Once in a half-century opportunity to appreciate the true beauty of White Heron Castle built over 400 years ago.
Himeji Castle reopened its main keep on March 27 after nearly six years of the restoration work. The renovation of the central tower focused on replacing its roof tiles and replastering its white earthen walls. The 2.4-billion yen face-lift made the castle’s appearance remarkably white. However, this whiteness won’t last long as the walls darken with mold in only three years or so. The previous refurbishment was completed in 1964.
Located in Himeji city, Hyogo prefecture, Himeji Castle is a castle complex comprising 83 buildings. The main keep externally appears to have five stories, but it has six floors and a basement inside. There are three three-story subsidiary towers. The main tower was built in 1609 by Ikeda Terumasa, a feudal lord in the area. It is unique that white plaster was applied to not only the castle walls but the joints of the roof tiles. This made the castle earn its nickname “Shirasagijo” or White Heron Castle as its white exterior resembles the bird spreading its wings. Plastering was used as it excels in fire-resistant performance. It is also said that Terumasa put importance on the aesthetic value of the castle with its white appearance, expecting the period of warring states to end soon. The castle keeps all its significant features intact without getting damaged by wars and fires.
Himeji Castle has gained a lot of national and international acclaim. The castle was designated as a national treasure by the Japanese government in 1931. It became Japan’s first World Cultural Heritage site in 1993. UNESCO cites the castle is ‘a masterpiece of wooden construction’ and ‘the finest surviving example of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture’. In 2012, the world’s largest travel site TripAdvisor picked Himeji Castle as one of the world’s 25 castles in its ‘Bucket List’ or a list of spots to visit before you die.
In recent years, visitors of Himeji Castle decreased sharply due to years of the repair work. The city of Himeji expects 1.8 million people to visit the castle in the year through March 2016, which is more than two and a half times as many as three years ago.
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