Himeji-jo

Hyogo Prefecture
N34 49 60 E134 41 60
Date of Inscription: 1993
Criteria: (i)(iv)
Property : 107 ha
Buffer zone: 143 ha
Ref: 661
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Himeji-jo is the finest surviving example of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture, comprising 83 buildings with highly developed systems of defence and ingenious protection devices dating from the beginning of the Shogun period. It is a masterpiece of construction in wood, combining function with aesthetic appeal, both in its elegant appearance unified by the white plastered earthen walls and in the subtlety of the relationships between the building masses and the multiple roof layers.

Himeji-jo is the finest surviving example of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture. It is located in Himeji City, in the Hyogo Prefecture, an area that has been an important transportation hub in West Japan since ancient times. The castle property, situated on a hill summit in the central part of the Harima Plain, covers 107 hectares and comprises eighty-two buildings. It is centred on the Tenshu-gun, a complex made up of the donjon, keeps and connecting structures that are part of a highly developed system of defence and ingenious protection devices dating from the beginning of the Shogun period. The castle functioned continuously as the centre of a feudal domain for almost three centuries, until 1868 when the Shogun fell and a new national government was created.

The principal complex of these structures is a masterpiece of construction in wood, combining function with aesthetic appeal, both in its elegant appearance unified by the white plastered earthen walls – that has earned it the name Shirasagi-jo (White Heron Castle) – and in the subtlety of the relationships between the building masses and the multiple roof layers visible from almost any point in the city.

Criterion (i): Himeji-jo is a masterpiece of construction in wood. It combines its effective functional role with great aesthetic appeal, both in the use of white-painted plaster and in the subtlety of the relationships between the building masses and the multiple roof layers.

Criterion (iv): It represents the culmination of Japanese castle architecture in wood, and preserves all its significant features intact.

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3 comments

  • The castle is my personal favourite in Japan. When you arrive at Himeji train station it’s a short 20-minute walk towards the castle. You can’t miss it as it towers high above the city. Himeji Castle is surrounded by a moat and large gardens. The main keep itself is relatively small but with the huge number of visitors does take 2-3 hours to go through. There are several other secondary buildings with exhibitions worth exploring too. I highly recommend doing that as you’ll find the best photo spots this way. A visit takes up to 6 hours and might take up the full day. If you have time left, especially in summer it’s recommended visiting the Kokoen Gardens next to the Himeji Castle too. This is one of the best places to visit in Japan in summer.

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  • It took us more than four hours to explore the castle’s highly developed defense systems, ingenious protection devices and aesthetic symbolisms. At the end, we left with a feeling that Himeji Castle was indeed a brilliant millitary monument, a glimpse of Japan’s heady Shogunate days.

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