More shrines and fun stuff!
In Kyoto, the streets are in a rectangular system. Most of the central streets are named, unlike some of the other parts of Japan. This was weird for us to see, but that’s okay. At least we have something to go off of for traveling around. In downtown Kyoto, there is a high concentration of dining, shopping and a large entertainment selection. There is a Japan Rail station located just south of the city center, but its pretty accessible. We learned today that Kyoto is a city with the highest concentration of Taxi’s in Japan. This was a weird fact, but it looked almost like New York would with the amount of Taxi’s around everywhere. We rode inside of one and it can hold up to four passengers, and they range from 600 yen for the first kilometer, and then it costs 100 yen for every additional 500 meters traveled. Weird hey? There are some pretty neat passes available for Kyoto for its transportation, there is a sightseeing card which is 1200 yen for one day, and 2000 yen for two days, and it has unlimited travel on the buses, subway lines and it can be used for two consecutive days. There is also a subway one day card, where you can use the subways whenever you’d like, in one day for 600 yen.
This was our last day in Kyoto, tomorrow morning we leave for Hiroshima. We will truly miss this place! We went to Nijo Castle this morning, the residence of the first shogun of the Edo Period, Tokugawa Ieyasu. As soon as we entered through the gates of the east entrance we saw they were renting English audio guides for 500 yen so we got 2 of them to share. The English audio guide said that Tokugawa’s grandson completed the castle 23 years later and also added a five story castle keep. After the fall of the Shogunate in 1867 the castle was used as an imperial palace until it was finally donated to the city and opened up to public. We found that the castle is interestingly divided into three areas: a main circle of defense (the Honmaru), a secondary circle of defense (the Ninomaru) and a great garden that surrounds them. Additionally, the gardens are surrounded by moats and stone walls on all sides. Our favorite place inside was the Ninomaru Palace, it is connected with five separate buildings and has many lavish ecoration such as golf leafs and wood carvings which were intended to impress visitors. What was unique is that lower-ranking visitors to the castle stayed in the outer chambers of the Ninomaru while higher-ranking visitors received luxurious inner chambers. This was done to intimidate visitors and show the shoguns power. What we found most remarkable of all was the “Nightgale floors” in the hallways. These floors were made so that they would squeak almost like birds when someone walks on them. They did this to protect the occupants from assassins.
The Nijo Castle:
After exploring the Nijo castle we took the bus to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. We had to go on a guided tour with the Imperial Household Agency because that’s the only way to enter the grounds. The tour took one hour, we were lead through all the gardens and around the buildings however we couldn’t actually go into any of the buildings. It was still cool to see and learn about though. This palace was the residence of Japan’s Imperial family up to 1868 when the capital was moved to Tokyo. The palace that stands here today is the reconstructed version. The original palace had burnt down and was rebuilt in 1855. We got to see from the outside the main palace, the Hall for State Ceremonies, the “Refreshing Hall”, Court Room and the Imperial Library. We also walked by several residences for the empress and high-ranking government officials. It was exciting seeing all these temples, shrines and castles in Kyoto but it is time to go to bed now as we continue our journey to Hiroshima tomorrow.
This is the Kyoto Imperial Palace