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