|"White Heron", the Surviving 17th-century
The buildings of Himeji Castle maintain the historical composition of an early 17th century castle complex, and their design is of outstanding artistic value. Most of the more than 80 buildings including the donjon (the Dai-Tenshu) complex were constructed between 1601 and 1609. Because of its elegant appearance unified by the white plastered earthen walls, the castle is admiringly called "Shirasagi-jo" (White Heron Castle). The entire castle structure was repaired over a period of 30 years between 1934 and 1964. In 1993, the Castle was registered on UNESCO's World Heritage list.
The castle grounds are divided into an inner walled zone and a outer walled zone surrounded by a double moat. The donjon complex which forms the nucleus of the castle is situated at the highest location in the center of the inner walled zone. Surrounding the donjon and the three smaller keeps are structures used as watchtowers, gate buildings and plastered earthen walls all positioned according to strategic defensive planning considerations. The majestic donjon has five projecting roofs on the exterior, but actually has six interior stories plus one basement.
For nearly 400 years, Himeji Castle has survived occasional disasters, such as typhoons and earthquakes. During the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995 which substantially affected the city of Himeji, some plaster peeled off the corridor wall and some of the roof tiles of the fortified earthen walls fell down, but the donjon survived almost unscathed. Even the bottle of sake placed on the altar of the shrine at the top of the donjon remained in place. This quake-resistance of the seventeenth-century wooden buildings is remarkable.
Photo: The Himeji Castle (Hyogo Prefecture).
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