We have much more to share on Tokyo, which we will get to when we return there next week, and are still building up our blog content on Kyoto, but yesterday we day tripped from Kyoto to Hemiji to tour the Hemiji Castle. The castle walls are completely covered with white plaster made from slaked lime, shell ash, hemp fiber and seaweed. The castle has seven stories but appears to have five from the outside. You can climb to the top up steep and increasingly narrow stairways (no shoes allowed, only socks, but they give you plastic bags for carrying your shoes) for a great view of the surrounding area and of Hemiji.
The first castle in this area was built in 1346, then called Himeyama Castle which replaced a fort built on Himeyama hill. The five story, seven floor keep (pictured) was completed in 1609. Between the 1300s and the return of power to the emperor in 1867, the castle was under the control of various shoguns.
The castle has fortunately survived earthquakes, abandonment, wars and bombing during World War II when the town of Hemiji was completely destroyed, but the castle remained intact. The main keep was recently restored (completed last year) and there are other restoration projects ongoing which are expected to be complete in 2023. The castle was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, one of the first to be designated as such in Japan. Definitely worth a side trip to visit (1 hour on the bullet train) if you have time in your itinerary in Kyoto.
For more history visit: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himeji_Castle.