This is the final castle post I swear! I went to an awesome kite festival this weekend and I will tell you all about it next week. Himeji or Shirasagijō (White Heron Castle) is Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site and the most visited Castle in the country. It is absolutely massive! I had so much fun here. I had no idea it was as big as it actually was. Great Castle.
It has all the typical castle defense features like stone-dropping holes, gun placements, tall stone foundations and whitewashed walls. One of the most impressive elements of Himeji is its complex series of paths leading up to the main keep. The general idea was to force your enemy into travelling in a spiral direction around the perimeter of the castle, delaying them in dead ends while firing at them from the keep. Himeji itself though was never plagued by war so it remains perfectly intact.
Since there were no great wars or fire to destroy the castle, its history is relatively uneventful. Built in 1346 by Akamatsu Sadanori, the Akamatsu family held it a very long time after the Ōnin War. The castle was badly damaged in the battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and restored to its current state shortly after by Ikeda Terumasa. The epic restoration took nine years and left only the east gate of one section of the second bailey from the original.
The castle also acted as one of the last holdouts of the Tozama daimyo during the Edo period. Years later once the Han system was abolished (around 1871), the castle was sold via auction for 23 yen. It was also bombed during World War II twice in 1945 but somehow survived unscathed. Best Castle!
I also ran into a Giant Asian Hornet while I was there. At the time I just thought it was a really big bee (approximately the size of my palm) but then when I read about it at home it turned out to be much, much more. The Asian Giant Hornet, Giant Sparrow Bee, or Yak Killer Bee is what I understand to be the worlds largest hornet. It was named the sparrow bee because they can grow as big as them! It’s prey include praying mantises and entire colonies of bees! Apparently two or three of these guys can kill an entire 30,000 hive in a few hours. They have venom that will dissolve your skin if you get stung and roughly 40 people are killed each year from them. Awesome! I am very lucky as I had no idea at the time.
Here are the pictures.