6-14-2012 4:43:42 PM
Thursday, June 14th
We woke up at our nice hotel and went to the Himeji Castle. We figured that this castle would not take long, given how many castles we have seen. Himeji was under construction and would not be done for two more years. They are repairing plaster and tile work. As we came up to the castle and purchased our tickets, there was a Japanese guide and a German girl named Ivy waiting nearby. They asked us to join their English tour of the castle. The castle itself was under a large scaffold, but you could walk around all of the inner walls, inside the outer wall, and go up to the top of the castle to an observation deck. Himeji Castle was interesting because the builder designed Himeji with defense in mind. Many of the paths could trick attacking armies into going the wrong way and being led from the castle and into an ambush. Or the paths were constructed to bottle-neck soldiers near gates and not give enough room for battering rams. There were also gates that you could pull the supports and topple on enemies.
There was also a sad story of Princess Sen. Princess Sen was married off when she was 7 in a political marriage to Toyotomi Hideyori, who was only a few years older than her. Even though this marriage was supposed to ensure peace between the Toyotomi clan and the Tokugawa clan, her grandfather still besieged Osaka Castle when she was 19. As Osaka Castle was burning down, Hideyori committed suicide. Princess Sen was going to die until her grandfather told Sakazaki Naomori that he could marry Sen if he rescued her. Sakazaki rushed into the building and saved Sen from the flames at the cost of getting horribly burned himself.
Sen then went back to Tokyo with her grandfather. He told her that she would have to marry the burned Sakazaki, but she refused. She had met a young man on her travels to Tokyo named Honda Tadatoki. Princess Sen had always done what her grandfather asked, so when she showed such passion for this man, her grandfather was moved and let her marry him.
The badly burnt Sakazaki was infuriated and wanted to try to steal back Sen, but when his plot was prevented, he killed himself. Sen and Tadatoki were married and lived happily together in Himeji Castle. Tadatoki built Sen a whole wing where she could rest and walk through gardens and enjoy herself. They had two children together, a boy and a girl. When the boy was three, he got sick and died. Tadatoki contracted tuberculosis and both he and his mother died soon after. The bereaved Princess Sen cut off her hair and became a nun for the rest of her life. Her daughter was eventually married off to a high ranking nobleman.
And there is the story of Okiku’s Well. So apparently, at some point, a nobleman was plotting to kill the lord of the castle and take over. A maiden who lived in the castle overheard him and told the lord of the castle. The plotters got away, but learned that the maiden was the one responsible for their plot being discovered. Since the maiden was now one of the lord’s favorites, she was put in charge of the lord’s heirloom family plates, which were magnificent treasures. There were ten, but when she went to count them one night, there were only nine for the plotters had stolen one, knowing the blame would be put on her. She was tortured and killed, and her body was thrown into this well where every night around midnight, a voice can be heard counting to nine… then a pitiful scream is released as ten is never reached.
After Himeji, Chris and I went to Hiroshima late and found our hotel, Chisun.