Himeji Castle is located in the center of Himeji City, about 50 kilometers
west of Kobe and about 650 kilometers west of Tokyo. It takes about
fours hours by bullet train from Tokyo.
Special Features of Himeji Castle
Castle is nicknamed "White Heron" Castle because of its white walls
which are covered with white plaster. The reason for using white plaster
is that it is fireproof. Like other surviving Japanese castles, Himeji
Castle is built of wood, not stones, and so fire prevention is very
important. As well as the fact that white plaster has fireproofing capabilities,
it is also considered to be a strong reinforcement. Therefore it covers
both walls and almost every outside structure from eaves to pillars.
The castle is built on the top of a hill called Himeyama, which is 45.6
meters above sea level. The main tower, which is the center and the
symbol of the castle, is 46.4 meters high; namely, it stands 92 meters
above sea level. Himeji Castle is famous for not only this huge main
tower but also the highly effective and complicated defensive design,
which is just like a maze. Even today, with the route clearly marked,
many visitors are easily lost. You, too, may be lost in the labyrinth
of this virtual tour.
The history of the castle began by the construction of a fort by Norimura
Akamatsu, the ruler of Harima District (Himeji region) in 1333. Later
in 1581, a three-storied castle was built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi when
the country was in a state of continual conflict. In 1601 Terumasa Ikeda,
son-in -law of the Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, started rebuilding the castle
into a five storied main tower with three small towers since Himeji
was a very important defensive position for the Tokugawa shogunate government.
It took Ikeda eight years to complete the reconstruction. Fortunately,
Himeji Castle has never been damaged by warfare, even during the Second
World War. That is one of the reasons why Himeji Castle has kept its
original form for nearly 400 years. In 1993, Himeji Castle was registered
on UNESCO's World Heritage list, because it is a wooden castle structure
of incomparable worth in the world and because the whole structure including
towers, stone ramparts, and earthen walls are extremely well preserved.