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Himeji Castle

Listed under Castles & Palaces in Himeji, Japan.

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Initially built as a fortress by the Harima district ruler in 1333, Himeji Castle has been repeatedly expanded throughout the centuries and now stands intact on a hill in the centre of Himeji City, surrounded by a tangled network of spiralling paths and high walls.

In Japanese it is known as 'White Heron Castle', because its wooden walls are covered in a type of pure white, fire-retardant plaster and, coupled with its delicately curved, pagoda-style roofs, this endows it with an almost ethereal, glowing elegance.

The castle's best known story is that of Okiku, a servant girl who is said to have worked at the castle. The tale is a very old one of folk origins, and it has never been established whether Himeji Castle was the true setting. There are an unusually large number of variations on the story but they all revolve round the idea that Okiku was desired as a mistress by a wealthy aristocrat or a powerful samurai who lived in the castle where she worked, but she refused his advances due to her love for another. The would-be seducer is then said to have entrusted Okiko with the responsibility for ten very valuable plates belonging to his family, but removed one of them beforehand. The story goes that on discovering the plate's disappearance, Okiko was terrified of the consequences and after blaming its absence on her, the amorous gentleman offered to protect her if she would agree to become his lover. She is then said to have either thrown herself into the well in desperation or been cast into it by her enraged admirer when she refused to agree to his suggestion. Either way, her ghost is said to rise from Himeji Castle's famous well by night and count to nine out loud, stopping before ten because of the missing plate, and then sobbing tragically and wildly.

Written by  larapiegeler.

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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.

Copyright © UNESCO/World Heritage Centre. All rights reserved.

Heron Castle

Himeji Castle, or the White Heron Castle as it's known, thanks to a nattily minimalist colour scheme, dates back to 1346, built by one Akamatsu Sadanori to defend himself from marauding shoguns. In 1577 it became a castle proper, thanks to the addition of 30 turrets. As impressive now as it was then, it's almost perfectly preserved, thanks in no small measure to the fact that no-one's ever dared launch an attack on the thing.

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