Himeji-jo (1993)
Japan

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Himeji-jo is the finest surviving example of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture, comprising 83 buildings with highly developed systems of defence and ingenious protection devices dating from the beginning of the Shogun period. It is a masterpiece of construction in wood, combining function with aesthetic appeal, both in its elegant appearance unified by the white plastered earthen walls and in the subtlety of the relationships between the building masses and the multiple roof layers. 

Japan 1964. Restoration of Himeji Castle.

Japan 1969. Himeiji Castle.

Japan 1994. View of Himeiji Castle. Japan 1994. Aerial view of Himeji Castle.

Wooden structures require careful routine maintenance control to ensure proper conservation, beginning immediately after construction. The buildings of Himeji-jo have been maintained and repaired by the authority of the castle lords ever since the castle was constructed. In particular, special care has been given to the Dai-Tenshu (the donjon). The castle lords investigated both vertical and horizontal displacement every twenty to thirty years and reinforced or repaired the buildings as required, based upon the results of these investigations. In the repair works of 1656, 1692, 1700 and 1743 the vertical and horizontal distortions were measured, the buildings were reinforced by such means as the addition of braces and supports, and the roof tiles were replaced. 

St. Vincent of the Grenadines 1997. 50th Anniversary of UNESCO. Himeji-Jo, Japan.

After the birth of Japan as a modern nation toward the end of the nineteenth century, the buildings of Himeji-jo became the property of the national government. In 1910 temporary reinforcement work was required in order to stabilize the structure of the donjon. With the enactment of the National Treasures Preservation Law in 1929, the protection of cultural properties, which until then had been limited to ancient shrines and temples by the Ancient Shrines and Temples Preservation Act of 1897, was extended to include castle architecture as well. 
  • United Nations (Vienna) 2001. Himeji-jo. Scan by courtesy of Jean-Michel (France). 

United Nations (Vienna) 2001. Himeji-jo.

Under this law the buildings at Himeji-jo were designated as National Treasures in 1930 and 1931. Since the buildings were in need of fundamental repair just at this time, it was decided to repair the entire castle structure over a period of thirty years beginning in 1934. This repair work was performed under the direct supervision of the national government.

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in Japan (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Japan for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
Copyright 1999 Heindorffhus
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