As I approached Nijo-jo castle I seriously had tears in my eyes. Ever since studying Japanese history I have dreamt of visiting this castle. Excited is an undestatement!
DAY TWO. NIJO-JO CASTLE AND FUSHIMI INARI-TAISHA SHRINE. This is the second of two posts on Kyoto, the first one you can read here .
Kyoto needs more than two days, I discovered, so in the interests of learning more about one of my favorite periods of history I chose to visit less rather than more places. I think this gave me insight into a part of Japan well worth a second visit.
Nijo-jo Castle has witnessed some of the most important events of Japanese history. It is an impressive sight to behold and the stories of the Nightingale floors surrounding the inner sanctum held me fascinated to learn more about the Shogun era. The first shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu unified Japan ending the civil war, ushering in a period of over 260 years of peace and prosperity although shut off completely from the western world. That is an impressive 15 generations of rule. In 1867 the castle was also the backdrop and place where the 15th Shogun returned the political rule to The Emperor and began the Meiji period from which Japan developed rapidly from a feudal society into the modern democratic nation of today.
Nijo jo castle is an imposing structure surrounded and fortified with huge stone walls surrounded by deep moats. The tranquil gardens within the walls are also, as most Japanese gardens are, sublime and beautiful.
Hiring the audio tour was excellent and the entire visit not overly expensive. I recall the ticket included tea at a tea house within the walls but forgot this, unfortunately. The nightingale floors in Nijo jo castle literally sound like birds chirping. The noise of these warned the shogun and his minders of any approaching intruders. I have long held this as a romantic type notion only to have it crushed whilst listening to the recorded tour !! They do indeed make this noise but it was by accident rather by design that this occurred! The entire interior has large flamboyant and detailed pictures mostly depicting scene of nature but including ferocious animals such as tigers , all showing off the power and strength of the Shogun.
Check out the size of this moat! The grounds and gardens leave a person awestruck by the majesty of this place and the history behind it. Set aside three hours to comfortably see this castle.
FUSHIMI INARI-TAISHA SHRINE
I can’t even think where to start with this amazing place! Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine is just a must see when you visit Kyoto.
Again I used insidekyoto to guide me through this incredible place. Google maps are awesome to guide you to the relevant trains to get here and once you have reached the destination the magic unfolds.
The shrine is dedicated to the gods of rice and sake. There are over 5000 bright orange tori gates the wind up a hill stopping at a magical lake with graveyards and smaller shrines on the way.
At the start of the walk is the major temple. Here, there is a small shrine to the right with thousands of peace cranes made of origami folded by students praying for luck in exams.
All through the shrine and the walk are a lot of foxes with keys in their mouths. The Fox is the messenger of the god of grain foods, Inari, and the keys in the fox mouths are keys to granaries.
The most stunning part, in my mind, was the meandering walk through the gates. Apparently some of the gates date back to 711 A.D. Some say there are 5,000 and other info I read say over 10,000!!
These gates are entrances to shrines in Shinto religion, these ones are a bit different as they have been donated by people and organizations to give thanks for prosperity and hopes of more good luck. So as you walk up the gates are solid red and the names are engraved on the back. I walked up through the winding path to an amazing lake at the top full of huge koi and turtles which were a real surprise. If you get the opportunity please visit this place… indescribable might be my best word to try and describe this sight!