Nijo Castle

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Nijo Castle

  Like its European counterpart, this castle, the administrative center for the Tokugawa Shogunate who ruled Japan from 1615 to 1868, has a moat. But there the similarities end. While Nijo’s gate is imposing and its earthen walls thick, it is the ornate rooms, gold foil backed screens and exotic stroll garden that wielded the power to intimidate enemies.
  At Ninomaru Palace is a goldhighlighted, elaborately carved wooden Chinese Gate brought from a warlord’s castle in Fushimi. The carriage entrance is precursor to the genkan, where guests, even today, shed their outer clothing and remove their footwear.
  The palace rooms lie in diagonal succession. Guests entered only as far as rank allowed, with a select few permitted into the farthest chamber where the Shogun conducted business.
  More practical than aesthetic, the garden beside the main room is an expanse of rocks (gifts from different provinces) and short, stout cycad palms that offer no place to hide. The inner uguisu bari, or nightingale floors, also designed for defense, “chirp” when trod on to alert guards to an intruder.
  The art in the inner audience rooms, painted by Kano Tanyu (1602 74), embodies wealth and strength, with hawks, tigers and huge powerful creatures rampant on gold leaf surfaces. Ohiroma, the most impressive room, where the Shogun met the highest officials, is painted with images of magnificent pines. Rather than a display of weaponry, a room large enough to accommodate this artwork illustrated the ruler’s power.
  The ponds, exotic trees and paths through the outer gardens are as much a reminder of the residential environment of Japan’s military class as the buildings themselves. The gardens are especially lovely in the cherry blossom season and are lit nightly.

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