Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture
Often said to be Japan's best example of a complete fortress castle, Himeji Castle is a picturesque beauty, sitting atop a hill in Hyogo Prefecture. It is often referred to as either a white egret or heron, referring to its white exterior and elegant shape, much like a great bird in flight.
Some of the castle's 83 buildings have been destroyed, but the main structures have been preserved for over 400 years. It is Japan's largest and most visited castle and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993.
I used to teach 25 years ago at a small school located near the castle. I took a bus from the station closest to it, looking up at it in the afternoon sunset and then lit up in the night sky as I returned to the station after the class ended. That was before the castle became a World Heritage Site, but I remember thinking then that it was one of the most magnificent sights I'd ever seen.
But perhaps almost as incredible as the original is a replica of Himeji Castle, built by a man living in Ise, Mie Prefecture. The man, Hiroyasu Imura, spent 19 years and nearly 20 million yen building the 1:23 miniature in his yard. The replica not only faithfully replicates the currently standing Castle, but all of the original buildings that have been destroyed.
I watched a TV program a few years ago about Mr. Imura, but apparently his replica has itself become a tourist attraction. I can understand why. Even at that scale, the replica is over 160 square meters in size. In a photograph, I doubt that many people would be able to tell the difference.