The White Fortress: Himeji-jo

An elegant castle overlooks the city of Himeji. Himeji-jo is also known as the Castle of the White Heron. It looks like a white heron gracefully taking off into flight. The combination of rigid straight lines and elegant curving roofs folding over the white earthen walls makes the great beauty. Himeji-jo was built at the end of the Age of Civil Wars, at the end of the 16th century. Its a unique military sight with various defence devices and designs. When the enemy makes an assault on the castle, various traps await them. The first entrance to the fortress is the Hishi Gate (Diamond Gate). With a gate before their eyes, what more do you expect than for them to make an attempt to break through it? The assailants will no doubt head for the gate. However there are two hidden spaces designed for warriors to attack the invaders from behind. If the enemies succeed in breaking through the gate, waiting for them beyond are numerous holes in the walls. Called hazama: they are holes through which guns and arrows were fired. Enemy fighters who succeed in breaking through this heavy fire find another design to delay their invasion as they head upwards. The narrow and long steep path goes on, and once around the bend, a curious thing happens – Their destination, the tower, which was right before their eyes suddenly vanishes from view and is situated behind!

The bewildered attackers lose their sense of orientation. Himeji-jo was erected as an impregnable castle. However it faced a great crisis. On the 3rd of July 1945, Himeji was heavily bombed by American B29s. Most of the town was reduced to ashes, and beyond the rubble stood the Himeji-jo, the only unscarred building in sight. Four hundred years after it was built, the white fortress, Himeji-jo, stands without ever falling into the hands of its invaders. Its now standing, example of world heritage.


Himeji-jo - photo by Amadeus Hellequin / Flickr

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