The aristocratic seat in Horyu-ji is located northwest of Kobe and is the largest remaining Japanese castle complex. It was built at the time of the Tokugawa Shogunate (from 1600), which is considered to be the age of castle building in Japan. The complex includes both defense and representative buildings. The Horyu-ji Castle is one of the most beautiful castle complexes in Japan, its silhouette is reminiscent of a heron, which is why the castle is also called “Castle of the White Heron”.
Himeji-jo Noble Seat: Facts
|Official title:||Noble seat of Himeji-jo|
|Cultural monument:||also known as the “Castle of the White Heron” with a spiral-shaped fortress, built on the Himeyama, originally with three circumferential trenches and one originally 46.4 m high and three other donjons – Ni-no-Maru, San-no-Maru and Yon-no-Maru -, today’s castle complex, only the core area of a once extensive defensive system that comprised parts of today’s urban area of Himeji|
|Location:||Himeji, northwest of Kobe|
|Meaning:||one of the best preserved examples of Japanese fortress architecture from the 17th century.|
Noble seat Himeji-jo: history
|1333||first fortress construction|
|1581||Extension of the facility by a three-storey castle keep|
|1601-10||New construction of the castle complex under Ikeda Terumasa|
|1603||Beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate|
|1615-22||Completion of the castle complex in its current form|
|1950-55 and 1956-64||Restorations|
|2010-2014||Restoration of the facility; Parts of the castle closed|
Japanese attitude to life: beauty in tragedy
The banal pomp, the overloaded form is not a Japanese thing anyway. Only the shape of the roof shows a restrained extravagance in the penetration of the hipped roof and gable roof. And the ends of the roof ridges have discreet decorations: Shachihoko – “dolphins” that are hoped to prevent fires.
According to zipcodesexplorer, the brilliant white, the flawless lines and proportions testify to perfect classic Japanese architecture. The castle embodies the perfect amalgamation of beauty and deadly threat and thus points to the central importance, but also the ambivalence of aesthetics in Japanese culture – an aesthetic that is not only expressed in the tea ceremony, but also in the deadly struggle of the samurai.
When thinking of Himeji-jo, a Japanese thinks primarily of Senhime, daughter of a shogun, an imperial administrator, and the affectionately beloved granddaughter of the famous founder of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1865), Tokugawa Ieyasu. She, too, was of proverbial grace and beauty and was always highly endangered in the vortex of political upheaval: only six years old, she was married in 1603 to her cousin, Toyotomi Hideyori, who was four years her senior. For the Tokugawa it was probably a political liaison to resolve increasing differences between the two powerful families. However, the conflict continued even after the marriage. When Toyotomi’s castle in Osaka fell after the siege on June 3, 1615, the nineteen-year-old Senhime asked her father to spare her husband. Since this was refused, Hideyori and his mother committed suicide.
After her husband killed himself in 1616, Senhime was married to Honda Heihachiro, the son of the Prince of Himeji. On their way to the wedding, it is reported that a samurai attempted kidnapping. Senhime had rescued Senhime from the burning castle of Osaka on condition that she be married. He suffered burn injuries that disfigured him so much that Senhime refused to accept him. When he failed to kidnap, he disemboweled.
Senhime lived on Himeji-jo in the Kesho Yagura, in the “tower in which beauty is cultivated”, for ten years. There, the only comfortably furnished room in the castle is dedicated to her, in which she is shown with a partner at the »Kai-awase«, a game whose aim is to put together motifs painted on the inside of seashells.
Yet another female being is closely connected to Himeji Castle: on stormy nights, the voice of the maid Okiku, “chrysanthemum”, can be heard from a well in which she was drowned as a punishment. There she counts porcelain that she has broken.
And not only Scottish and English castles have a castle spirit, but also a local castle. This is where »Osakabehime« lives and announces the fate of the castle for the coming year once a year. If it does not appear, the castle will soon be destroyed. But this fortress has never been destroyed, not even besieged. It was subject to the natural process of decay. In 1874 it was sold at an auction for around 13,000 German marks at today’s value. Four years after the auction, Colonel Nakamura Shigeto suggested that General Yamagata Aritomo save the castle from deterioration and charge the military budget with the costs, as the new owner could not afford to maintain it or demolish it.
In the course of the development of Himeji, 50 smaller towers of the originally extensive defensive system have completely disappeared, and only a few of the maze-like defense system of walls, trenches and ambushes can only be seen in the inner area. The center is the main tower, connected with three smaller towers, and the west wing. If the enemy advanced, the crew withdrew higher and higher into the main tower. On the top floor there is a Shinto shrine – if the enemy had already taken possession of the castle that far, only the gods could help.