Around 1,000 people, including citizen volunteers and Ground Self-Defense Force rangers, jointly engaged Wednesday in an annual end-of-year cleaning operation at Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site in western Japan.

On the walls of the castle -- also known as "Egret Castle" for its white-plastered earthen walls -- standing about 45 meters above ground and 90 meters above sea level, elite GSDF rangers roped up to wipe off spider nests and dust with 5-meter-long brooms.

Citizens and other Self-Defense Forces personnel picked weeds and rubbish in squares and gardens.

First Lt. Daisuke Sakai, 36, head of a GSDF ranger unit, said, "We want to make the castle pure white ahead of the new year, just as its nickname suggests."

The castle built in 1609 was recognized by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as Japan's first World Cultural Heritage site in 1993.