Our tentative plan for the day was to go to the Imperial Palace, then to the Nijo Castle. We set out walking from our hotel, north to the castle. We discovered that we would need a visitor's pass to actually go into the compound, but we wanted to see the area anyway. The scope and the size of the compound was astounding. We meandered around the perimeter of the wall of the castle, and walked around in the massive garden area.
This is the outer wall of the entire compound, it seemed like it went on forever.
This is the inner wall surrounding the palace itself:
A detail of the ornate tiles making up the top of the wall:
One of the gates into the palace compound:
Detail of the end plates all the way around the compound:
Imperial gardeners tending the botanical specimens. Many of the trees had bamboo or other wooden supports holding up limbs. The supports are artfully lashed to the branch, keeping it in place.
Another one of the gates into the compound:
A detail of wooden dragon carvings under one of the gates:
The tourist shot:
We tried to get a picture of the size of this compound...just huge.
Next we went to Nijo Castle. Another amazing place. This castle consisted of a double moat, with a castle in the outer moat area as well as in the inner moat area. We were able to go into the outer castle after removing our shoes. The rooms were beautiful, floors covered with straw mats and lovely paintings and carvings on the walls. No photographs were allowed inside to preserve the artifacts. I kept wondering why the ancient Japanese built these incredible fortresses out of stone and giant beams and ceramic tiles, then built the walls out of matchsticks and paper. Several of the buildings we toured had been burned down numerous times and reconstructed. You would think they would have figured it out...
Some images from the grounds at Nijo castle: The front gate and outer moat:
The front of the Castle detail:
Gate into Castle grounds with detail of carvings:
We spent the next couple of hours wandering the grounds. It was breathtaking, beautiful.