59.Himeji Castle Part4

Castles are trying to survive into the future.

Features (West Enclosure)

The West Enclosure is located on Sagiyama mountain, the southwest of the Main Towers. It was lastly improved by Tadamasa Honda, when he was married to Senhime, the daughter of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The enclosure has large space and the Roofed Passage Turret where you can enter. You can also see equipment for battles such as machicolations as well as rooms for women who might have served Senhime. The view of the Main Towers from this enclosure looks very elegant.

The map around the castle

The Roofed Passage Turret on the West Enclosure
The Main Tower can be seen from the West Enclosure

My Impression

I think Himeji Castle looks much better with surrounded by natural terrain. For example, the Main Tower buildings are beautiful by themselves, but the buildings could be more beautiful with the mountain and the natural materials from which the towers were originally built.

The picture of only the Main Tower building
A beautiful scenery of the combination of the Main Tower and nature materials

In addition, when I visited the castle in 2013, I had a unique experience. The castle was undergoing repairs under The Heisei Great Repairs. The Large Main Tower was hidden behind construction covering. However, visitors could enter the construction site to see the tower close-up. I saw the roof top of the tower being painted with thick plaster among the roof tiles. The thickness of the plaster at the castle is 3cm, which is thicker than the past. This is to protect against the harsh weather. Even now, castles are trying to survive into the future.

The construction covering of the Heisei Great Repairs
The roof top of the tower that can be seen close-up

How to get There

If you want to visit by car: It takes about 15 minutes from the Hanada IC or Tohori Ramp on the Bantan renraku Road. The are several parking lots around the castle.
From Himeji Station: Take the Himeji Castle Loop Bus from the Himeji-ekimae stop in front of the north exit of the station and get off at the Himeji-jo Otemon-mae stop. Or it takes about 20 minutes on foot from the station.

Links and References

Himeji Castle Official Website

That’s all.
Back to “Himeji Castle Part1”
Back to “Himeji Castle Part3”

24.Takeda Clan Hall Part2

The legacies of Takeda and Tokugawa remain around the shrine.


Center of Ruins becomes Takeda Shrine

Now, the center of the ruins of Takeda Clan Hall have become Takeda Shrine. If you visit there from JR Kofu Station, you have to go up through the gentle slope for about 2km. After that, you will see the entrance of Takeda Shrine with the front guard frame on the south of the shrine. In fact, the entrance is not original, and was built when the shrine was founded. You can also see the stone walls on both sides of the entrance, which were built by the Tokugawa Clan. The earthen walls and water moats surrounding the whole shrine were built by the Takeda Clan.

The entrance of Takeda Shrine
The stone walls built by the Tokugawa Clan
The earthen walls and water moat surrounding the shrine

The Main Shrine stands inside where the Main Hall of the Takeda Clan stood in the past. A circuit style garden was also built in front of the hall to host visitors. Next to the Main Shrine, there is the treasure hall where you can learn more about Takeda Clan Hall and see Takeda’s items such as a flag of Sun Tzu which shows Shingen’s motto and their armors.

The Main Shrine

The map around the castle

Eastern part developed as Park

There is another entrance on the east of the shrine called the Main Gate which was the original front gate. The stone walls around the gate are likely originally from Takeda’s period. In front of the Main Gate, there is the restored square stone mound to protect the gate. This is due to the achievement of the recent excavation, which was originally built by Tokugawa Clan. In fact, the ruin of the round Umadashi system by the Takeda Clan was found under the ruin of the square stone mound. That means Tokugawa replaced the Umadashi system with their stone mound. The excavation team found that another enclosure was also built on the east of the gate and the stone mound. It is thought that this enclosure was built probably by the Tokugawa Clan to protect the Main Gate as well. The entrance and earthen walls of the enclosure have been restored as a park area.

The Main Gate on the east
The restored stone mound
The restored enclosure on the east of the Main Gate

West Enclosure with Takeda’s atmosphere

On the west of Takeda Shrine, the West Enclosure remains. You can walk across the earthen bridge from the shrine to the enclosure. You can also see the exit to the enclosure with the stone walls on both sides, which may be Shingen’s period in origin. The inside of the enclosure is empty, and the halls for Shingen’s family and relatives were there. The antique earthen walls and water moats surrounding the enclosure highlight the mood at that time. In addition, the front entrance of the enclosure on the south also shows one of Takeda’s defense systems called Masugata. It has a square space inside the entrance surrounded by earthen walls like brackets to protect the enclosure.

Going to the West Enclosure form the shrine
The stone walls at the exit to the West Enclosure
The West Enclosure with an antique appearance
The southern entrance of the West Enclosure
The Masugata part surrounded by the earthen walls

To be continued in “Takeda Clan Hall Part3”
Back to “Takeda Clan Hall Part1”

40.Yamanaka Castle Part2

A beautiful historical park, now with a view of Mt. Fuji


Third Enclosure as Entrance

Now, the ruins of Yamanaka Castle have been well developed and maintained as the Yamanaka-jo Castle Park by Mishima City, though the ruins have only earthen foundation. The entrance of the ruins is alongside the old Tokaido Road, and you can park at the parking lot inside when you visit the ruins by car. The entrance was also once that of the Third Enclosure which is now the town area. So, you will walk to the center of the castle by passing through the ruins of the moats for the enclosure. Most of the moats are dried, but part of them remains as a pond called “Tajiri-no-Ike”.

The map around the castle

The entrance of the castle ruins
The dry moat of the Third Enclosure
Tajiri-no-Ike Pond

Second Enclosure as Pivot of Defense

From the pond, you have to walk up the stairs and winding slope to reach the Second Enclosure. The Second Enclosure was large and the connecting point with the center of the castle and the other parts. You can see good views of the area around, including Mt. Fuji from the enclosure. It is surrounded by high, thick earthen walls. It was the important point to protect the castle. Two more enclosures, including the North Enclosure, have been built to protect the Main Enclosure.

The slope to the Second Enclosure
The entrance of the Second Enclosure
A view from the Second Enclosure

Main Enclosure as Center of Castle

You have to walk up more and across the bridge to the center of the castle, the Main Enclosure. The bridge, which is made of half wood and half earth, looks very interesting. The part of woods could be destroyed when a battle happened. The Main Enclosure is the highest place in the castle and has two tiers. It is thought that a high turret called “Tenshu Turret” stood on the upper tier. The enclosure is surrounded by deep valleys.

The slope to the Main Enclosure
The bridge made of half wood and half earth
The ruins of Tenshu Turret at the Main Enclosure
The dry mort surrounding the Main Enclosure
The North Enclosure

Group of Western Enclosures

On the west of the Second Enclosure, there are the West Enclosure and the West Turret over another small enclosure called the former West Turret. Though they were all connected by wooden bridges in the past, we can now go to these enclosures through wooden or earthen bridges. The West Turret is also a kind of enclosures, but once had buildings for defense as the frontline of the castle. Actually, the severe battle between Hojo and Toyotomi occurred there. Many of the latticed dry moats called Une-bori and Shoji-bori remain around the West Turret and the West Enclosure. They were originally deeper and the soil was exposed. The original surfaces have been buried and planted to protect them, as a result, the moats look very beautiful like a waffle with a great view of Mt. Fuji.

The group of western enclosures
Going to the Former West Turret
The inside of the West Enclosure
A view from the West Enclosure
The West Turret
The latticed dry moat called Shoji-bori between the West Enclosure and the West Turret
the latticed dry moat called Une-bori around the West Turret

Taizaki-demaru defense strongpoint, others

Going back to the entrance of the ruins, you can also visit Taizaki-Damaru defense strongpoint to the south. This is a long and gently sloped enclosure which is also surrounded by earthen walls and Une-bori dry moats. The severe battle also occurred there, but it has a good atmosphere to walk around now. It may be a good idea to have lunch with a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji. You can also walk on the stone pavement of the old Tokaido Road below Taizaki-Dmaru. If you have time, I recommend that you visit the Sokan-ji Temple in the former Third Enclosure town area. There is the tomb of Naosue Hitotsuyanagi, a Hideyoshi’s commander, together with other tombs of Hojo’s soldiers.

Taizaki-Damaru defense strongpoint
A view from Taizaki-Damaru defense strongpoint
the latticed dry moat called Une-bori at Taizaki-Damaru defense strongpoint
A view of Mt. Fuji
The stone pavement of the old Tokaido Road
The old Tokaido Road through the Third Enclosure
The tomb of Naosue Hitotsuyanagi

To be continued in “Yamanaka Castle Part3”
Back to “Yamanaka Castle Part1”