Himeji Castle

One of the outer walls of Himeji Castle. Easily one of the most famous castles in Japan, Himeji Castle is undergoing major restoration and will not be fully visible again until 2015. 

One of the things I have long looked forward to seeing since coming to Japan is Himeji Castle. It is a castle with a long and tumultuous history, having been rebuilt, expanded, remodeled and handed over to several different commanders and shoguns over several centuries. It is regarded as the best surviving example of Japanese castle architecture, also being one of the largest within the country.

Unfortunately, visitors who choose to visit the castle this year, or next year, or really any time before 2015, will not be able to see the castle in its entirety. At the moment, there has been a large construction scaffolding built around the entirety of the castle, and all that remains to the view is a sketch of where the castle ought to be. The upside? There is an elevator within the scaffolding that visitors are allowed to take to watch the restoration first hand. The coolest thing about the elevator, in my opinion, is that you can see the rooftop in very close detail.

One of the things that struck me most about the scaffolding, which doesn’t look like much from the outside but works like a miniature museum inside, is the tenacity of the Japanese tourist industry. Here, we have a large tourist attraction for Himeji completely covered up for a duration of about six years, but rather than simply accept it and move on, the people of the area have actually turned the renovations themselves into a tourist attraction. I’m not knocking it at all.... it worked!

The castle still has some areas open for tourists and visitors. It is a gorgeous building, with the dark, quiet feel of a temple on the inside and a sweeping grandeur from the outside with its thick white walls and pathways. Even diminished, it is a site well worth the visit.