Spring 2024 Special Exhibits and More

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Spring 2024 Special Exhibits and More!

2024/06/03


This update focuses on four special exhibits held during the spring of 2024. Along the way I added some other photos and renewed the profiles so see below for details.

Himeji Castle

First we have the West Small Keep of Himeji Castle. It was the first time it was ever opened to the public. Along with this I renewed the kokuin album with new photos (not in the rain) and some new kokuin not shown before too.


Hikone Castle

Next is the Sawaguchi Tamon Yagura from Hikone Castle. This was opened for visitors while the main keep underwent repairs. It was one of the most impressive yagura interiors I've seen and should be opened more often. It was not very crowded so I could take some good video of this yagura and the other original structures, excluding the main keep.



Osaka Castle

The Tamon Yagura and Sengan Yagura are frequently opened to visitors, but this is the first time that the Inui Yagura has been open to the public since 2015. The Inui Yagura album is new but I added some photos to the albums for the other two and created a short video of all three.



Akashi Castle

The Special Exhibit of the Tatsumi Yagura may not be so special anymore since they do it every spring, but it was my first visit and allowed me to complete this profile which previously only had photos of the interior of the Hitsujisaru Yagura from my first trip there. Since it had been a few years since that trip I also took the liberty of renewing all the photos for this castle and adding a kokuin album. Another key reason to visit Akashi Castle was to see the gate at Gesshoji Temple, originally from Fushimi Castle, so I could add it to my Fushimi Castle Relocated Structures page too.


With these special exhibits and some other activities this spring it's no wonder I have not been to many new castles yet in 2024! I think the next update will cover the renewal of some other castle profiles before I can start on completely new castle visits.

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Akashi Castle / 明石城

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Currently the 2 yagura are open during different times of the year, the Tatsumi Yagura from March Through May and Hitsujisaru Yagura from September to November. They are only open on weekends and holidays and will cancel for light rain. In the past each was open during alternating months during the same seasons so if you wish to go be sure to check the website (and weather!) and plan accordingly. When I visited the Tatsumi Yagura, I was there when it first opened at 10am but it had started raining and by the time I left they were taking down the signs and packing up. Supposedly this is to protect the interior of the yagura or they will have to close the windows. Only the first floor is open. The guide said someone was once injured falling from these steep steps so they stopped showing the second floor. The guide also said there is a special tour of both including the second floor if you buy a tour through the Furusato Nozei system but I was unable to any such thing today. (May 2024)

https://www.yokoso-akashi.jp/facility/2684

Most of the original stone walls of the castle are well preserved but the weeds and trees growing out and around them are horrible. They really need to do some more work to keep them free of plants or the walls will be damaged. They cut some trees around the "front" side of the castle to make the walls and yagura more clearly visible but the growth from the walls needs to be maintained better. Around the back side is especially atrocious. Reviewing my 2009 photos it was much better back then. One of the paths is so choked with vegetation it's now blocked off. It seems the huge castle park in front of the castle is constantly having events, lightups, project mapping, etc so one would think they could collect some fees or at least do a better job collecting donations to help pay for the maintenance before it's too late.

For your visit to Akashi Castle, don't forget to take some photos from the train station platform too!
 
Hikone Castle / 彦根城

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With the reconstructed lord's palace (castle museum), Hikone Castle is one of the most complete castles in Japan for you to visit and get a feeling for an Edo Period castle. Take your time to go into the gates and yagura that are open and take some time to walk around the outside of the moats. You'll get fantastic views of the castle and all the great stone walls to better understand the scale of the castle too. One of the most impressive features of Hikone Castle is the climbing stone walls (Nobori Ishigaki). Refer to the album below for more information.

Outside the castle grounds, the Hikone Castle Town is full of remnants of the deep history of Hikone. Please be sure to also review the more in-depth article on Hikone Castle Town for more insights than what the albums below may show.

Nearby Sawayama Castle also offers great views of Hikone Castle. You can use the online mapping functions on this panorama photo taken from Sawayama Castle to zoom in and out for more detail.

Videos
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Himeji Castle / 姫路城

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I may be biased, but Himeji Castle is probably the most amazing place you could visit in Japan. There are some beautiful temples out there too but the sheer size of the main keep at Himeji Castle and the fact that you can walk around unhindered inside of it cannot be experienced elsewhere. Combined with the various types of gates and walls, it really is like stepping back in time. It can be very crowded however and the website provides some information about wait times to enter the main keep. If possible, try to visit on weekdays and plan to arrive when it opens. Most of the pictures you see in these albums were taken on weekdays in the winter, so it is possible to get good photos if you have some freedom with timing.

Just before the ticket counter, off to your left, is an administration office where you may be able to connect with a volunteer English guide to tour the castle too. They are very knowledgeable and do great tours helping to make sure you don't miss anything important.

I've been to Himeji Castle 11 times in about 20 years, but there are still things I've missed or forgotten to look for in the excitement of this great castle. If you have time, the Koko-en gardens are a worthy visit. You can also walk the outer moats around the castle to see more interesting angles of the castle and the ruins of other gates and fortifications. Himeji is a nice town and hotels are less expensive than Kyoto/Osaka. If you spend a night here you can see more of the sites. The town also has a good bicycle rental system if you want to visit the castle and outlying areas efficiently.

Himeji Castle is too vast with too many great things to show, recently they have been opening up parts of the castle for limited exhibitions a couple times per year too. I've split the photos of the main castle, surrounding castle town and these special exhibits into multiple albums you will see after the map below. The photos below are just a couple key photos of the main keep.

Videos
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Osaka Castle / 大阪城

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This is a great castle to visit. Unfortunately, some people go straight to the main keep, see the museum and go away disappointed with the elevator and concrete. For some trips I haven't even gone in the museum. The basic layout of the castle is nearly in tact. There are several original gates and yagura and the stone walls are simply amazing. Take your time to enjoy everything Osaka Castle has to offer.
Videos
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