Saturday, November 29, 2008

Himeji / Kobe

I only dropped by Kobe because the ship I was taking to Shanghai leaves from Kobe. Kobe seems like a nice city, but since I didn't really spend anytime in it I don't have much to say about it.

Instead of spending time in Kobe I decided to head off to Himeiji Jo, probably Japan's most impressive castle. It's the castle used in one of the James Bond Movie: You Only Live Twice and briefly used as the Castle in the distance of The Last Samurai. If you visit only one castle in Japan make sure it's this one. Himeji-jo is really that good!
9AM - 4PM everyday
600 Yen
720 Yen with a combined ticket to the gardens near by (I missed this because my tour went longer than i expected, but great tour)

I took a free english tour as recommended to me by my book The Rough Guide to Japan. It was actually very good. The volunteer spoke English very well and was quite knowledgeable about the castle and its history. Ask for a guide at the main entrance to the castle.

The view of the castle from the JR station.

Getting closer...

Map of Himeji-jo

Inside the entrance

a hook used for camouflage nets during World War 2

Himeji Castle was built in the 1600s by Tokugawa Ieyasu's son in law in the 1600s. By that time the Shogun had united Japan so the country was peaceful so the castle itself was never used in any combat, but there were still many defensive capabilities built into it. During world war 2 nets were placed over the castle to attempt to camouflage it from Allied bombers. One bomb did fall in the castle but it did not detonate; a few brave men removed the bomb from the castle.

stone throwing holes

Air vent for gun smoke to escape

a gun port, it also tells you how tall, or in this case short, japanese men were in this era; hey the guide said it - not me.

recreation of a Princess Senhime playing a game with shells

Remember Princess Senhime from Osaka Castle? Well she remairried and ended up here in Himeji Castle.

Some of these rocks have words carved into them from the village they were brought from

This area was used in one of the James Bond movies

A defensive door way. This would force attackers into a narrow line making it easier for the defenders to fight them.
It's rumored that there's a secret switch some where in here.

Harakiri-maru - this courtyard was made for seppuku: samurai ritual suicide. My guide said it was never used for seppuku.

This area in the courtyard is where the court would sit and decide the fate of the samurai.

This well was to be used to wash the beheaded head.

This stone would be used to behead the samurai during seppuku.

Okiku-ido (well)

Okiku-ido is home to the castle's famous ghost story. Okiku was a servant girl who had been falsely accused of theft. She was dumped in this well after being tortured to death. It is said that her ghost can be heard wailing from inside the well. I believe there is a shrine dedicated to her in the city.

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