Photo/IllutrationA CGI reconstruction of the Muko Yashiki mansion’s garden that once belonged to Himeji Castle’s Sannomaru Palace (Provided by the Himeji city education board)

  • Photo/Illustraion

HIMEJI, Hyogo Prefecture--Through the magic of computer-generated imagery, Himeji Castle’s long-lost magnificent garden and dazzling palace have been brought back to life in vibrant colors after almost 150 years.

Both the garden and the palace were demolished when the Imperial Japanese Army built barracks there in the early Meiji Era (1868-1912).

Today, the garden that existed at the Sannomaru Palace and the Gohonjo palace decorated with gorgeously gilded “fusuma-e” sliding door paintings can be seen again digitally.

The CGI project was carried out by a committee founded to create a guide tool for the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The committee comprises researchers and experts from University of Hyogo, Fukui University of Technology and Chiba University’s graduate school, who responded to a request from the Himeji city education board. The members spent three years completing the CGI images after they received subsidies from the Agency for Cultural Affairs and started working in fiscal 2015.

“The CGI images turned out to be realistic,” said Sakuho Shiga, professor emeritus at University of Hyogo who served as head of the project committee. “We’d like people to feel that the main keep is not the only attraction of Himeji Castle.”

According to the committee, the digitally restored facilities are the Sannomaru Muko Yashiki mansion’s garden, which was part of the Sannomaru Palace (currently an area around the Sannomaru Square) that stood south of the main keep, and the Gohonjo palace. Both facilities were apparently built by Honda Tadamasa (1575-1631), who became lord of the Himeji Domain in 1617.

Complete with a waterfall and a pond, the garden was also equipped with a wisteria trellis and a teahouse for the lord to invite and entertain guests. The Gohonjo palace, which stood west of the garden, boasted a large “Tsuru-no-ma” (crane room) floored with at least 100 “tatami” straw mats and the “Tora-no-ma” (tiger room) measuring 36 tatami mats. Adorned with gilded fusuma-e paintings featuring cranes and tigers, the lavish rooms were believed to have symbolized the power of the ruler.

To create the CGI reconstruction of the garden, the project members researched illustrations of the castle apparently drawn in or around 1700 during the early Edo Period (1603-1867) and entries from a diary written by Sakai Tadazane (1755-1790), who was dubbed “Chajin Daimyo” (tea master warlord), when the domain ruler invited guests.

The members also turned to the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto and other materials for reference.

For the fusuma-e paintings, they referred to the brush strokes of Kano Tanyu (1602-1674), one of the leading painters from the Edo Period, and also drawings of Nijo Castle in Kyoto and Nagoya Castle.

Parts of the CGI reconstructions are shown in an official guidebook for Himeji Castle published by the city government in December last year and are also available on the Himeji Castle Archive website at (http://himeji-jyokaku.jp/).