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Japan -> Himeji -> Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle    Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture

Himeji Castle, or Himeji-jo in Japanese, is a spectacular snow-white castle that towers over the town. Also called the White Egret or White Heron castle, Himeji-jo is one of Japan's largest and most elegant examples of medieval castles, and was named the country's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle, sitting on the banks of the Senba-gawa, managed to escape unharmed from the widespread bombing during WWII.

The site on which the castle stands, built in 1580, has been fortified since 1333. ToyotomiHideyoshi built the original castle and in 1681 Ikeda Terumasa expanded the castle to its present form. Though the castle was never tested in battle, visiting it clearly shows martial design hidden within its beauty. There are three moats surrounding high walls and watchtowers punctuated with gun and arrow slits. The roads within the castle grounds twist and turn to confuse any enemies that may have breached the walls. Even the upper floors contain secret areas where hidden soldiers could continue to shoot enemies, should all else be taken.

Tourists should allow 2-4 hours to see this castle adequately. It is easy to reach from the Japan Rail station, being a reasonable walk directly in front of the main exit to the station. Buses and taxis are also available.

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