Monday, September 29, 2014

Kyoto Trip: Nijo Castle

The Nijo Castle quickly became another favorite spot of Peter's and mine.  It was incredible with its giant walls, two motes, beautiful grounds and gardens, and fascinating architecture.  And what's crazy is that it is located pretty much right in the center of downtown Kyoto.  (Obviously the "Kyoto" we know today was built around this castle, but it is still incredible to be driving down a busy street and see an incredibly large wall pop up surrounding an ancient castle!)

The Nijo Castle belonged to the first shogun of the Edo Period, and it's easy to tell of the wealth and power that he held.  The security of the castle and its other buildings was immense; we couldn't stop fathoming at the size of the stone walls surrounding the grounds.  I can't imagine what it must have been like to build such structures without our modern machinery--no wonder it took 25 years to complete!  Seeing and thinking about these things really just made this castle even more awe-inspiring.

We weren't allowed to take pictures inside of the castle, but it was beautiful--in a very clean and sleek way.  There was not a piece of furniture in the entire palace, but instead, each room was laden with tatami mats, the ceilings were decorated, and the sliding doors were beautifully painted.  The building is made up of 5 separate buildings that are all connected.  Visitors to the shogun were only allowed in the outer-most rooms, with closer and more intimate guests being allowed in the inner rooms, and only the shogun's female guests were allowed in his personal chambers in the center.  What was most interesting to me about the Nijo Castle were the secret doors built into some of the rooms for the shogun's bodyguard to sneak in through in order to protect him, and the "nightingale floors" throughout the castle that squeaked when walked upon so that no one could ever sneak in and attack.  We told Will that this castle was a ninja castle for those reasons :)

This is a picture from beneath the floorboards, showing the metal pieces that create the creaking when walked upon.

Visiting the Nijo Castle almost didn't make our list of things to do in Kyoto, but I'm so glad that we changed our plans and went!  It really was so awesome and made me want to learn more about shoguns, samurai, etc. and to read the classic, Shogun, by James Clavell :)

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