Day 6: Himeji Castle, a World Cultural Heritage!

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Seeing as how I’m going to become a trillionare in the future, I figured I would go visit my future house: Himeji Castle! 😛

It should be noted that Himeji is not actually in Kyoto, you need to take a one hour bullet train ride further past Kyoto (if you were traveling from Tokyo) to the Himeji station to get there.  If you ever come to Japan, definetely check out Himeji- it’s worth the 1 hour Shinkansen ride!

A quick history lesson about Himeji Castle (compliments of wiki):

Himeji 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 organization 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. At this time, it was called Himeyama Castle. In 1331, 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, Toyotomi Hideyoshi took control of the badly damaged castle, and Kuroda Yoshitaka built a three-story tower. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, 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.[1] The current keep dates from 1601, and the last major addition, the Western Circle, was completed in 1618.

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, 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, Himeji Castle was sold at auction. Its final price was 23 yen (in those days) and in public funds. Himeji was bombed twice in 1945, at the end of World War II. Although most of the surrounding area was burned to the ground, the castle survived almost entirely unscathed. Castle restoration efforts began in 1956.

And so we begin our adventure into Himeji Castle:

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If I was a samurai warrior in the year 1346 and my commander told me I had to invade this castle on foot I would tell him he’s out of his damn mind. O_O

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It’s gonna be a long walk!

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HAHA so this has a really funny story to it…  At the time I visited Himeji Castle, I was very lucky to have come across this big crew of Japanese actors, directors, technitians, etc. who were in the middle of recording a new and upcomming Japanese ninja movie!  Being the excited Japanese movie (Nihon-no-aiga ga suki-desu yo!) nut that I am, I immedietely switched my camera to video mode and started recording the actors in the middle of doing flips and kicks when this security guard stopped me and told me I wasn’t allowed to film… 🙁  BUT HEY!  This is Himeji castle, it’s full of all sorts of secrets… so I used its secrets against them:  I went behind this wall that had a small hole… this hole was used hundreds of years ago by lookouts, archers, and marksmen… I used it to take a picture without being seen.. HEHE!

Inside the castle were many exhibits, here’s a few of them:

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I had to climb so many of these steep stairs.. o_o

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YES!  I felt like Rocky Balboa!  I made it to the top of the Castle, and what awaited me was a shrine that had some good looking sake (not for visitors to drink >_<) and an amazing view.

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Imaging being the owner of this castle and having this view… :O

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I got scared during some of these shots that my camera would somehow slip out of my hand and fall to its doom, lol.

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And back down we go…

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A model of how Himeji looked back in the day

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The story to this well is so creepy… O_O

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This would be a fun dare: Spend an entire night at the bottom of this well…. scary.. (kowai… >_>)

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Like i said earlier, it must have really sucked to attempt to invade this castle, lol.

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Hundreds of years ago… castle warriors walked these halls..

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Lived in these rooms…

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Rushed down these stairs to defend the castle.. perhaps to never come back…

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Hundreds of years ago beautiful ‘Ladies in Waiting’ gossiped in here, lol.

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There were lots of cats hanging around near the entrance

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Farewell Himeji castle, I’ll have your deed when I’m a trillionare! 😀

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On my way back to the train station I was approached by a very nice gentleman named Masaru Sugae.  In fact, Masaru-San was so nice he invited me to have a drink with him at a local coffee shop (kisaten) where we talked for about an hour about various subjects such as his past, his children, his new grandchild (omedeto!), how I like Japan so far, and even religion.  I was very happy to have met Masaru-San and even told him how lucky his children and grandchild is to have him in their life.  🙂

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I had absolutely nothing to eat the whole day, so I walked into this really nice bakery called Vie De France.  This is actually a chain, and Japan has quite a few of these all over the country.  If you have been to 85 degrees bakery, this is basically what it is- only better.  You get to pick from a variety of freshly baked goods and either eat them at the bakery or take them home.  I forgot exactly what they were, but in one word: DELICIOUS!

By the time I got back to Kyoto from my Shinkansen ride, it was dark and I was very exhausted… so i hit the bed early in preparation for a big day traveling to and sight-seeing in Tokyo again!

Click to continue to the next day!

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