Monday, September 12, 2011

KYOTO: 01 - Simple Japanese Castles


My trip to Kyoto was supposed to take the whole day. I would ride the Metro at 6 AM to arrive there past 7 and have enough time for breakfast and some walking and whatever it is that needed to be done. I rode the MRT at 12:55 after a quick lunch at Yoshinoya. Should I even reiterate this on every blog post I am going to make? My case is hopeless, okay. Sleep is more of a priority for me. Sightseeing takes the backseat! WTF. After the train transfers I arrived at Nijo Castle at 2:15 PM, which gave me just enough time for a rushed tour because they close at 4 PM. Yipee! Amazing Race Kyoto!


I love Japanese castles. I love how simple they all look like compared to Chinese Palaces in their usual bright red and gold and their screaming “Look at me, I’m a Palace!” kind of vibe. Japanese castles seem to follow nature as its theme. The exterior would most likely be brown with some golden embellishments here and there. Inside, the walls are painted by an established artist with motifs still in touch with nature, mostly trees, the green of which complement the general brown of the entire castle. It looks so peaceful inside and it gives you the illusion that you are actually outside, but with the security of the walls surrounding you. 


The floors are squeaky, which is said to be intentional to avoid spies. With all the noise it made I could say that it would be pretty hard indeed to sneak in undetected. I would have loved to take pictures and videos inside but the message was clear on every corner: NO PHOTOGRAPHING, with matching images of a handycam and a camera crossed out with a large red bar. I also believe that the place is under heavy surveillance. You might just find yourself at the administration office watching a video of yourself taking a video if ever you are caught. And not like in China, people here actually take the warning seriously. Had there been at least one who dared to pull out a camera, I would have also done so.


There are numerous gardens inside the castle grounds and if you love ponds and plants touring all of them would probably eat up most of your time. The good thing is that I went there on a summer. The trees had boring green leaves. It would have been a different story if it was autumn, I would have stayed there all day and returned the next day. I am yet to see for myself those beautiful trees on fire with red, orange, and yellow leaves as shown on some TV shows. This is not my last time in Japan anyway. I will make sure that I would come back and the next time I do it would be in the autumn.


How could I forget to mention that this is a World Heritage Site! Yes, it is. So that adds a little something extra to your trip. Make sure you include this one on your itinerary. I think it is the better choice if pitted against the Osaka Castle. No offense meant. That one is gorgeous too but not as well preserved as Kyoto’s Nijo. What I mean is that Osaka’s Castle is more of a museum and a park. Kyoto’s Nijo is more like a trip back to the past, not a mere tourist attraction.


To end this, make sure that you go up the steps somewhere at the northwest side of the area. There are benches there are the height gives you a wonderful view of the castle grounds and the moat!



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