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Perched atop the 45.6-meter-high Mt. Hime, Himeji Castle dominates the landscape of Himeji City in Hyogo Prefecture, offering a commanding view of the Harima Plain. Adorned in white plaster, the main tower group is often likened to a graceful egret in flight, earning the castle its alternative moniker of "White Egret Castle." Among Japan's dwindling original castles, Himeji boasts the most intact structures. Notably, its main tenshu keep and ko-tenshu sub-keeps were bestowed the prestigious title of National Treasures in 1931, while an additional 74 edifices hold the esteemed designation of National Important Cultural Properties. Alongside Horyu-ji Temple, Himeji Castle proudly holds the distinction of being Japan's inaugural World Heritage site, a recognition bestowed upon it in 1993.

The origins of a fortress on this site trace back to the Nanboku-cho period, with significant enhancements during the Sengoku era under the directive of Oda Nobunaga and his vassal, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Following the pivotal Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Ikeda Terumasa assumed control of the castle, along with a substantial income of 520,000 koku. Over the subsequent eight years, Terumasa oversaw the transformation of Himeji into the architectural marvel it is today. Encircled by three concentric moats—soto-bori, naka-bori, and uchi-bori—the castle boasted formidable defenses, with remnants visible today within the inner moat.

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Tasked by Tokugawa Ieyasu, his trusted son-in-law Terumasa expanded and fortified Himeji Castle in anticipation of future military campaigns, notably the impending confrontation with Toyotomi Hideyoshi's heir, Hideyori, at Osaka Castle. The castle's imposing stature was intended to deter western-based Toyotomi loyalists from reinforcing Osaka, solidifying its role as a strategic bastion.

Construction of the iconic white tower, symbolizing Himeji Castle's grandeur, commenced in 1601 and culminated in its completion in 1609. This towering edifice, standing at 31.5 meters atop a 14.8-meter stone base, represents the largest extant tower keep of the Edo period. Spanning 140 meters east to west and 125 meters north to south, the main keep complex comprises the dai-tenshu (large tower keep) and three smaller ko-tenshu sub-keeps—nishi (western), inui (northwestern), and higashi (eastern). The strategic layout facilitated vigilant observation and defense, with downward-facing hatches facilitating the deployment of matchlock guns against encroaching adversaries.

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Internally, the main tower encompasses seven floors, of which only five are visible externally. The uppermost floor reflects the refined shoin-zukuri architectural style favored by the samurai elite, underscoring the structure's ceremonial significance.

Himeji Castle stands as a testament to the masterful fusion of military functionality and aesthetic elegance embodied by the samurai, exemplified in its enduring architectural splendor.

 


Siehe auch

  • Ueda Castle

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    Ueda Castle in Nagano Prefecture once stood prominently on a cliff overlooking the Saigawa River. Also known as Amagafuchi-Jo, Isesaki-Jo, Matsuo-Jo, and Sanada-Jo, it was built around 1583 by its first master, Sanada Masayuki. This sturdy yet small fortress cleverly utilized the surrounding natural defenses, including the river, steep rocky cliffs, the layout of the town below, and the strategically designed waterways to hinder attackers. Ueda Castle was fortified with seven defensive yagura (watchtowers) atop robust stone walls and had two large gates with watchtowers above them.

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  • Tsuyama Castle

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    Tsuyama Castle, located in Tsuyama City, Okayama Prefecture, is celebrated as one of Japan's top three major hilltop (Hirayama) castles, alongside Himeji and Matsuyama Castles. Originally, Tsuyama Castle comprised 77 structures, including the main keep, various yagura (watchtowers), gates, palaces, and living quarters. For comparison, Hiroshima Castle had 76 structures, and Himeji had 61. The first castle on this site was built in 1441 but was soon abandoned. The large-scale construction that we recognize today began in 1603 under the orders of Mori Tadamasa. The castle served as the administrative base for the Tsuyama Han daimyo, the Mori clan from 1603 to 1697, and the Matsudaira clan from 1698 to 1871.

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  • Tsu Castle

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    Tsu Castle, located in Tsu City, Mie Prefecture, was originally built by Hosono Fujiatsu in 1558 and was known as Anotsu Castle, named after the old region. The site was strategically chosen at the confluence of the Ano and Iwata Rivers, which naturally formed a moat around the castle, while the nearby port served as a vital trade route.

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  • Sasayama Castle

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    Tamba Sasayama Castle, also known as Sasayama or Kirigajo (Mist Castle), is a flatland castle (hira-jiro) situated on a gentle rise in the Tamba region of Hyogo Prefecture. It was constructed in 1608 as part of Tokugawa Ieyasu's strategy to prepare for an attack on Osaka, aiming to bring an end to the Toyotomi clan. Ieyasu ordered the castle's construction using the Tenka Bushin system, engaging 20 former enemy daimyo and their forces to complete the complex within six months. This system kept the former enemies close and preoccupied, financially straining them and limiting their capacity for further conflict. The stones used in Sasayama Castle feature engravings called kokumon, indicating who made each part of the walls and preventing theft by other lords' men.

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  • Sadowara Castle

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    Sadowara Castle in Miyazaki Prefecture was a mountaintop yamajiro castle, initially built by the Tajima clan during the Nanboku-Cho period (1334-1394). As was typical of castles from that era, Mt. Kakusho, the chosen mountain, was terraced to create various baileys, or kuruwa. While defensive structures were constructed at the top and around the mountain, the lord's main living quarters and administrative offices were situated at the mountain's base.

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  • Osaka Castle

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    Osaka Castle is a prominent symbol of Osaka City, originally constructed in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi on the site of the Ishiyama Hongan-ji temple-fortress, which had been the scene of a violent uprising by warrior monks and peasants in the late 16th century. Modeled on Oda Nobunaga’s Azuchi Castle, the original Osaka Castle tenshu (tower keep) featured five visible floors, six interior floors, and two underground basements. The exterior was lacquered black and adorned with gold decorations, including large peony flowers, tigers, birds, and various crests.

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  • Okazaki Castle

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    The Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, was born in Okazaki Castle in 1542 during a period of significant civil unrest. At that time, the Tokugawa, then known as the Matsudaira, controlled the rice-rich Mikawa plains of what is now eastern Aichi Prefecture. This fertile region was highly coveted by surrounding warlords. Ieyasu, a shrewd leader and brilliant tactician, managed to maintain and expand his territories. Following in the footsteps of other national unifiers, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Ieyasu emerged victorious at the decisive Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. In 1603, he was invested as Shogun, a title he made hereditary, enabling the Tokugawa family to rule Japan for the next 250 years.

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  • Ogaki Castle

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    Ogaki Castle, located in Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture, was originally built around 1500 by Miyakawa Yasusada and named Ushiya Castle due to the Ushiya River serving as a natural moat. The castle was also known as Bi Castle and Kyoroku Castle. The Ogaki region held strategic importance as a transit point between Mino and Omi Provinces, a fact recognized by Saito Dosan, the Viper of Mino. When Oda Nobunaga captured Gifu Castle in 1567, Ogaki Castle came under Oda rule. Both Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi understood the strategic significance of the castle. In 1595, Hideyoshi ordered Ito Sukemori to expand the castle and construct the Tenshu keep.

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