Explore Himeji – The flying castle
If you are fans of the animations of Studio Ghibli, it’s hard to forget the images of the magnificent castles in Spirited Away and The Tale of Princess Kaguya. These castles were exactly inspired by Japanese buildings. Therefore, during your 100 step journey, don’t forget to visit old buildings which store secrets within their paper windows, wooden gates, and battlements.
Text and photos: Cac Truc
I visited Himeji Castle in Hyogo Province on a beautiful day. From a distance, the nearly 700 year old castle is sparkling like a flying white heron, which is why it is called White Heron Castle.
In 1993, this was the first castle in Japan to be recognized by UNESCO as the World Heritage Site.
Few people know that before becoming the national treasure, it was sold for just 23.5 yen (about 100 000 yen now) when the period of samurai came to an end about 150 years ago. There aren’t any nails used in this building’s construction. Instead, things are fitted together using sophisticated joining techniques, showcasing the pinnacle of precision and refinement in the calculation and construction.
Unlike other castles, Himeji retains its original design, allowing you to walk on the rough wooden floor which is hundreds of years old and touch the giant old stones. Built on the top of Himeyama hill at the height of 45.6m, Himeji is famous for its sophisticated defense system which is like a maze. When passing through the stone cellar, Masato Furukawa, my companion, pointed at a small corner and said that it was a trap. When someone takes a small stone out of the wall, a part of the castle will collapse and box him inside that corner. It’s surprising that all traps are still active. Let’s hope that no little visitors figure this out and remove the stone!
Like Pokemon Apps, the Himeji Castle Great Discovery app is a great way to explore historic stories there. Download the app, scan the AR boards along the way and short clips will pop up saying what happened at each place. You will have a chance to watch the story of Princess Senhime or the legend of the "Old Widow's Stone" (Ubagaishi). You can also partake in cooking classes to make traditional Kamaboko fish cakes and Chikuwa squid rolls or enjoy Matcha in Koko-en Garden in the western section of Himeji.
Himeji Castle Interior
Himeji Castle Interior
+ Himeji Sightseeing ticket prices: 1000JPY/ adult, 300JPY/ child.
+ Koko-en sightseeing ticket prices: 300 JPY/ adult, 150JPY/ child, and free for children under 6.
+ Combination Ticket prices: 1040JPY/ adult and 360JPY/ child.