KÖBE — After five and a half years under wraps, restoration of the 17th-century Himeji Castle has finally been completed. A government celebration ceremony was held at the UNESCO — United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — World Heritage Site in western Japan a day before the historic castle reopened to the public.
The extensive restoration work, which included replacing roof tiles and repainting the outer walls, began in October 2009. The work enabled the castle, which is a national treasure also known as shirasagi-jo, or Eglet Castle, to regain its elegant appearance with its white plastered earthen walls. The castle’s main donjon — or central six-floor tower — was built in 1609.
In 1993, Himeji Castle became Japan’s first UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. This is the first time it has been renovated since its last major reconstruction in 1964.
“Himeji Castle stands today, thanks to the passion of people living nearby,” said Masanori Aoyagi, head of the Cultural Affairs Agency, at the ceremony. “The story of the major renovation work this time will be passed down to the next generation.”
“Blue Impulse,” Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force’s air aerobatic and precision flying team, flew over the castle to in celebration of the completion of the restoration work.
Himeji city officials expect 1.8 million people to visit the castle in fiscal 2015, which started April 1. The city also signed an agreement with the operator of Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle to cross-promote the two castles.