Day 13, part 1: Kyoto Nijo Castle

The day 13 was so long and full of visits that we decided to split it into several posts.

It all started with a breakfast, of course. The day before we ordered a breakfast in our ryokan to see how good was the kitchen.

breakfast in ryokan
That's how our traditional Japanese breakfast looked like.

breakfast in ryokan
View from the side.

It consisted of tamago (egg) rolls, some salmon, vegetable salad, rice, miso soup, picklings to the rice, tiny white fish and some other things we no longer remember.

In fact we were not totally satisfied with the breakfast, the taste was pretty strange in some of the dishes, even though I realize it was supposed to be local food. The rice with picklings was great, though.

Then we headed towards our first location of the day - Nijo Castle. According to a map it was not all that far away so we opted for a walk.

Delimited staircase in subway
Staircase from underground passage with a directions delimiter. I wonder why people going down would always need more space than people going up?

Pretty close to the castle we stumbled upon some garden and shrine area that is called Shinsen-en.

Shinsen-en pond bridge
The garden also had a pond of course, with some bridges crossing it.

Dove in Shinsen-en garden

Ducks in Shinsen-en
Aside from normal waterfowl like wooden ducks we also found white domestic ducks there. And it seems they were totally not afraid of people.

Shinsen-en pond
A dragon-boat!

Water faucet in Shinsen-en
Buddha near a water source.

feeding water fowl in Shinsen-en

A girl in Shinsen-en
As we were walking around the garden grounds, a couple of families with children appeared and started to feed the ducks in the pond. Immediately quite a ruckus ensued, ducks started to fight between themselves and with the fish for the pieces of bread.

Shinsen-en pond
Shinsen-en from another side of the pond.

Shinsen-en shrine
Another shrine in Shinsen-en.

Nijo-jo turret
Then we continued our walk to the castle in after another block we saw a corner turret on the castle wall.

Outer moat
The castle is surrounded by a moat of course.

Tickets to Nijo-jo
Main entrance gate (Higashi-Ote-mon) and the entrance tickets. Admission cost is 600 yen per person.

Outer moat near main gate
The moat view from the entrance.

Main gate from inside
The entrance gate structure from behind.

Ninomaru garden wall from outside
The wall that separates entrance area and Ninomaru garden.

Outer wall turret from inside

Outer wall turret from inside
The corner turret from the castle yard.

Kara-mon gate
This gate is the main gate to the Ninomaru garden, it's called Kara-mon.

Kara-mon gate

Kara-mon gate
The gate is richly decorated.

Ninomaru palace
Behind the gate in the garden is Ninomaru palace.

The palace and the castle were started to be built in 1603 by first Tokugawa Shogun soon after he won a decisive battle near Sekigahara. The castle is a fine example of the early Edo period and Momoyama culture in Japan. It is full of rich pictures yet pretty simple inside. The palace consists of more than 33 room, total area is over 800 tatami. The building was finished in 1626 by third Tokugawa Shogun. More info about the castle on Wikipedia and on this website

Unfortunately the photography was strictly forbidden inside. But at least it was a real Japanese castle inside as well with various interestign features, for example the floors in the corridor were making a squeaking sound no matter how you try to avoid it. Anti-sneaking measure, I guess.

Also somewhat unexpectedly guests were asked to remove their shoes before entering the palace.

Inner yard in Ninomaru palce
A rare spot inside where the photography was allowed since we technically went outside. This is just outside of Shiro-Shoin area - Shogun's living quarters.

Shiro Shoin (Shogun's libing quarters)
A peek into inside of the Shogun's living quarters. There are some figures inside depicting the day.

Ninomaru palace
And so here we are back outside.

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Enter a group of schoolchildren.

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A group shot in front of the palace.

Ninomaru Palace
Palace with more details out of HDR processing and with some help from the sun.

The palace is located in the Ninomaru garden built in shoin zukuri style. It has a pond with three islands and with a lot of scenic rocks, also a waterfall.

Ninomaru garden pond

Ninomaru garden pond

Waterfall in Ninomaru garden

Ninomaru garden pond

Ninomaru garden pond

Waterfall in Ninomaru garden

Ninomaru garden pond

Ninomaru garden pond and waterfall

Ninomaru garden pond
Pictures of the garden, pond and waterfall.

Gate in the inner wall
Behind a second, inner wall and moat is Honmaru (inner) garden and palace.

In Honmaru Garden
Part of Honmaru garden.

Honmaru Palace
A section of Honmaru palace. Though originally built in 1626, the original buildings were lost in lighting strikes and city-fires, the current structure was rebuilt 1847. The original donjon at a corner of the inner wall was never rebuilt, though. Only flat structure remains on its place.

Blossoming Sakura at inner moat

Inner moat from old inner wall
Inner moat from the inner wall.

Honmaru garden from inner wall

Honmaru palace from inner wall
Honmaru palace and garden from the inner wall.

Inner moat from main inner gate

Inner moat from main inner gate

Inner moat from main inner gate
Inner moat again, from the inner wall gate.

Sakura was still blossoming around nicely.

Blossoming bushes

Inner moat
Inner moat, view to a gate in the inner wall.

Zen garden near Seiryu-en
Zen garden near Seiryu-en.

Seiryu-en is a recent addition to the castle, built in 1965. Two tea houses are located there and a tea ceremony is offered to guests for a price of 1000 yen per person. The booklet also says that on some days the public tea ceremonies are held.

Waraku-an tea house in Seiryu-en
Waraku-an tea house in Seiryu-en garden.

Seiryu-en grounds.

We decided to try the tea and paid the hefty sum.

Tea house host
Tea house host bringing in the tea.

Tea ceremony
During the ceremony guests were asked to sit on their knees and bow in return to the host.

Matcha and a sweet
One cup of tea and wagashi.

Seiryu-en from Waraku-an tea house
Nice garden view from the tea house.

Tea house worker bringing tea

Tea house worker bringing tea

Overall Ksusha was pretty happy with the ceremony.

Costumed staff in Nijo-jo castle
After we finished with the tea we went back to the entrance and met this pair of Samurai-dressed workers.

Women in traditional dresses in Nijo-jo caste
Also two women in traditional Japanese outfits.

Turret on at a corner of the outer wall

Turret on at a corner of the outer wall
And another take on the corner turret on our way away from the castle.

Overall a pretty interesting visit. Definitely a recommended place to see if you are in Kyoto.



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