Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Himeji Castle - UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Hey everyone, and welcome to World Heritage Journey.

Today we're at Himeji Castle, in Japan.

The gorgeous Himeji Castle is one of the most famous and impressive castles anywhere in

the world.

Referred to by the Japanese as White Egret Castle, for its apparent resemblance to a

white egret taking flight, the castle sits on a hill overlooking the city of Himeji.

Founded in 1333 as a small fort, it was later dismantled and built into the great fortress

we see today in the early 17th century - between 1601 and 1609.

And it's survived the last 400 years essentially intact and unchanged!

Despite being mostly built of wood and plaster, it survived two direct bomb hits during

World War 2 - one of which was a firebomb that incredibly, failed to ignite.

The castle stood tall and strong, though the surrounding area burned to the ground.

Even an enormous earthquake in 1995 didn't damage the structure - an open bottle of sake

on the altar of the top floor didn't even spill!

There's just so much beautiful detail here to explore as well.

Everything is constructed around feudal defence systems, starting with the thick wooden gates

and fortified walls.

The castle's windows are all heavily latticed with only small openings, allowing defenders

to throw rocks, shoot arrows and fire guns without much risk to themselves.

There's also tiny portholes all over the castle walls for the same purpose.

The building's corners have well-concealed slit openings where defenders can dump vats

of boiling oil over raiding armies, and inside there are little trapdoors so warriors could

hide inside and ambush enemy troops.

Even the grounds themselves are designed for defence!

Entering via the main gate, the keep entrance is only about 100 metres away, but you have

to walk nearly 400 metres to actually reach it, since you're going back and forth in a

confusing zig-zag the whole time, and during conflict you would've been under heavy fire

from the defenders.

But interestingly, it was never actually tested in ground combat!

I loved the architecture here too.

The roof tiles are often decorated with family crests signifying the important lords who've

owned the castle during its long history.

And of course its perfect shape from the outside.

It's the largest castle in Japan, and certainly the most elegant too.

And possibly my favourite anecdote about the castle, maybe even the most important one

of all!

In 1868, as the shogun government was failing, castles across Japan were sold off for demolition,

and Himeji was no different.

It was sold to a local man for 23.5 yen - that's about $1000 US dollars in today's money.

But when he realised the exorbitant cost involved in demolishing the castle, the new owner let

it sit there untouched before the government eventually bought it back for military use

- saving it from destruction.

Definitely a happy ending!

The Description of Himeji Castle - UNESCO World Heritage Site