Himeji Castle: Wikis

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Himeji-jō*
UNESCO World Heritage Site
State Party  Japan
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iv
Reference 661
Region** Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 1993  (17th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.
Himeji Castle
姫路城
Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
Himeji Castle The Keep Towers.jpg
View from Nishi-no-maru
Type Azuchi-Momoyama castle
Built 1333-1346; major expansions 1601-1608
Built by Akamatsu clan (original); Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1580) Ikeda Terumasa (17th c. expansion)
Construction
materials
Wood, stone, plaster, tile
In use 1333-1868
Demolished 1580, and rebuilt by Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Current
condition
Largely intact, restoration work begun in 1956
Controlled by Akamatsu clan (1346-1580), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1580-1598), Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1871), Japan (1871-present)
Commanders Kuroda Yoshitaka (c. 1580-1590s), Ikeda Terumasa (c. 1601-1610s)

Himeji Castle (姫路城 Himeji-jō?) is a hilltop (as opposed to a flatland or mountaintop) Japanese castle complex located in Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture and comprising 83 wooden buildings. It is occasionally known as Hakurojō or Shirasagijō ("White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior.

It was registered as one of the first Japanese World Heritage Sites by UNESCO World Heritage Site and five structures of the castle have been designated as National Treasure in December, 1993. Along with Nagoya Castle and Kumamoto Castle, it is one of Japan's "Three Famous Castles", and is the most visited castle in Japan.[citation needed]

Contents

Architecture, defenses, and design

Himeji serves as an excellent example of the prototypical Japanese castle, containing many of the defensive and architectural features most associated with Japanese castles. The tall stone foundations, whitewashed walls, and layout of the buildings within the complex are standard elements of any Japanese castle, and the site also features many other examples of typical castle design, including gun emplacements and stone-dropping holes.

One of Himeji's most important defensive elements, and perhaps its most famous, is the confusing maze of paths leading to the main keep. The gates, baileys, and outer walls of the complex are organized so as to cause an approaching force to travel in a spiral pattern around the castle on their way into the keep, facing many dead ends. This allowed the intruders to be watched and fired upon from the keep during their entire approach. However, Himeji was never attacked in this manner, and so the system remains untested.

Himeji Castle was originally built in 1346. At this time, it was called Himeyama Castle. In 1331, Akamatsu Sadanori planned a castle at the base of Mount Himeji, where Akamatsu Norimura had constructed the temple of Shomyoji. After Akamatsu fell during the Kakitsu War, Yamana clan briefly took over planning of the castle; the Akamatsu family took over again following the Ōnin War.

A drawing of the layout of Himeji Castle, with an intricate complex of paths and walls that would prove difficult for besiegers to penetrate and take over.

In 1580, Toyotomi Hideyoshi took control of the badly damaged castle, and Kuroda Yoshitaka built a three-story tower. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu granted Himeji Castle to Ikeda Terumasa who embarked on a nine-year expansion project that brought the castle roughly to its current form. "Only the east gate of one section of the second bailey" survived from the earlier period.[1] The current keep dates from 1601, and the last major addition, the Western Circle, was completed in 1618.

Himeji was one of the last holdouts of the tozama daimyō at the end of the Edo period. It was held by the descendants of Sakai Tadasumi until the Meiji Restoration. In 1868, the new Japanese government sent the Okayama army, under the command of a descendant of Ikeda Terumasa, to shell the castle with blank cartridges and drive its occupiers out.

When the han system was abolished in 1871, Himeji Castle was sold at auction. Its final price was 23 Japanese Yen (in those days, approximately 100,000 yen at today's rates) and in public funds. Himeji was bombed twice in 1945, at the end of World War II. Although most of the surrounding area was burned to the ground, the castle survived almost entirely unscathed, with one firebomb dropped on the top floor of the castle miraculously unexploded. Castle restoration efforts began in 1956.

Popular culture

Front view of the castle

Himeji Castle frequently appears on Japanese television. Edo Castle (the present Tokyo) does not have a keep, so when a fictional show such as Abarenbo Shogun needs a suitably impressive substitute, the producers turn to Himeji.

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In film

In videogames

Gallery: Castle in perspective

Panorama overview

A panoramic view of the castle grounds, with Himeji city in the background

View from the donjon

Looking up towards donjon

Walls

Non-photographic images

Literature

  • Schmorleitz, Morton S. (1974). Castles in Japan. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co.. pp. 123–125. ISBN 0-8084-1102-4. 
  • Motoo, Hinago (1986). Japanese Castles. Tokyo: Kodansha. pp. 200 pages. ISBN 0-87011-766-1. 

See also

External links

Coordinates: 34°50′22″N 134°41′38″E / 34.83944°N 134.69389°E / 34.83944; 134.69389


Himeji Castle
姫路城
Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
Type Azuchi-Momoyama castle [1]
Built
  • 1333, 1346 (Himeyama fort/castle) [2]
  • 1581 (expansion) [2]
  • 1601-1609 (expansion) [2]
  • 1617-1618 (expansion) [3][4]
  • Built by
  • Akamatsu Norimura (1333-1346) [2]
  • Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1581) [2]
  • Ikeda Terumasa (1601-1609) [2]
  • Honda Tadamasa (1617-1618) [3]
  • Construction
    materials
    Wood, stone, plaster, tile [4]
    Height 46.4 m (152 ft) [5]
    In use 1333-1868 [2][6]
    Demolished
  • 1346 (demolished for reconstruction) [2]
  • 1601-1609 (demolished for reconstruction) [4]
  • Current
    condition
    Intact, currently undergoing restoration work for preservation [7]
    Garrison
  • ~500 (Ikeda family, soldiers) [4]
  • ~4,000 (Honda family, soldiers) [4]
  • ~3,000 (Sakabura family, soldiers) [4]
  • ~2,200 (Sakai family, soldiers) [4]
  • Himeji Castle (姫路城 Himeji-jō?) is a hilltop Japanese castle complex located in Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture. It is regarded as the finest surviving example of 17th century Japanese castle architecture.[8] It comprises a network of 83 buildings with advanced defensive systems from the feudal period. The castle is frequently known as Hakurojō ("White Egret Castle") or Shirasagijō ("White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior and supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight.[6][9]

    Himeji Castle dates to 1333, when Akamatsu Norimura built a fort on top of Himeyama hill. The fort was dismantled and rebuilt as Himeyama Castle in 1346, and then remodeled into Himeji Castle two centuries later. Himeji Castle was then significantly remodeled by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1581, adding a three-story castle keep. In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu awarded the castle to Ikeda Terumasa for his help in the Battle of Sekigahara.[2] Ikeda completely rebuilt the castle from 1601 to 1609, expanding it into a large castle complex.[2] Several buildings were later added to the castle complex by Honda Tadamasa from 1617 to 1618.[4] For over 400 years, Himeji Castle has remained intact, even throughout the extensive bombing of Himeji in World War II and natural disasters such as the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake and various typhoons.[2][7][10]

    Himeji Castle is the largest and most visited castle in Japan.[7] It was registered in 1993 as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan.[7] The area within the middle moat of the castle complex is a designated Special Historic Site and five structures of the castle are also designated National Treasures.[4][11] Along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle, it is considered one of Japan's three premier castles.[12] In order to preserve the castle buildings, Himeji Castle is currently undergoing restoration work that is expected to continue for several years.[7]

    Contents

    History

    Some of the feudal lords that have lived in Himeji Castle throughout its history include Akamatsu Norimura, Yamana Mochitoyo, Akamatsu Masanori, Kuroda Yoshitaka, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Kinoshita Iesada, Ikeda Terumasa, Honda Tadamasa, Matsudaira Tadaaki.[4]

    Himeji Castle's construction dates to 1333, when a fort was constructed on Himeyama hill by Akamatsu Norimura, the ruler of the ancient Harima Province.[2] In 1346, his son Sadonori demolished this fort and built Himeyama Castle in its place.[2] In 1545, the Kuroda clan was stationed here by order of the Kodera clan, and feudal ruler Kuroda Shigetaka remodeled the castle into Himeji Castle, completing the work in 1561.[2][13] In 1580, Kuroda Yoshitaka presented the castle to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and in 1581 Hideyoshi significantly remodeled the castle, building a three-story castle keep with an area of about 55 m2 (592 ft2).[4][13]

    Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu granted Himeji Castle to his son-in-law, Ikeda Terumasa, as a reward for his help in battle.[2] Ikeda demolished the three-story keep that had been created by Hideyoshi, and completely rebuilt and expanded the castle from 1601 to 1609, adding three moats and transforming it into the castle complex that is seen today.[2][4] It is estimated that at least 30 million workers were involved throughout the course of this project, and the expenditure of labor involved in this expansion is estimated to have totaled 25 million man-days.[2][4] Ikeda died in 1613, passing the castle to his son, who also died three years later.[3] In 1617, Honda Tadamasa and his family inherited the castle.[3] Honda added several buildings to the castle complex, including a special tower for his daughter-in-law, Princess Sen (千姫 Senhime?).[3]

    In the Meiji Period (1868 to 1912), many Japanese castles were destroyed.[7] Himeji Castle was abandoned in 1871 and some of the castle corridors and gates were destroyed to make room for Japanese army barracks.[4][13] The entirety of the castle complex was slated to be demolished by government policy, but it was spared by the efforts of Nakamura Shigeto, an Army colonel.[4] A stone monument honoring Nakamura was placed in the castle complex within the first gate, the Diamond Gate (菱文 Hishimon?).[4] Although Himeji Castle was spared, Japanese castles had became obsolete and their preservation was costly.[4]

    Front view of the castle complex
    A 1761 depiction of the castle complex

    When the han feudal system was abolished in 1871, Himeji Castle was put up for auction.[4] The castle was purchased by a Himeji resident for 23 Japanese yen (about 200,000 yen or US$2,258 today).[4] The buyer wanted to demolish the castle complex and develop the land, but the cost of destroying the castle was estimated to be too great, and it was again spared.[4]

    The castle complex was repaired substantially starting in 1956, with a labor expenditure of 250,000 man-days and a cost of 550 million yen.[4][13] Himeji was heavily bombed in 1945, at the end of World War II.[8] Although most of the surrounding area was burned to the ground, the castle survived intact.[8] One firebomb was dropped on the top floor of the castle but miraculously failed to explode.[14] In January 1995, the city of Himeji was substantially damaged by the Great Hanshin earthquake, but Himeji Castle again survived virtually undamaged, demonstrating remarkable earthquake resistance.[10] Even the bottle of sake placed on the altar at the top floor of the keep remained in place.[10]

    File:Himeji Castle No09
    The "Three Country Moat" in the center of the castle complex

    Historical recognition

    Himeji Castle was registered on December 11, 1993 as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan.[4][7][8] Five structures of the castle are also designated National Treasures: the castle keep (天守閣 tenshukaku?), northwest small tower (乾小天守 inui shōtenshu?), west small tower (西小天守 nishi shōtenshu?), east small tower (東小天守 higashi kotenshu?), and I, Ro, Ha, Ni-corridors (イ, ロ, ハ, ニの渡櫓 i, ro, ha, ni no watariyagura?).[11] The area within the middle moat of the castle complex is a designated Special Historic Site.[4]

    Along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle, Himeji Castle is considered one of Japan's three premier castles.[12] It is the most visited castle in Japan, receiving over 820,000 visitors annually.[2][7] Starting in April 2010, Himeji Castle underwent restoration work to preserve the castle buildings.[7] This work is expected to continue until 2014.[13] Entry to the castle keep is closed throughout the renovation, but visitors can view the restoration process from observation platforms and they can continue to enter other areas of the castle complex.[7][13]

    Design details

    Himeji Castle is the largest castle in Japan.[7] It serves as an excellent example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture, containing many of the defensive and architectural features associated with Japanese castles.[8] The principle materials used in the structures of Himeji Castle are stone and wood.[4] The curved walls are sometimes said to resemble giant fans (扇子 sensu?).[6] Feudal family crests ( mon?) are installed throughout the architecture of the building, signifying the various lords that inhabited the castle throughout its history.[4]

    A depiction of the intricate castle complex

    The Himeji Castle complex is located in the center of Himeji, Hyōgo on top of a hill called Himeyama, which is 45.6 m (150 ft) above sea level.[5] The castle complex comprises a network of 83 buildings such as storehouses, gates, corridors, and turrets ( yagura?).[4] Of these 83 buildings, 74 are designated as Important Cultural Assets: 11 corridors, 16 turrets, 15 gates, and 32 earthen walls.[10] The highest walls in the castle complex have a height of 26 m (85 ft).[4] Joining the castle complex is Koko-en Garden (好古園 Kōkoen?), a Japanese garden created in 1992 to commemorate Himeji city's 100th anniversary.[15]

    From east to west, the Himeji Castle complex has a length of 950 to 1,600 m (3,117 to 5,249 ft), and from north to south, it has a length of 900 to 1,700 m (2,953 to 5,577 ft).[4] The castle complex has a circumference of 4,200 m (2.53 mi).[4] It covers an area of 233 hectares (2,330,000 m2 or 576 acres), making it roughly 50 times as large as the Tokyo Dome or 60 times as large as Koshien Stadium.[2][4][8]

    File:Himeji Castle No09
    Weapon racks inside the keep

    The castle keep (天守閣 tenshukaku?) at the center of the complex is 46.4 m (152 ft) high, standing 92 m (302 ft) above sea level.[5] Together with the keep, three smaller subsidiary towers (小天守 kotenshu?) form a cluster of towers.[4] Externally, the castle keep appears to have five floors, because the second and third floors from the top appear to be a single floor.[9] However, the tower actually has six floors and a basement.[9] The basement of the keep has an area of 385 m2 (4,144 ft2).[4] The interior of the keep contains special facilities that are not seen in other castles, including lavatories, a drain board, and a kitchen corridor.[4]

    The keep has two pillars, one standing in the east and one standing in the west.[4] The base of the east pillar has a diameter of 97 cm (38 in).[4] It was originally a single fir tree, but has since been mostly replaced.[4] The base of the west pillar is 85 by 95 cm (33 by 37 in), being made of Japanese cypress.[4] During the Shōwa Restoration (1956-1964) a Japanese cypress tree with a length of 26.4 m (87 ft) was brought down from the Kiso Mountains and replaced the old pillar.[4] The tree was broken in this process, so another tree was brought down from Mount Kasagata, and the two trees were joined on the third floor.[4]

    The first floor of the keep has an area of 554 m2 (5,963 ft2) and is often called the "thousand-mat room" because it has over 330 Tatami mats.[4] The walls of the first floor have weapon racks (武具掛 bugukake?) for holding matchlocks and spears.[4] At one point, the castle contained as many as 280 guns and 90 spears.[16] The second floor of the keep has an area of roughly 550 m2 (5,920 ft2).[4]

    The third floor has an area of 440 m2 (4,736 ft2) and the fourth floor has an area of 240 m2 (2,583 ft2).[4] Both the third and fourth floors have platforms situated at the north and south windows called "stone-throwing platforms" (石打棚 ishiuchidana?), where defenders could observe or throw objects at attackers.[4] They also have small enclosed rooms called "warrior hiding places" (武者隠 mushakakushi?), where defenders could hide themselves and kill attackers by surprise as they entered the keep.[4] The final floor, the sixth floor, has an area of 115 m2 (1,237 ft2).[4] The windows now have iron bars, but in the feudal period the panoramic view from the windows was unobstructed.[4]

    Defenses

    Angled chutes or "stone drop windows"

    Himeji Castle contains advanced defensive systems from the feudal period.[8] Loopholes (狭間 sama?) in the shape of circles, triangles, and rectangles are located throughout Himeji Castle, intended to allow musketeers or archers to fire on attackers without exposing themselves.[9] Roughly 1,000 loopholes exist in the castle buildings remaining today.[4] Angled chutes called "stone drop windows" (石落窓 ishi-otoshi-mado?) were also set at numerous points in the castle walls, enabling stones or boiling oil to be poured on the heads of attackers passing by underneath.[17] White plaster was used in the castle’s construction for its resistance to fire.[5]

    The castle complex included three moats, one of which (the outer moat) is now buried.[6] Parts of the central moat and all of the inner moat survive.[6] The moats have an average width of 20 m (66 ft), a maximum width of 34.5 m (113 ft), and a depth of about 2.7 m (8.9 ft).[10] The Three Country Moat (三国濠 sangoku-bori?) is a 2,500 m2 (26,910 ft2) pond.[4] One of the purposes of this moat was to store water for use in fire prevention.[4]

    The castle complex, particularly the Waist Quarter (腰曲輪 koshikuruwa?), contains numerous warehouses that were used to store rice, salt, and water in case of a siege.[4] A building known as the Salt Turret (潮櫓 shioyagura?) was used specifically to store salt.[4] It is estimated that it contained as many as 3,000 bags of salt when the castle complex was in use.[4] The castle complex also contained 33 wells within the inner moat, 13 of which remain.[4] The deepest of these has a depth of 30 m (98 ft).[4]

    File:Himeji
    "Diamond Gate", the first of the castle's 21 remaining gates [4]

    One of the castle's most important defensive elements is the confusing maze of paths leading to the castle keep.[9] The gates, baileys, and outer walls of the complex are organized so as to confuse an approaching force, causing it to travel in a spiral pattern around the complex on its way to the keep.[9] The castle complex originally contained 84 gates, 15 of which were named according to the Japanese syllabary (I, Ro, Ha, Ni, Ho, He, To, etc).[4] At present, 21 gates from the castle complex remain intact, 13 of which are named according to the Japanese syllabary.[4]

    In many cases, the castle walkways turn back on themselves, inhibiting navigation.[17] For example, the straight distance from the Diamond Gate (菱文 hishimon?) to the castle keep (天守閣 tenshukaku?) is only 130 m (427 ft), but the path itself is a much longer 325 m (1,066 ft).[4] The passages are also steep and narrow, further inhibiting entry.[4] This system allowed the intruders to be watched and fired upon from the keep during their lengthy approach.[8] Himeji Castle was never attacked in this manner so the system remains untested.[9] However, even today with the route clearly marked, many visitors have trouble navigating the castle complex.[5]

    Cultural impact

    Himeji Castle is frequently known as Hakurojō ("White Egret Castle") or Shirasagijō ("White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior and supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight.[6][9]

    Folklore

    Okiku's Well
    The "old widow's stone"

    In feudal Japanese folklore, the ghost story of The Dish Mansion at Banchō (番町皿屋敷 Banchō Sarayashiki?) centered around Okiku's Well, one of the wells at Himeji Castle that remains to this day.[3] According to the legend, Okiku was falsely accused of losing dishes that were valuable family treasures, and then killed and thrown into the well.[4] Her ghost remained to haunt the well at night, counting dishes in a despondent tone.[4]

    The legend of the "Old Widow's Stone" (姥が石 Ubagaishi?) is a folklore story associated with the castle.[4] According to the legend, Toyotomi Hideyoshi ran out of stones when building the original three-story castle keep, and an old woman heard about his trouble.[4] She gave him her hand millstone even though she needed it for her trade.[4] It was said that people who heard the story were inspired and also offered stones to Hideyoshi, speeding up construction of the castle.[4] To this day, the supposed stone can be seen covered with a wire net in the middle of one of the stone walls in the castle complex.[4]

    A folklore story is associated with Genbei Sakurai, who was Ikeda Terumasa's master carpenter in the construction of the castle keep.[4] According to the legend, Sakurai was dissatisfied with his construction, feeling that the keep leaned a little to the southeast.[4] Eventually, he became distraught and climbed to the top of the keep, where he jumped to his death with a chisel in his mouth.[4]

    Film

    Himeji Castle has been featured extensively in foreign and Japanese films.[12] These appearances include:

    Gallery

    Panoramic overview


    Views from below

    Views from above

    Views from interior

    See also

    References

    Further reading
    • Schmorleitz, Morton S. (1974). Castles in Japan. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co.. pp. 123–125. ISBN 0-8084-1102-4. 
    • Motoo, Hinago (1986). Japanese Castles. Tokyo: Kodansha. ISBN 0-87011-766-1. 

    External links

    Video

    Coordinates: 34°50′22″N 134°41′38″E / 34.83944°N 134.69389°E / 34.83944; 134.69389


    Simple English

    Himeji Castle (姫路城?) is a Japanese castle located in Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture and which includes 83 buildings made of wood. It is sometimes known as Hakurojō or Shirasagijō ("White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior.

    It was registered as the first Japanese National Cultural Treasure by UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Japanese National Cultural Treasure in December, 1993. Along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle, it is one of Japan's "Three Famous Castles", and is the most visited castle in Japan.

    Several movies have been filmed at the castle, like Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha and Ran; The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise; and the Shogun 1980 TV-miniseries/film starring Richard Chamberlain.

    Other websites

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