Himeji Castle -
          The White Egret
Himeji Castle, a survivor from 1580, is generally considered
to be the finest original castle left standing in Japan.  It
combines grace with size and power.  The sheer magnitude of
Himeji, four separate castles dominated by the main
fortification pictured above, is unequaled.   
Perhaps no single photograph can fully capture Himeji.  
Here is my best effort, a popular angle from which this
National Treasure of Japan is easily distinguished from all
other castles.  Himeji also features numerous gardens
around its spacious grounds.  Himeji Castle was apparently
considered so impregnable during the centuries that it never
faced attack, not even once.  Nearly fifty lords came and
went, but the castle is far more famous than any of them.
From a different vantage point, you can see yet more of the
lower fortifications.  Himeji also was protected by a series of
moats and walls.  Climbing the main central tower or donjon
without shoes was not easy, but I made it to the top.
Back in 1984, Matsumoto's crow castle was my personal
favorite of the castles seen on that trip.  Now I would join
those who rank Himeji as the single castle which must be
visited, especially given its convenient location on the main
Shinkansen line.  Matsumoto Castle requires a long, slow
train ride from Tokyo, but it should not be missed either.       
If you have a high speed internet connection, watch the
Intrepid Berkeley Explorer's free streaming video of this trip,
"Castles of the Rising Sun", by clicking on: