Himeji, the City That Grew From Japan’s Historic Castle Town

Himeji City is located between the Chugoku Mountains and the Inland Sea of Japan. With around half a million inhabitants, it is the second largest city in the Hyogo prefecture and is most famously known for its magnificent castle, Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Treasure.

In early modern times, Himeji Castle was protected by an outer moat, which was encircled by an earthwork. This sōgame (outer enclosure) and the area within were sometimes referred to collectively as ‘Himeji Castle’. Those residing within the sōgame were housed according to social standing. Merchants lived in the soto guruwa (outer bailey); samurai lived in the naka guruwa (middle bailey); and the domain head lived in the uchi guruwa (inner bailey), known as Oshiro (mansion). The merchants’ area, called the ‘Castle Town’, was sometimes referred to as Himejimachi.

Over time the suburbs of the city of Himeji emerged around the castle town. Some town names from the Edo period still remain, such as Shiomachi, Shiroganemachi, Uomachi an Konyamachi.

Himeji was the capital city of the Himeji Prefecture (later Shikama Prefecture) from 1871 until the prefecture was merged into the Hyōgo Prefecture in 1876. The City of Himeji was established in 1889.

Himeji hosts an annual cherry blossom viewing fair at Himeji Castle, Princess Sen-hime Peony Festival in spring, Himeji Castle Festival in summer, Moon Viewing Fair and Himeji Ceramics Market in autumn. Located within walking distance of the castle, the Kokoen Garden and the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History are popular tourist spots.

Himeji is also home to a 1,000 year old temple, on Mt. Shosha, a short bus and ropeway ride from the train station. The temple, which is located on sacred ground away from the hustle and bustle of the city, was the filming location of the Hollywood movie “The Last Samurai”.

Himeji is located approximately three hours from Tokyo and one hour from Hiroshima on the bullet train.

SOURCES: 

  • https://www.himeji-kanko.jp/en/
  • https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3500.html
  • https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/regional/hyogo/himejijo.html
  • https://en.japantravel.com/hyogo/himeji-city
  • Information signs at Himeji Castle

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Himeji, the City That Grew From Japan’s Historic Castle Town

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