It’s only the second day in the city and it felt like I’ve been here for a week. That’s how much there was to see in this ancient capital.
Day 2 listed more Unesco World Heritage Sites to visit. First up: the Nijo Castle.
The flatland castle is located a couple of blocks from the Karasuma Street and it’s easily accessed via Subway Tozai. Tourists would know which station to get off, the stop is named after the castle, Nijo.
Nijo-jo has two special designations: it is one of the 17 Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1994.
The 1603-built Nijo Castle was the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu. It was completed 23 years after, in 1626, during the reign of Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa Shogun, with the addition of Momoyama period-built structures transferred from Fushimi Castle.
With its architectural design and commissioned artworks, Nijo Castle’s is said to represent one of the finest examples of early Edo period and Momoyama culture in Japan.
Nijo Castle became the property of the Imperial family after the 15th Tokugawa Shogun, Yoshinobu, returned sovereignty to the Emperor in 1867.
It was renamed Nijo Detached Palace in 1884, then to Nijo Castle, in 1939 when it was donated to the City of Kyoto.
Nijo Castle has two concentric rings of fortifications, each consisting of a wide oat and wall. Entry to the castle is after the outer moat and through the Higashi Ote-mon (main gate).
Ninomaru Castle is a National Treasure. It is accessible through the Kara-mon, the entrance the secondary circle of defense (Ninomaru).
The 3,300 square meter structure, in shoi-zukuri architectural style, consists of five interconnected buildings with 33 rooms used as reception chambers, offices and shogun’s living quarters.
Features of the castle: more than 800 tatami mats, lavish quantities of gold leaf and elaborate wood carvings are used as decorations to impress visitors with the power and wealth of the shoguns; paintings of the artists of the Kano School adorn the sliding doors (fusuma) and of each room; and “Nightingale floors” (uguisubari), boards that squeak like birds when walked on, are used in the corridors to protect the occupants from sneak attacks and assassins.
Ninomaru Garden is designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. The original garden is said to be the creation of a landscape architect and tea master, Kobori Enshu.
At the center of the large scale garden’s pond are three islands: the larger formation represents Jorai-jima (The island of eternal happiness), flanked by two smaller formations, which represents Tsuru-jima (Crane Island) and Kame-jima (Turtle Island).
Honmaru Palace. The 1,600-square meter complex in the Edo period architectural style is composed of living quarters, reception, entrance halls and kitchen area, all of which are connected by corridors and courtyards.
The Honmaru Palace’s was added to the castle complex in 1926 with a five-story donjon (castle tower) as part of its design. It was destroyed by fire in 1788. Replacing the original structure, one part of the former Katsura Palace (former Imperial Palace) within the Kyoto Imperial Garden was moved to the Nijojo.
Paintings by famous masters, including Kano Eigaku, are displayed in the palace.
This part of the complex, though, is closed.
Seiyu-en Garden. The interesting feature of the sprawling 1965-constructed garden is the two teahouses, Koun-tei and Waraku-an, which were brought from the villa of a wealthy merchant. These teahouses are used for receptions for honored guests.
Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.