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Inside A Japanese Castle

Inside A Japanese Castle
We find out how Himeji Castle – a 17th-century for tification-has stood firm despite several centuries of conflict and natural disasters.

Built on a hill 45 metres (150 feet) above sea level in southern-central Japan, Himeji Castle has survived innumerable feudal battles, sieges, earthquakes and even a WWII bombing.  While today it’s famed as Japan’s largest castle, construction of the original site began in 1333 with the building of a small fort. The fort wasn’t turned into a castle stronghold until nearly 250  years later, towards the end of the civil war era. The addition of three moats and dozens of extra buildings-including three large towers and a huge, six-storey main keep, or tenshu-saw the striking white complex become one of the greatest  Japanese castles ever built.
As is typical of traditional Japanese architecture, Himeji Castle is an elevated wooden structure featuring ornate tiling and embellishment. As well as gates, walls and other protective fixtures, Himeji and many other castles were equipped with a number of defensive devices to stall advancing foes.
Before they could even think about breaching the defences, the enemy would first have to navigate a frustrating maze of steep, snaking paths laid out around the castle walls. The physically demanding paths that seemed to lead directly to the main keep-but which often led instead to a dead-end-would disorientate and tire invaders. And even if they made it beyond the perimeter, the home team would then deploy an ingenious bevy of traps designed to outwit and injure the incoming aggressors, including conduits down which they would pour boiling oil or water.
Japan’s best-preserved 17th-century castle, Himeji became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, which is quite remarkable considering what the region has endured, from earthquakes to attacks by US B-29 bombers. Of course, since the demolishment of the original 1333 fort, the castle has been rebuilt and remodelled by various rulers and architects, but what’s interesting is that neither nature nor conflict has ever managed to get the better of Himeji.

Inside A Japanese Castle, Himeji Castle, UNESCO World Heritage Site