Of all the dangers that threaten a castle over the centuries, Himeji castle survived three, that each by itself, is usually a certain death sentence. But before getting into the details of it’s turbulent history, let’s do a quick comparison to European castles. As it turns out, Japanese castles are very much different than their European counterparts:
The keeps of Japanese castles are made of wood, and built on a motte of rocks with steep walls. This design is very earthquake resistant. The big rocks lay loosely on top of each other to compensate ground movement and wooden constructions are in general more flexible than brick and mortar ones.
Please consider that earthquakes are in Japan almost as common as a full moon (ok, maybe that was slightly exaggerated, but you get the picture).
Speaking of the steep stone walls: The highest wall at Himeji castle is 26 meters (85 ft) tall.
Beside that, Himeji Castle is the biggest castle in Japan. It covers an area of 233 hectares (576.8 acres). For comparison: Hohentwiel, the biggest ruined castle in Germany, is build on an area of about 9 hectares (22.2 acres).
The castle complex that remains today is over 400 years old. Construction started in 1333, but it was remodeled and expanded until 1618. Today, 83 buildings are left, 74 of which are designated as important Japanese cultural assets. Himeji castle, by the way, is an UNESCO World Heritage and as already indicated, it survived quite a turbulent past. Here are some examples:
A closer look onto Himeji Castle’s defenses reveals quite some interesting details. For example:
Himeji castle is located in the city of Himeji in the Hyōgo Prefecture of Japan. It attracts more than 2.5 million visitors each year!
If you have plans to go there, do yourself a favor and avoid any of the Japanese bank holidays, as well as the cherry blossom season, which is between the end of March and the beginning of April. Those days are very crowded.
One of the best times to visit it, in regards to as few visitors as possible, is during the week just after the new year’s holiday.
Beside that, be sure to have a look at Himeji castle’s official website.
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