Towering over its surroundings, the castle of Himeji-jo is the best-preserved example of Medieval castle architecture in Japan.  Comprised of 82 buildings, it was originally built in 1346 as a fortification against local shoguns, but was converted into a castle in its current form in the early 1600’s.  Built from wood and set on a hill, the main complex consists of 3 towers.  Additional buildings functioned as residences and storehouses.  Its design is that of a spiral with the main complex in the center, which the remaining buildings surround and protect.


Himeji was designed to thwart an enemy attack by creating a physical and psychological barrier intended to confuse and fatigue the enemy.  The 15-meter sloping stone walls ensure that an approaching enemy could not see the castle from the base of its walls.  Three moats provided three lines of defense.  The confusing paths of the internal passages were intended to confuse an enemy unfamiliar with the layout, and the 84 entrance gates were made to be very small so that a large number of men could not enter at any one time. The walls of the main complex contain openings from which the occupants could throw stones and scalding water as well as holes from which arrows could be shot and rifles used. 


Himeji-jo was never attacked, and consequently remains unchanged from its completion in the 17thcentury.  Looking like a bird ready for flight and covered in white, it is called the “White Heron Castle”.  Designated a national treasure in 1931, it is a testament to the skill of its builders as well as to the Japanese concept of harmony between man and nature.



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