Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture is hailed as the most fabulous of Japan’s many castles. It is definitely the largest. I had the opportunity to visit Himeji for a half-day at the start of March in 2013. Himeji Castle is a UNESCO World Hertiage site.
Over the past several years, the main keep of Himeji Castle has been covered by a giant scaffolding that is essentially a building that encircles the high roof. The internal structure has been reinforced to prevent earthquake damage, while the plaster and roofing tiles have been replaced or reworked for water and fire proofing.
The last major restoration of the castle was completed in 1964. This new reconstruction is similar to the first. When I visited the restoration work was nearly complete. I had the opportunity to travel to the top of the scaffolding and view the roof from the outside, a view that will disappear in 2014 as the scaffolding is disassembled and the main keep re-opened. Despite the construction work, I found the grounds beautiful and interesting. Though the inner keep is not accessible, much of the rest of the grounds were, including the West Bailey. It was a great way to spend a few hours strolling through the castle grounds and trying to snap a few photos.
Throughout the grounds there are multilingual plaques describing many aspects of the history and culture of the castle including its reconstruction and maintenance. Many crests of past lords who reigned at the castle, many worked into the roofing tiles. In the Egret’s Eye View, I was even able to observe a live demonstration of the tiling work. I’ve always found Japanese style tile roofs to be interesting, so it was great to see how they and the walls were actually put together.
Himeji Castle is located in Hyo prefecture at 68 hon-machi, Himeji, Hyogo. Hours of operation are 9 am to 4 pm (September through April) and 9 am to 5 pm (May to August). Closed December 29 and 30. The Egrets Eye closes a bit earlier.