National Treasure Himeji Castle Main Keep

More than 400 years have passed since the main keep of Himeji Castle (called “White Heron Castle” ) was built. This full scale restoration “Although this structure went through the major restoration work 45 years ago in the Showa era, it was showing age and damages and stains on plastered wall and eaves and canopies of the upper level needed another major repair work.” The “restoration for preservation in the Heisei era” focused on completely replacing the roof tiles on the main keep, or dai-tenshu, repairing the exterior great walls of the upper part of the castle, and replastering damaged or soiled boards behind the eaves or gables. In addition, partial dissection was conducted to reinforce the structures after verifying their strength.

Location:
Himeji city, Hyogo prefecture, Japan
Total Floor Area:
Approx. 2,409m2
Eaves Height:
Approx. 40.82m
Maximum Height:
Approx. 46.35m
Main Keep:
Wooden structure.
Floors:
5 levels, 6 stories with basement.

Himeji Castle

Major Restoration in the Showa Era

Panoramic view of the major restoration in the Showa era, which was completed in 1964. (Courtesy of Himeji Center for Research into Castles and Fortifications)

Panoramic view of the major restoration in the Showa era, which was completed in 1964. (Courtesy of Himeji Center for Research into Castles and Fortifications)

Construction work at that time

Construction work at that time

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Restoration for Preservation in the Heisei Era

Restoration for Preservation in the Heisei Era

Restoration schedule

Restoration schedule

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Summary of the Restoration for Preservation in the Heisei Era

Summary of the Restoration for Preservation in the Heisei Era

Suyane

The restoration for preservation in the Heisei era focused on replacing the roof tiles on the main keep and replastering 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 (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 for construction vehicles, to the foot of the main keep 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 has 6 floors to trick the incoming enemies.

It seems to have 5 stories from outside. However, inside the castle has 6 floors to trick the incoming enemies.

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Video

Suyane

Height: 51.96 m
Number of stories: Temporary steel structure, 8 stories above the ground.
Footprint: 2,075 m2
(Observation space: 1,435 m2, restoration work area: 6,987 m2)

Harakiri-maru gantry

Height: 37.6 m Length: 66.0 m 
Area: 924 m2

Kisai-mon gate bridge

Height: 1.8 m Length: 90.0 m
Temporary passageway: 670 m2

suyane

suyane

suyane

suyane

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Roof

The roof tiles were entirely removed and reinstalled. After examining the type, size, place of use, and installation location of each of the approximately 80,000 tiles, they were removed. More than 80 percent of the roof tiles were washed and reused, and the number of newly created supplementary tiles amounted to about 16,000.

Full re-roof the main keep

(reuse of roofing tiles and production of supplementary tiles)

Sealing of roofing tiles and
installation of gauge laths

(reinforcement using nails or copper wire)

Full replastering of joint plaster

Plasters to hold the roof tiles were applied three times. Because of that, the castle looks much brighter after the repair.

Shachi-gawara

Ridge-end-tile with figure of a killer whale. A pair of Shachi-gawara was placed on the top of castle as an incantation against the fire.

Oni-gawara

Ridge-end-tile with the family symbol of successive lords.

more videos

roof

roof

roof

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Wall

For the external walls of the main keep, a rope was wrapped around the foundation of a wooden grid structure that was coated with thick mud and plaster. Over the years, the external walls had been damaged or become soiled. This restoration work focused on repairing the mud walls, replastering the surface of them, and replastering the edges of eaves, gables, and their decoration boards, and fittings.

Parts repaired

Behind the eaves: 2,780 m2
Internal and external walls: 2,200 m2
Mud-coated doors: 125 m2
Surface of internal walls: 1,173 m2

Repairing mud walls from the foundation

Internal and external walls: 403 m2
Mud-coated doors: 151 m2

Repairing the edges of eaves, gables, and their decoration boards

From the foundation: 495 m2

Repairing roof joints, etc.

From the foundation: 2,489 m2

wall

wall

wall

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Reinforcement and other work

The wooden parts were either replaced or grafted depending on the extent of damage or corrosion, and stamped with “restoration done.” In addition, damaged mud-coated doors and other parts were repaired and plaster parts were replastered. On top of these, the pillars, beams, and floors were reinforced without damaging the wood shafts, thereby increasing seismic capacity.

Reinforcement and other work

Reinforcement and other work

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