Photo/IllutrationThe west room on the second floor of Himeji Castle’s Oremawari Yagura turret is lined with tatami straw mats. The square-shaped openings on the lower part of the wall, right, are “sama” (embrasures, or arrow/gun openings) with lids. (Koji Takahashi)

  • Photo/Illustraion

HIMEJI, Hyogo Prefecture--Himeji Castle is opening its “bent around turret” for public viewing for the first time in eight years for the month of February.

Oremawari Yagura, which literally means “bent around turret” in Japanese, is one of the 74 government-designated important cultural properties at the castle, which is also designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It was last shown to the public for one week in November 2009.

The 9.3-meter-tall structure, built in a “nagaya” (long house) style, measures 16.4 meters east to west and 5.6 to 7 meters north to south.

The main keep’s stone wall serves as a wall on the west side of the turret, and the east side is connected to the Bizenmon gate.

The first floor of the two-story structure contains a warehouse space. The second floor houses the east, middle and west rooms, whose pillars are made of “hinoki” cypress.

Elsewhere in the castle, hinoki is used almost exclusively for the top floor of the main keep, according to Shigehiro Kudo, 54, a curator with the Himeji Center for Research into Castles and Fortifications.

“It is thought that a vassal close to the domain lord used (the second floor) as a parlor,” he said. “Although the lord’s palace doesn’t exist today, I hope everyone will see the building that has the atmosphere of the palace.”

For the public viewing, the west room has been lined with tatami straw mats, the “kamoi” lintel beam relacquered, and the plated metal pull handles for the “fusuma” sliding doors replaced with new ones.

In addition, “washi” traditional Japanese paper originally developed by the feudal Himeji Domain (present-day Himeji) for official use has been used for the “shoji” paper screen sliding doors.

About 40 citizens made the paper using the “ganpi” plant from nearby Mount Shoshazan last summer. The volunteers replaced the paper on the shoji screens under the lead of Kazuharu Umeoka, a “hyogu-shi” (picture mounter) who was selected as “gendai no meiko” (contemporary master craftsman) by the government.

The turret played a role of preventing attacks on Bizen-maru, an open space in which the lord’s palace once stood.

It has openings with lids, called “sama” (embrasure), for soldiers to fire at enemies using bows and guns. There are 14 sama on the north side of the second floor and 10 on the east side.

Access to Himeji Castle costs 1,000 yen ($9) for adults and 300 yen for elementary, junior and senior high school students.

For inquiries, visit the official website at (