Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, September 01, 2006

White Heron Castle

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to page at, which provided the following information. At that page are more links, pictures, etc.

Himeji Castle Himeji Castle (Japanese: 姫路城; -jō) is a Japanese castle located in Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture. It is one of the oldest surviving structures from medieval Japan, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Japanese National Cultural Treasure. Along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle, it is one of Japan's "Three Famous Castles", and is the most visited castle in Japan. It is occasionally known as Hakurojō or Shirasagijō ("White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior.

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

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, whitewash walls, and organization 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, stone-dropping holes. The current keep dates from 1601.

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 force 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.

The castle was conceived and constructed during the Nanboku-cho era of the Muromachi period. At this time, it was called Himeyama Castle. In 1346, 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 Onin War.

In 1580, Toyotomi Hideyoshi took control of the castle, and Kuroda Yoshitaka built a three-story tower.

Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1601, Tokugawa Ieyasu granted Himeji Castle to Ikeda Terumasa. Ikeda embarked on an eight-year expansion project that brought the castle roughly to its current form. 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 yen and 50 sen. However, the cost of dismantling the castle proved to be prohibitive, and as a result it was abandoned.

The Tenth Infantry Regiment occupied Himeji Castle in 1874, and the War Ministry took control of the castle in 1879. The main tower was renovated in 1910 using 90,000 yen in public funds.

Himeji was bombed in 1945, at the end of World War II. Although most of the surrounding area was burned completely to the ground, the castle survived almost entirely unscathed, except for a few stray impacts from nearby shells.

Himeji was used for large parts of Akira Kurosawa's 1985 film Ran, and parts of the 2003 film The Last Samurai were shot on location at Himeji Castle using artificial snow. Himeji Castle was also the headquarters of the Japanese Secret Police in the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice", starring Sean Connery.

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