姫路城の歴史 history

The History of Himeji Castle

The following is the history of Himeji Castle

Chronology

A.D. Japanese Calendars Historical Facts
1333 Genko 3rd yr Akamatsu Norimura, also known as Akamatsu Enshin, raises an army by order of Moriyoshi (Morinaga) Shinno (Imperial prince) and constructs a fort on Hime-yama Hill.
1346 Shohei 1st yr Akamatsu Sadanori builds a large-scale castle on Hime-yama Hill.
1441 Kakitsu 1st yr The Kakitsu War breaks out. After Akamatsu Mitsusuke and his son assassinate Ashikaga Yoshinori, the 6th Shogun, Mitsusuke commits suicide. Yamana Mochitoyo becomes the lord of Himeji Castle.
1467 Onin 1st yr The Onin War breaks out. Akamatsu Masanori takes control of Himeji Castle, and builds the Main Bailey and Tsurumi Bailey. Later, the Kodera clan from the same family (a cadet branch of the Akamatsu family) is assigned to the castle, and the Kuroda Family, Kodera’s senior vassal, succeeds to the lord of the castle.
1580 Tensho 8th yr

Hashiba (or Toyotomi) Hideyoshi enters Himeji Castle at the suggestion of Kuroda Yoshitaka (Kambei) for the conquest of the Chugoku region. Hideyoshi starts to build the 3-storied keep in Himeji Castle and completes it the following year.

1585 Tensho 13th yr Kinoshita Iesada, the elder brother of Hideyoshi’ s official wife (Kitano-mandokoro), assumes control of the domain for 16 years.
1600 Keicho 5th yr After the Battle of Sekigahara, Ikeda Terumasa becomes the lord of Himeji Castle.
1601 Keicho 6th yr Ikeda Terumasa begins the construction of the current Himeji Castle and completes it after 9 years.
1617 Genwa 3rd yr Ikeda Mitsumasa is transferred to Tottori Castle. Honda Tadamasa becomes the lord of Himeji Castle and builds San-no-maru (the Third Bailey), Nishi-no-maru (the West Bailey) and some other structures.
1639 Kanei 16th yr Matsudaira Tadaakira becomes the lord of Himeji Castle.
1649 Keian 2nd yr Sakakibara Tadatsugu becomes the lord of Himeji Castle. And later, the Matsudaira clan, the Honda clan and the Sakakibara clan succeed Himeji Castle.
1749 Kanen 2nd yr Sakai Tadazumi is transferred from the Maebashi domain to Himeji. Since then the Sakai clan takes control Himeji Castle until the Meiji Restoration.
1869 Meiji 2nd yr Sakai Tadakuni returns the land and people in Himeji to the emperor. Accordingly, Himeji Castle is nationalized.
1931 Showa 6th yr The Main keep of Himeji Castle is designated as a National Treasure (previous version of National Treasure)
1951 Showa 26th yr Himeji castle is designated as a National Treasure.
1956 Showa 31st yr Dismantling and repairing of the Main keep and other structures begins and is completed after 8 years. (“The Showa Era Restoration”)
1964 Showa 39th yr “The Showa Era Restoration” is completed.
1993 Heisei 5th yr Himeji Castle is registered on the list of UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage Site.
2009 Heisei 21st yr Maintenance and repair of the Main keep begins. (“The Heisei Era Restoration”)

The List of Successors of Himeji Castle

It was in 1333 (Genko 3rd yr) when the fort was first built on top of Hime-yama Hill under the Akamatsu Family’s rule.
Since then, Himeji Castle has been succeeded by 48 lords from 13 families and has never been attacked.
After the Akamatsu’s government, the castle was expanded as an important base to control Saigoku (the western part of Japan) by Hashiba Hideyoshi, Ikeda Terumasa and Honda Tadamasa.
The whole castle which is seen today was completed in 1617 (Genna 3rd yr) in the peaceful era after the Age of Civil War.

Lords of Himeji Castle Years of Succession
池田輝政 Ikeda Terumasa 1600 Keicho 5th yr
池田利隆 Ikeda Toshitaka 1613 Keicho 18th yr
池田光政 Ikeda Mitsumasa 1616 Genna 2nd yr
本多忠政 Honda Tadamasa 1617 Genna 3rd yr
本多政朝 Honda Masatomo 1631 Kanei 8th yr
本多政勝 Honda Masakatsu 1638 Kanei 15th yr
松平忠明 Matsudaira Tadaaki 1639 Kanei 16th yr
松平忠弘 Matsudaira Tadahiro 1644 Shoho 1st yr
松平直基 Matsudaira Naomoto 1648 Keian 1st yr
松平直矩 Matsudaira Naonori 1648 Keian 1st yr
榊原忠次 Sakakibara Tadatsugu 1649 Keian 2nd yr
榊原政房 Sakakibara Masafusa 1665 Kambun 5th yr
松平直矩 Matsudaira Naonori 1667 Kambun 7th yr
本多忠国 Honda Tadakuni 1682 Tenna 2nd yr
本多忠孝 Honda Tadataka 1704 Hoei 1st yr
榊原政邦 Sakakibara Masakuni 1704 Hoei 1st yr
榊原政祐 Sakakibara Masasuke 1726 Kyoho 11th yr
榊原政岑 Sakakibara Masamine 1732 Kyoho 17th yr
榊原政永 Sakakibara Masanaga 1741 Kanpo 1st yr
松平明矩 Matsudaira Akinori 1741 Kanpo 1st yr
松平朝矩 Matsudaira Tomonori 1748 Kanen 1st yr
酒井忠恭 Sakai Tadazumi 1749 Kanen 2nd yr
酒井忠以 Sakai Tadazane 1772 Anei 1st yr
酒井忠道 Sakai Tadahiro 1790 Kansei 2nd yr
酒井忠実 Sakai Tadamitsu 1814 Bunka 11th yr
酒井忠学 Sakai Tadanori 1835 Tempo 6th yr
酒井忠宝 Sakai Tadatomi 1844 Koka 1st yr
酒井忠顕 Sakai Tadateru 1853 Kaei 6th yr
酒井忠績 Sakai Tadashige 1860 Manen 1st yr
酒井忠惇 Sakai Tadato 1867 Keio 3rd yr
酒井忠邦 Sakai Tadakuni 1868 Meiji 1st yr

The Legends of Himeji Castle

The legends of Himeji Castle are featured on this site.

The Origin of the Name Himeji

A full view of Hime-yama Hill (from the north side)

 

 

The Origin of the Name “Himeji” 

 

The name of “Himeji” derives from “Himeji-oka (Himeji Hill)” in “Harima-no-kuni-fudoki” (The Topography, or the Record, of the Harima Region).
In the mythological age, Onamuchi-no-mikoto, or Okuninushi-no-mikoto (a Deity of Nation-building, Agriculture and Medicine) had a son named Hoakari-no-mikoto.
Hoakari-no-mikoto was so violent that Onamuchi-no-mikoto decided to abandon him on an island when they were at sea.
However, Hoakari-no-mikoto, noticing the boat leaving the island without him, caused the boat to be wrecked by the wind and waves which he created in a fit of rage.
Then, each of the 14 hills where the boat and loads drifted ashore was given a name such as “Funa-oka (Boat Hill)”, “Inu-oka (Dog Hill)”, “Hako-oka (Box Hill)”, “Koto-oka (Harp Hill)” and “Himeji-oka”.
“Himeji-oka” was named after the place where “Himeko” drifted ashore, and later “Himeji-oka” was said to be changed into the present “Hime-yama Hill” on which Himeji Castle stands.
“Himeko” is silk taken from the cocoons of silkworms, and it was called “Himeji” in an ancient dialect.
The use of the word “Himeji” as the name of the area was first found in the literature on the construction of Himeji Castle and its castle town by the order of Ikeda Terumasa, the lord of Himeji Castle, in the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1867).

Sakakibara Sodo(the Sakibara Disturbance)

“Himeji Yukata Matsuri (Himeji Summer Kimono Festival)”, a traditional festival founded by Sakakibara Masamine and passed down today

 

 

Sakakibara Sodo (the Sakakibara Disturbance)

 

One of the lords of Himeji Castle, Sakakibara Masamine was a devout religious and tender-hearted person, and is known as the founder of Yukata Festival.
However, according to the legend, after he was refused permission by the Tokugawa Shogunate to go to Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine as a representative worshipper for the Shogun, he began to indulge in drinking and womanizing and made frequent visits to Yoshiwara (the licensed red-light district).
He redeemed Takao-Dayu, the famous beautiful courtesan. He took her back to Himeji, and set her up in Nishi-yashiki (literally: the west residence).
Finally, the Shogunate which issued a thrift ordinance at that time came to know about his extravagant behavior and denounced him.
Later, Masamine was ordered to retire at a young age in his twenties.
The Sakakibara Family was demoted to the lord of Echigo Takada (a smaller domain than Himeji) and Masamine moved there with Takao.

The Death of Sakurai Genbei, a Master Carpenter

“Ukiyo-e, Mashiba Hisayoshi-ko’s Construction of Himeji Castle in Banshu Province” by Utagawa Sadahide

 

(Ukiyo-e are Japanese traditional woodblock prints or paintings.)
(Utagawa Sadahide is a famous Ukiyo-e artist, around 1807 - around 1879.)
(Mashiba Hisayoshi-ko is a parody of Toyotomi Hideyoshi who was the actual powerful feudal lord.)
 

 

The Death of Sakurai Gembei, a Master Carpenter

 

When Himeji Castle was constructed by the command of Ikeda Terumasa, the first lord of the Himeji Domain, a man committed suicide by jumping from one of the newly built keeps.
The man’s name was Sakurai Gembei who was a master carpenter in the construction of Himeji Castle.
The Lord Terumasa ordered him to construct Himeji Castle and after his 9-year labor, Himeji Castle was finally completed.
However, in spite of Gembei’s great efforts, the Main keep seemed to incline slightly in the Tatsumi (southeast) direction.
When he climbed up the Main keep with his wife, she said to him, “This is a magnificent castle but I’m afraid to say that the castle leans a little.”
He was astonished at her words and thought, “Even my wife noticed an inclination. I must have made a mistake in the measurements.”
Before long, it is said that he threw himself from the keep with a chisel in his mouth.
The dismantlement and repairs in later eras proved that the castle actually inclined to the southeast direction, but the real cause of the inclination was not Gembei’s fault but the subsidence of the east and west stone walls.

Okiku shrine and Okiku-ido(the Well of Okiku)

Top: Okiku Shrine
Bottom: Okiku-ido (the Well of Okiku)

 

 

Okiku-ido (the Well of Okiku) 

 

The legend says that “Okiku-ido” in a square called Kamiyama-zato-maru in Himeji Castle is the well which is the site of a famous ghost story “Banshu Sara-yashiki”.
In the Eisho era (1504-1521), Aoyama Tessan was a regent of the lord of the castle, Kodera Norimoto, and Tessan plotted to take over his master’s castle.
Kinugasa Motonobu, a faithful retainer of the castle lord, noticed Tessan’s intrigue and sent Okiku, Motonobu’s lover, to the Aoyama Family to serve as a maid but she was actually a spy.
However, the Aoyama Family’s coup d'état was successfully carried out in spite of Okiku’s effort.
After the coup d'état, Okiku stayed with the Aoyama Family in order to send information to Motonobu who defected to Tatsuno (the area to the west of Himeji).
Finally, Chonotsubo Danshiro realized that Okiku was a spy, and tried to force her to marry, taking advantage of her weakness.
But Okiku would not accept his proposal of marriage.
Danshiro got so angry that he hid one of 10 dishes which were part of the Kodera family’s treasure, and laid the blame on Okiku.
She was killed and her body was thrown into the well.
Since then, it is said that Okiku’s sad voice can be heard from the well every night, counting dishes, “One, two ……”.
Later, Norimoto’s faithful retainers including Motonobu destroyed Tessan and his warriors.
Okiku is enshrined as “Okiku Dai-myojin (the Deity Okiku)” at Okiku Shrine in the precinct of Jyuni-sho Shrine.

Uba-ga-ishi (The Old Window's Stone)

 

Uba-ga-ishi (The Old Widow’s Stone)

 

 

While Hashiba Hideyoshi was constructing the three layered keeps on Hime-yama Hill, he had difficulty finding stones to build the stone walls in the castle.
A poor old lady who made her living by selling Yaki-mochi (toasted rice cakes) heard about it, and submitted her old millstone, saying, “I hope my millstone may be of some help to build the castle, though this is tiny and old”.
Hideyoshi was very pleased with her millstone and used it as a part of the northern stone wall of the Inui Ko-tenshu (small keep).
Later, the construction of the castle was said to go smoothly with stones eagerly contributed by many people after hearing about the old woman’s millstone.

Osakabe Shrire

Osakabe Shrine on the top floor of the main keep.

 

 

Miyamoto Musashi’s Extermination of a Monster

 

While Kinoshita Iesada (1543-1608) was the lord of Himeji Castle, Miyamoto Musashi stopped over at Himeji and became an Ashigaru (a temporary foot soldier) without revealing his real name to anyone.
In those days, there was a rumor that a monster appeared in Himeji Castle, but Musashi kept night watch without being afraid of the monster.
The chief retainer heard about Musashi, a renowned master of martial arts.
He was welcomed as a guest by the Kinoshita family and was ordered to exterminate the monster.
One night, Musashi was climbing up the Main keep with a light in his hand.
Suddenly fire burst out around him and the castle shook with a terrible sound as if in an earthquake when he was on the stairs to the third floor.
He put his hand on his sword and it became quiet again in the castle.
The same thing happened on the stairs to the 4th floor, but he climbed up to the top of the Main keep without being afraid and watched until dawn.
A beautiful princess appeared before him saying, “I am the guardian deity of this castle, Osakabe-myojin. The monster was afraid of you and ran away. Therefore, I will reward you with this treasured sword”, and she then disappeared.
An excellent sword made by Go-no-Yoshihiro (a famous master sword-maker) was left behind in front of Musashi in a box of plain wood.

Hiyoku-zuka(The lover's Grave)

Hiyoku-zuka (The Lover’s Grave)

 

 

Onatsu and Seijuro

 

Seijuro was a good-looking man from a family of a sake (Japanese rice fermented wine) brewery in Murotsu (a small port town in Tatsuno City), and was raised in plenty.
For some reason, he started to work as a servant in Tajima-ya, a rice wholesaler at Hommachi in Himeji when he was 19 years old.
Seijuro’s employer was the father of a beautiful daughter, Onatsu.
Before long, Seijuro and Onatsu had fallen in love with each other, but they were forbidden to see each other so they could not help but run away together.
However, they were caught, and Seijuro was accused falsely of theft and executed at the young age of 25.
Onatsu was so sad that she went mad and roamed the streets seeking Seijuro.
This story was spread throughout the country through novels and plays by many writers such as Ihara Saikaku and Chikamatsu Monzaemon.
Hiyoku-zuka (the Lover’s grave) was built in Keiun-ji Temple in Nozato to appease the spirits of these two tragic lovers.