Himeji Castle's history began when Akamatsu Sadanori, a supporter of Shogun Ashikaga Takauji , was named military governor of the province of Harima (present-day Hyogo Prefecture) and built a hilltop fortification in 1346 where the castle stands today. After Oda Nobunaga's forces seized control of the province during the sengoku warring states period, one of his top generals, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, started work on a three storied castle, which soon got a major makeover when Ikeda Terumasa was awarded control over the area following the battle of Sekigahara in 1600.
Ikeda was a master castle builder and reconstructed the compound into what we see today, constructing the five-storied keep and the walls and structures surrounding the three moats. Honda Tadamasa became lord of the area in 1617 and a year later built the west bailey. The main keep, including the stone foundation, is 46.3m tall and weighs approximately 5,700 tons. 8 of the buildings, including the main keep, are National Treasures and 74 other structures are listed as Important Cultural Properties. Miraculously, Himeji-jō never fell victim to the flames of war or natural disaster and is one of Japan's 12 original surviving castles. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
The castle underwent major restoration work in 1956 through 1964. However, in order to keep this architectural treasure in pristine condition, a more thorough restoration of the main keep started in October 2009 and it was reopened in March 2015.