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.
Japan has many castles, but Osaka’s is perhaps one of the most well-known and most visually stunning of them all. Nestled within the sprawling and modern city, Osaka Castle is part historical monument, park, and attraction all at once. It is well worth a visit if only to explore the beautiful grounds surrounding the exterior of the castle.
The towering structure is encircled by more than a moat. Trees, walkways, and parks form an amazingly interesting border between ancient and modern. Could you imagine going for a jog past a major castle every day? The wide areas and beautiful scenery attract both locals and tourists in a comfortable yet harmonious mix.
I found the grounds surrounding Osaka Castle a metaphor for the rest of Japan. A unique blend of new and old, local and seeker, casual and fast paced. I hope you enjoy the pictures.
When you hear about Okinawa, you probably envision white sandy beaches, tropical forests, and a bunch of American military. Well you’re right on those, but Okinawa also has a lot of history, and along with that history are a lot of castles. A friend of mine on the mainland knows about my interest in those so every once in a while when I fly in, he loads up his family and we all go sightseeing. Last time I was in town, we went to Katsuren Castle in Uruma City, Okinawa. Here are a few pictures from the trip!
Katsuren Castle is a World Heritage Site. It is composed of five enclosures on the top of a tall hill. The view from the top of the first enclosure looks out over surrounding lowlands and the ocean. It’s a great place to stop by for a few hours, but be aware that there are some steep slopes. The site is not the most disabled friendly place. If you are touring Okinawa its worth the stop, and can be enjoyed in about an hour.
The castle is named for the first Ryukyu lord to hold the castle. Ten more lords held it after, the final being Awamori.
Kumamoto Castle is located in Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan. The Castle was sieged during the Satsuma Rebellion, and has been rebuilt several times. Here are few pictures from two school trips I took with my Junior High Students. Enjoy!