Himeji Castle has long been my dream location to visit. It has also proved to be on of my most elusive locations. Twice I’ve tried to visit and each time I have been unsuccessful. Once I arrived after the gates had closed and the other time the castle was completely entombed in a massive reconstruction project. It appears that the White Heron Castle has become my White Buffalo.
All About Himeji Castle
Let me borrow liberally from our post on the Top 5 Castles to visit in Japan:
Himeji Castle has long been the number one castle in Japan – in fact, many travel books recommend that if you can only visit one Japanese Castle, you should make it Himeji.
Built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Himeji Castle became a staging point for many of Hedeyoshi’s campaigns across Japan. The castle grounds were built with plenty of defensive elements, including a confusing maze of paths leading to the main keep. The idea was that attackers would get confused and lost while navigating the castle streets, all the while getting picked off from arrow and gun emplacements.
Reasons to visit Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle is probably the most beautiful castle in Japan, and being that it’s the most visited castle in Japan, plenty of tourists think so too. Poised like a great white heron, the castle looks out over the city – making it very easy to find after coming off the train.
Another great reason to visit Himeji Castle is that the castle is not a reconstruction, meaning you’ll be seeing the castle much like it was originally constructed.
Since I spent too much time in Kobe, I was only able to see Himeji Castle in the dark after it had closed. It was still very breathtaking, but I definitely recommend seeing it in the day. If you’re fortunate enough to time your trip during sakura (cherry blossom) season, Himeji Castle makes for some outstanding photography opportunities.
68 Honmachi, Himeji.
Why I want to visit Himeji
I love Osaka Castle. It has such an impressive castle and park area nestled in the heart of beautiful Osaka. It’s a great castle for photography that you can get right up next to without having to pay anything. But sadly Osaka Castle is a reproduction while Himeji is the real deal.
Himeji Castle has kept its original form for nearly 400 years and has miraculously never been damaged by warfare. There’s something to be said for putting your hands on that much history, and it’s the reason why Himeji edges out Osaka Castle as my favourite.
I also like how easy it is to get to Himeji. It’s only a short train ride away from Osaka, Kyoto or Kobe. So it doesn’t require a long out of the way trip to visit. The city of Himeji is also a quaint city that is easy to stroll through and begs to be explored.
What makes Himeji Castle so elusive is that it has been undergoing a massive repair and renovation that is stretching over several years. This means that areas of the outside of the castle has been covered in scaffolding. While the inside of the castle in open for tours the outside portions will likely remain under cover till 2014. I don’t know about you but I didn’t travel to Japan to see beautiful examples of Japanese scaffolding :)
The Japanguide.com website posts ongoing updates to the construction project so you can see what areas are currently under construction and you decide whether you still want to visit.
Here’s a few videos to get you excited for when you can visit and see the castle in all it’s glory. Just hope you can wait like me till 2014 :)
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