World Heritage / Himeji-jo

Criteria: (i) (iv) | Date of Inscription: 1993 | Location: Hyogo Prefecture | Justification for Inscription



Like an egret spreading its wings, Himeji Castle impresses visitors with its soaring towers and beautiful white walls while its period architecture is said to have no equals among any of the other many castles still standing in Japan.

Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle
Tegarayama Park
Tegarayama Park
Himeji Castle, its Modern History and Layout
Himeji Castle was initially built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1580 and was reconstructed by Ikeda Terumasa in 1609 to become both the Tokugawa government's primary military base in western Japan as well as a symbol of the Tokugawa clan's authority. Said to be the best remaining example of architectural design used between the Azuchi Momoyama and Edo eras, it is appreciated far and wide as a genuine cultural property with respects to its history as a military facility and as a piece of art in itself. For these reasons, Himeji Castle was designated one of Japan's first World Heritage Properties and is thus in the company of another building afforded such similar respect - the world renowned Horyuji Temple in Nara Prefecture.
At 11:00 pm on July 3rd, 1945, the city of Himeji was attacked by US B29 bombers on an air raid over Japan. The following morning the locals were themselves tired and in shock. However, upon finding Himeji Castle untouched their negativity turned to surprise and excitement. Having survived such a terrible event, Himeji Castle thereafter found itself at the center of efforts to support its very existence and preservation. In particular, the "Showa era Restoration" an eight year project started in 1956 at great financial cost to a recovering nation rendered Himeji Castle fully resurrected and capable of standing proud once more.
The area of "Kuruwa" (the castle baileys) including the "Honmaru" (the main bailey) with its "Tenshu" (main tower), the "Ninomaru," "Sannomaru" and the "Nishinomaru" (secondary, third largest and western baileys respectively) totals over 230,000 square meters in size (five times that of Tokyo Dome) and is home to over 80 different architectural features in all.
Shachihoko (Dolphinesque Talismans)
To avoid the dangers of fire, Himeji Castle contains many talismans in a variety of shapes. The most famous are the "Shachihoko," the dolphin like talismans mounted on the castle roof to symbolize water and its defensive capabilities against fire.
Castles Designated as Japanese National Treasures
Including Himeji Castle, only four Japanese castles are designated as national treasures. The others are Matsumoto Castle, Hikone Castle and Inuyama Castle.
Points From Which Visitors Can Get The Best Views of Himeji Castle
To commemorate its inscription on the World Heritage List, the best ten local points from which to view Himeji Castle were selected from the suggestions of the Japanese public.

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