Yep, you heard right– Himeji Castle is the BIGGEST Samurai Castle in the world…
Which means it’s the BIGGEST Castle in Japan!
This castle is rich with history– after its initial creation, it has been remodeled, rebuilt, and reconstructed a myriad of times by various rulers and owners.
General Information About Himeji Castle
Dubbed as the “White Heron Castle” because of the resemblance to a flying bird and its white exterior, Himeji Castle is not only the biggest, but arguably the most beautiful castle as well.
The first thing you will notice about this castle is that it’s like a Samurai Castle straight out of a textbook.
Himeji Castle strictly follows the traditional Japanese castle structure and style and is a model castle for many other castles that were built in Japan.
The walls of the castle were built high above the ground t0 ward off attackers and enemies.
But not only does this wall have a practical use, but look closely at how the wall itself is made…
The stones making up the wall are fitted perfectly by a combination of big and small stones, a technique that is traditional to Japanese castles. One can admire both the practicality of an everyday fort as well as its aesthetics when visiting Himeji Castle.
A Japanese castle mania might notice the Himeji Castle’s difference in interior design compared to some of the other castles in Japan.
Himeji Castle’s interior is relatively “simple and plain,” compared to the highly decorative style of Azuchi Castle, for instance.
This is said to be because the castles’ purposes are different. Whereas Azuchi Castle needed to be opulent to supposedly house the Japanese emperor, Himeji Castle’s main castle was for battle tactics and to protect western Japan from insurgents, so it was highly militaristic.
Walking Inside The Castle
Some parts of Himeji Castle can be reached by climbing up stairs and walkways, moving upward inside the Castle.
Don’t just enjoy the exterior and grandeur of Himeji Castle, but also experience it from within– a look from the inside will give you a different perspective and how a warrior or a Castle resident would have carried about his or her daily life.
A tip to enjoying a trip to Japan is to avoid some of the major Japanese holidays such as Golden Week or Obon, when all of Japan is out and about touring and visiting places.
As can be seen, the lines can go on for a long distance when Himeji Castle is crowded, so make sure to check the Japanese national calendar to avoid possibly busy holidays or three-day weekends.
Some of the parts are restricted, though, so please enjoy the interior tour courteously by following the signs and directions.
Here is an example of a preserved staircase that is probably too weak to handle visitor after visitor if allowed access.
Also notice how steep the staircase is– and imagine the attire the residents must have worn, most of them undoubtedly traditional kimono wear, to go up and down these stairs.
Enjoying the Exterior Of Himeji Castle
Just like enjoying a cup of exquisite Japanese green tea, it’s a good idea to come back to where you started after enjoying the contents of the tea: in tea ceremony tradition, you start by observing the beauty of the teacup, then drinking the tea, and finally you come back to the teacup to enjoy its make, history, and design.
Similarly, do the same when visiting a Japanese Castle:
Start with observing the beauty of the exterior– capture its first impression and impact.
Then, go inside the castle and actually enjoy what the castle is made of and what it has to offer, taking in every bit of scent, texture, and ambience of the castle.
Finally, come outside again and recapture the entirety of the castle– indulge in the history, design, and structure in relation to the whole town where the castle sits.
After observing the intricacies of the interior, you might realize how that intricacy is also connected to the exterior– something you might not have noticed when you first encountered Himeji Castle.
Take the craftsmanship of the roof, for example. Japanese Castle rooftops are known to need maintenance and the traditional kawara roof pieces are carefully handcrafted and placed by specially trained craftspersons.
You might also take note of the family emblems that are embedded in the castle, which is only noticeable if you understand the history and ownership that has changed over the years.
Himeji Castle is also surrounded by other smaller structures, as well as a park that is adjacent to these structures.
So don’t worry about not having enough distance from the castle to capture it on your digital camera, single-lense reflex, or your smartphone!
Every angle of Himeji Castle will provide you with a different outlook and take on this magnificent piece of architecture, so symbolic and precious to any Japanese person who has a slight knowledge of the feudal times and the tides of Japanese history.
So, what are you waiting for?
Visit Himeji Castle today, THE Samurai Castle in Japan… No, of the World, and immerse yourself in the unimaginable life of feudal times of Japan, when Japan was not as peaceful and united within as it is today.
Thanks to the lords– Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and Ieyasu Tokugawa, who fought each other to make Japan a greater, more powerful place… Himeji Castle definitely symbolizes that st
ruggle for the top and attaining a perfect balance between utility and beauty of a nation.
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