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Himeji Castle, Himeji, Japan
Information about Himeji Castle, Himeji, JapanHimeji 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 (24 years ago). Along with Nagoya Castle and Kumamoto Castle, it is one of Japan's "Three Famous Castles", and is the most visited castle in Japan.
ArchitectureHimeji 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 (671 years ago). At this time, it was called Himeyama Castle. In 1331 (686 years ago), 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 (437 years ago), Toyotomi Hideyoshi took control of the badly damaged castle, and Kuroda Yoshitaka built a three-story tower. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 (417 years ago), 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. The current keep dates from 1601 (416 years ago), and the last major addition, the Western Circle, was completed in 1618 (399 years ago).
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 (149 years ago), 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 (146 years ago), 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 (72 years ago), 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 (61 years ago).
In Popular CultureHimeji Castle frequently appears on Japanese TV. 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.
In filmIn the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice (1967, 50 years ago), Himeji Castle appears as Tiger Tanaka's secret ninja training school and rocket weapons development center.
Himeji appears in Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha (1980, 37 years ago) and Ran (1985, 32 years ago).
The Last Samurai (5 walls) (2003, 14 years ago), starring Tom Cruise (12 walls), was shot on location near Himeji City at Engyō-ji Temple on Mount Shosha. The scene where Cruise and Ken Watanabe are standing under some cherry blossom trees talking about Watanabe's poem was filmed in the family grave of the Honda clan, who were the daimyo's of Himeji Castle for about a hundred years or so.
In Shogun, a 1980 (37 years ago) TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain, Himeji appears as Osaka Castle.
In videogamesIn Civilization Revolution for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo DS, the Himeji Castle can be built as a Wonder. In Sim City 3000 Unlimited edition, Himeji Castle can be built as a landmark.
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