Himeji #8 – Himeji Castle (姫路城)

Himeji Castle is really a castle that doesn’t mess around. It was built in part to rival Osaka castle and keep Central and Western Japan under control:

Himeji Castle - Keep walls

In the Meiji Period (1868 to 1912) Himeji Castle was to be torn down under the government policy but it was saved by a Colonel Nakamura Shigeto of the Army:

Himeji Castle - Catsle keep

During WWII a bomb was dropped on the main tower, but miraculously, the bomb did not go off and the castle was not damaged:

Himeji Castle - Keep with tree

And it also features these guys:

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Himeji #7 – Himeji Castle (姫路城)

Construction on the main castle as seen today was completed in 1609, following the establishment of the central Edo shogunate, and it really is built to impress. This is the main entrance, built on a steep slope to deter attack:

Himeji Castle - Entrance

The castle also features thick walls and winding labyrinthine paths to make it easier to defend. The fish ornaments on the roof were believed to protect against fire:

Himeji Castle - Walls and Ornaments

Some of the builders were obviously Christian and the lord of the castle at one time was Christian:

Himeji Castle - Christian motif

The walls also feature the crests of the various families that have owned Himeji Castle over the centuries:

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Himeji Castle - Motifs

The inside doesn’t really offer much in the way of exhibits – this was the gun rack:

Himeji Castle - Gun rack

It is really the most impressive castle in Japan and certain one of the most striking and beautiful in the world:

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Himeji #4 – Kōkoen Garden (好古園)

The eight smaller gardens are surrounded by formal walls and linked by passages. This one has also been featured on several TV dramas:

Kokoen - passage

Every now and then you get a glimpse of the white walls of the main castle:

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Edo-style gardens (1603-1867) are characterized as ‘strolling’ gardens which featured ponds, islands and small hills with meandering paths. This was one of the smaller ponds:

Kokoen - small garden pond

Kokoen - smaller garden stream

The garden offered certain viewpoints which often featured ‘borrowed landscape’ such as the castle:

Kokoen - smaller garden castle view

Keeping an eye on us:

Kokoen - smaller garden crow

Cherry blossoms:

Kokoen - smaller garden cherry blossom

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Kokoen - cherry blossom

Himeji #3 – Kōkoen Garden (好古園)

Kokoen Garden is actually a collection of nine gardens laid on the site of the feudal lord’s west residence. Each garden is designed in a different Edo-era style.

This is the entrance to the smaller gardens:

Kokoen - entrance to smaller garden

Detail:

Kokoen - Lord's seal

This garden had a collection of scores of different varieties of cherry trees, some of which were blossoming. We were actually unlucky – two weeks later and the whole castle would have been blossoming.

Kokoen - cherry tree garden

The range of cherry blossoms is amazing – Japan has the most varieties in the world:

Kokoen - cherry blossom 1

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Kokoen - cherry blossom 3

Kokoen - cherry blossom 4

Kokoen - cherry blossom 5

 

Himeji #2 – Kōkoen Garden (好古園)

Right next to Himeji Castle is Kokoen, a garden opened in 1992 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Himeji municipality.

This is the entrance to the garden:

Kokoen - Entrance

Blossoms near the entrance:

Kokoen - Blossoms near entrance

Stone fountain:

Kokoen - Stone fountain

The bridge crosses into the main part of the garden, which is the site of the former Lord’s residence:

Kokoen - Bridge to garden

The pond in the main garden:

Kokoen - Main garden pond

Giant koi carp:

Kokoen - Main garden koi

Waterfall:

Kokoen - Main garden waterfall

Getting ready:

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