Amazing Places: Himeji Castle, Hyogo, Japan
Himeji Castle is a beautiful hilltop fortress situated in the city of Himeji, located in the Hyogo region of Japan and is the best preserved medieval castle in the whole of the country.
This immense castle was constructed back in the 14th century by the Akamatsu family, since then it has been redesigned and rebuilt twice. The first time it was rebuilt was in the beginning of 1581 by the Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the second time when it was expanded was by the Tokugawa family between 1601 and 1609.
The beautiful Himeji castle is filled with history and is a world renowned landmark, being known as the best-preserved castle still in existence in Japan. It is a fantastic example of Japanese architecture and was designated a national treasure in 1931.
The castles impressive reach consists of 83 buildings, which includes storehouses, gatehouses, turrets and vast corridors made with impeccable designs.
The castle is not only renowned for its marvellous architecture but it is also known for beautiful flourishing cherry blossoms, these impressive flowers cover the castle from late March to mid-April. The pure white walls of the castle mixed with the vibrant colours of the cherry blossoms make this one of the most gorgeous settings for any tourist to visit.
Himeji castle is not all delightful flowers and impressive architecture, the castle does have a more sinister side with a dark back story that created a legend that is said to haunt the Himeji castle to this day.
In Japanese folk law the story is known as 'Bancho Sarayashiki' which in English, roughly translates to 'Okiku and the plates'.
As with many famous legends, it has many different versions that have been passed down the generations, however, they all follow a general theme.
The tale says that a woman by the name of Okiku, overheard a powerful samurai planning to kill a lord and take over the castle for himself, instead of keeping the plan to herself she decided to confide in her lover Kinugasa Motonobu, who helped by his comrades helped the lord escape before the samurai could kill him.
It is said that when the lord escaped the samurai was furious and threatened to kill anyone he found to be traitors.
Fearful for his life one of the warriors decided to betray Okiku and told the samurais trusted associate Danshiro that Okiku was the traitor.
Danshiro showed no intention of telling the samurai this information, however, he intended to use it for his own gain, by demanding that Okiku must marry him if she did not want her secret to be told to the samurai.
Okiku is said to have kept telling him no, but he persisted, in one last attempt to get Okiku for himself he stole 1 of 10 plates which were heirlooms of the Aoyama family.
When the samurai questioned where the missing plate was, Danshiro blamed it on Okiku, it would have been easy to frame a servant in them times.
The samurai demanded to know where Okiku was, she was already running to the room where the plates were normally kept, counting them up to 9, repeatedly, but there was always 9.
Danshiro found her and gave her one last chance to marry him, saying he would return the missing plate once she agreed, however, Okiku's heart already belonged to her lover Motonobu and she declined.
It is said that Danshiro drew his sword and killed her with one quick swipe, the legend tells that he then hid her body where it would never be found, in a well.
With Okiku being branded as a thief for stealing the plate no one questioned her whereabouts. Eventually, Danshiro's crime was discovered and Okiku was then enshrined at Junisho-Jinja.
Allegedly if you visit the well at night you can still hear the voice of Okiku counting
1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9 over and over. Never reaching 10 remaining at the bottom of the well.
So this stunning castle is a beautiful location to visit and known for its amazing architecture and beautiful flowers. However, if you plan on visiting be cautious of the story of Okiku and the well.
If you are planning a trip to Japan anytime in the near future we would certainly recommend a visit to Himeji Castle, which is open to the public and offer fantastic guided tours that discuss the story of the legend of Okiku and the plates.
If you enjoyed reading about Himeji castle, check out our story on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and if you enjoyed the ghost story make sure you read about Cannock Chase and the black eyed children, also don't forget to follow us on Facebook for similar stories.