By Chaitanya Sree Velamala

The Himeji Castle, Japan


           Himeji Castle, also called Shirasagijo (White Heron Castle) due to its white outer walls, is the best preserved castle in all of Japan. It serves as a classic example of Japanese castle architecture, having been designated as a national treasure in 1931. Incorporating both strategic design as well as very conscious awareness of space, it functions as a military command, a centre for political life and as a monument to the glories of an earlier age. Himeji Castle, a world heritage site and national treasure, reopens to the public on Friday after 5 1/2 years of repair work. Located in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, the 400-year-old castle was registered as a world heritage site in 1993 along with Horyuji for the first time in Japan. The graceful white building is compared to a white heron and it is also called "white heron castle."
          The 2.4-billion yen renovation, which began in October 2009, was partially paid for by donations from 3,000 citizens. New roof tiles have been installed, and the white walls have been repainted. The castle is reopening in time for cherry blossom season. About 1,000 cherry trees are in the castle grounds. James Bond fans will remember the castle grounds as a ninja training headquarters in the 1967 film "You Only Live Twice". The restoration for preservation in the Heisei era focused on replacing the roof tiles on the main keep and re-plastering damaged or soiled plaster walls. During this restoration period, the main keep was entirely covered by a roofed scaffold structure called "suyane." This not only shelters the main keep from wind and rain after the tiles and plaster walls are removed, but also ensures a scaffold for reconstruction work. In addition, the observation space named "Tenku no Shirasagi ", translating to "The White Heron in the Sky", was set up within the suyane to allow the general public to view the restoration process.
          To make preparations for installing the suyane, a steel gantry and a bridge were installed from Kisai-mon gate, which served as the entrance to the foot of the main keep for vehicles to bring in steel beams and other building materials to the high main keep. It seems to have 5 stories from outside. However inside the castle, 6 floors were constructed to trick the incoming enemies then.