The last stop on the trip was Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle, also known as Tsuruga Castle (鶴ヶ城). The castle, originally built in 1384 and redesigned in 1592, was an important base of power for the whole northern Tohoku region. The castle was damaged in the Boshin civil war in 1868 when the Tokugawa shogunate loyalists attempted to hold out against the new Imperial army. It was finally demolished in 1874. The current buildings are a 1965 concrete replica but they are still pretty impressive.
The main tenshu (keep):
Views from the top:
The main defenses must have been pretty impressive. It was besieged and held out for over a month during the civil war:
Our original plan had been to come for the cherry blossoms which are quite famous for the castle but unfortunately we were just a little bit too late. Perhaps next time:
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:
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:
Some of the builders were obviously Christian and the lord of the castle at one time was Christian:
The walls also feature the crests of the various families that have owned Himeji Castle over the centuries:
The inside doesn’t really offer much in the way of exhibits – this was the gun rack:
It is really the most impressive castle in Japan and certain one of the most striking and beautiful in the world:
Himeji Castle is one of only twelve remaining original castles in Japan, and really is the most magnificent of all of them. It was recently renovated over several years and re-opened in 2015. It is truly deserving of its World Heritage status:
On a short break we took the Shinkansen down to Himeji, in Hyogo just outside Osaka, to see the castle which had recently been cleaned and so was back to a bright white colour – hence its nickname “White Egret Castle”. The castle, a World Heritage site and the largest castle in Japan, dates back to a hill-fort built in 1333 and the castle seen today was built in 1601-1609. In 1871 it was bought at auction for 23 yen (about US$2,258 today)!
This is the castle seen along the main drag from the station:
Sculpture along the street:
The castle with the bridge across the moat and main gate: