Himeji-jō information

Himeji , Japan
68 Honmachi
adult/child ¥400/100
Opening hours
9am-5pm Sep-May, to 6pm Jun-Aug
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The most magnificent castle in Japan, Himeji-jō is also one of only a handful of original castles in the country (most others are modern concrete reconstructions). In Japanese it is sometimes called shirasagi, or 'white heron', a title that derives from the castle's stately white form.

Although there have been fortifications in Himeji since 1333, today's castle was built in 1580 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and enlarged some 30 years later by Ikeda Terumasa. Ikeda was awarded the castle by Tokugawa Ieyasu when the latter's forces defeated the Toyotomi armies. In the following centuries it was home to 48 successive lords.

The castle has a five-storey main keep (tenshū) and three smaller keeps, and the entire structure is surrounded by moats and defensive walls punctuated with rectangular, circular and triangular openings for firing guns and shooting arrows. The walls of the main keep also feature ishiotoshi – openings that allowed defenders to pour boiling water or oil onto anyone who made it past the defensive slits and was thinking of scaling the walls. All things considered, visitors are recommended to pay the admission charge and enter the castle by legitimate means.

It takes around 1½ hours to follow the arrow-marked route around the castle. Last entry is an hour before closing.