Saturday, February 20, 2010
Himeji-Jo is hands down the most famous castle in Japan. The imposing and beautiful castle is one of the few remaining originals, narrowly surviving both the end of feudalism and the firebombing of World War II.
Of the twelve remaining wooden castles, Himeji is the most complete, with both the central keep, or donjon, and the surrounding buildings and walls all surviving. This really lets a visitor get a sense of just how fortified these castles were. The path up to the keep twists and turns, and is often a narrow path with towers and walls on either side. Any attacking army would have a very difficult time.
The castle was completely restored in the 1950's and 60's, but is undergoing a new round of restoration and preservation work. When I visited in November a small portion of the outer wall blocked off, but the coming months will see a vast covered scaffolding being erected over the central keep. The keep will be closed for several months, and the scaffolding will be up for years.
The refurbishment will take until 2015, and while there are plenty of other castles to visit while we wait, there are few that achieve the beauty and imposing grandeur of Himeji-jo.