Viewing the White Egret


On the way home from Tottori we stopped at the famous Himeji Castle in the Hyogo prefecture. It is an UNESCO world heritage site and the finest example of the classic Japanese feudal period architecture. We arrived too late in the day to enter, but we did admire it from the substantial grounds surrounding it. It is called the “white heron” or “white egret” because with the roof gables give it the appearance of the white bird taking off in flight.

Castles are always funny to me in that people don’t realize all the awful things that took place on the site. They are usually the sites of great battles where men died and if the raid successful, the women and children enslaved. Because it happened so long ago however, people look at them for the architecture and history, but not the tragic human story. Himeji is no exception to this rule and since it was originally built in the 1300s, probably many people died fighting for control of the castle and the town. It is built on a hill and dominates the city.

It is remarkable that it is still standing. During World War II, a bomb landed on the roof but failed to detonate, meanwhile the entire city was destroyed by the allies. It survived the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995, while once again, many buildings in the city were destroyed. Earlier, it was almost demolished and developed by the locals, but the expense of tearing it down, prevented various parties throughout history from doing so.

I am glad that it remained standing and perhaps if we are in the area, we will return to go inside. We found several geocaches around the castle and despite the rainy night, it was a good time. I want to thank the Tsubaki and Marce families for coming with us!



Trakai Island Castle


I am in Lithuania for a basketball tourney and I took time out to visit the famous tourist attraction. The castle is located on a small island in a lake about 30 kilometers outside of the capital Vilnius. My friend Metin and his driver Hakan, were gracious hosts and they showed me the site.

It was very strange in that Lithuania looks very much like my home of northern Michigan. With the mixed pine forests, rolling hills, and numerous lakes, I felt like I was back in my beloved Upper Peninsula of Michigan. But we don’t have castles from the 14th century! What a juxtaposition in my psyche.

The castle is completely renovated and several of the rooms are now used to house museum pieces and explain the history of the site. There is also a small restaurant serving a pasty-like local delicacy. It gave me a feeling of how it must have been so long ago. It would have been quite scary to live in the castle, surrounded by miles of thick forests. The castle was sacked by the Teutonic Knights (Germans) in 1377 and the site of civil war between LIthuanian ruling brothers.

I spent some time in the stocks (below) and want to take one back for my school. It would serve as a deterrent for bad behavior. 🙂 The place must be even more beautiful in the summer.

A big thanks to Metin for an interesting afternoon!