mock-up of Princess Senhime playing a game.
These steps lead up toward the keep.
Perhaps this view of the castle is where it gets its nickname of the white heron from. It's supposed to resemble a white heron about to take flight.
This is just outside the main keep.
Inside the main keep. Shoes must be removed again.
This is one of the real gargoyles on the roof of the main keep.
This is the Osakabe Shinto Shrine located on the top floor of the keep. Originally, the shrine was on top of the hill where the castle now stands.
This is a model of all the supporting beams inside the keep.
In this courtyard, samurai would commit seppuku. There is a well near the tree that may have been used to clean up the blood from ritual suicides.
These stones are known as the Garden of the Main Tower. These stones are some of the original foundation stones of the main keep. They are laid out in the same manner that they were found beneath the keep. In 1956, extensive renovation and repair began. The entire keep's foundation was shored up with concrete because the ground was actually sinking from the weight of the castle. The keep was rebuilt using traditional building techniques.
Walking towards Koko-en Garden. This garden is located a short walk west of Himeji Castle.
Interesting tripod like ladders.
Almost to the Koko-en Garden.
This is the entrance to Koko-en Garden. It actually consists of nine gardens. The Koko-en Garden was built in 1992 where the samurai used to live.
If you plan to visit both the gardens and the castle, you can buy a combination ticket to save some yen.
A natural fence made out of the branches.
After visiting the Koko-en Garden, we went to the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History. Earlier, Yan flipped through the tour book and noticed a free kimono fitting at the museum at 3:30. We rushed from the garden and arrived at 3:29. For the demonstration, the museum personnel will put one person in a kimono or armor. If there was more than one volunteer, the volunteers would draw for the privilege. Of course, our heroine triumphed over the other volunteer, a Japanese man.
This was the first layer of the twelve-layer (Jyuni-hitoe) kimono. This special type of kimono is worn by the women at court and weighs about 20kg!
One of the models of Himeji Castle at the museum.
A less ornate model of Himeji Castle.
A small version of the twelve layer kimono.
A close up of the helmet.
This is a closer look at the breast plate.
The back side of the twelve layer kimono.
This is a cut away view of Himeji Castle.