Himeji Castle was originally built in 1346 by Akamatsu Sadanori as a fortification against local shoguns. After the emperor, Nobunaga Oda, took control of the Harima district in 1577, he placed Hideyoshi in control of the castle, who converted the fortified building into a castle with over 30 turrets.

In 1601, Ikeda Terumasa (1564-1613) was handed control of Himeji Castle as a gift for his support of Ieyasu Tokugawa in the Sekigahara battle against the Toyotomi Daimyo. He intended to model the castle after the emperor's own castle at Azuchi. He undertook a nine year construction program, at the end of which Himeji Castle assumed its present day form. The area which Terumasa ruled over, the districts of Harima, Bizen, and Awaji, was filled with sympathizers of the Toyotomi clan. Thus Himeji Castle played a crucial role in enabling Terumasa to assert his rule over the districts. Some historians believe over 25,000,000 man days were spent on the construction of the castle, which included a five-storied tenshu and a middle and outer moat. Materials from Hideyoshi's old fortress were used in the construction of the castle which was ironically used to prevent Hideyoshi's son from communicating with the lords in the west. Several families took control of the castle after Terumasa, including the Honda, Okudaira, Matsudaira, Sakakibara, and Sakai.

Himeji Castle was never actually used in a battle and thus has remained in its present shape for over three hundred years. In 1931 it was designated a national treasure. After several aborted attempts, restoration work began in 1956 and was completed in 1964. It 1993 it was put on the list of UNESCO World Cultural and Heritage Sites.

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