Posted by: Darrell | December 6, 2008

Nijo Castle and Kodaiji

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle

Kyoto has two very famous castles, the first of which is the Imperial Castle belonging to the emperor. The other is Nijo Castle, former Kyoto home of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Nijo isn’t particularly large, or grand or even imposing. It doesn’t even exude a Shogun aura. In fact, you are really left wondering why you even came here in outset. However, when you step inside, it is a completely different story. The castle that seemed so plain on the outside is an living piece of art on the inside. Crafted and decorated by the most accomplished and famous artists in historic Japan, Nijo Castle just amazes you with the intricacies and the imposing grandeur of art that covers ever inch of the castle. The golden hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa family is on every handle, and every place of significance and letting all those know that they are in the house of Tokugawa.

The rock garden at Kodaiji

The rock garden at Kodaiji

However, being a living work of art, the curators of the castle did not allow you to touch (obviously) nor take a single picture of anything (seriously?!?!?). So being driven by curiosity, I waited until there was no one around (and with Xo on the lookout!) and then…. decided to touch the gold crest of the Tokugawa family and feel the power and history emanate through the golden symbol of Japanese warriors and military dominance. To be honest, I probably should have taken an illegal picture rather than cop an illegal feel.

Kodaiji Garden

Kodaiji Garden

After Nijo, Xo and I met up with Liz and Justin and we went to Kodaiji, on the recommendation of my Okaasan. Although, relatively unknown outside of the season and not popular during the daytime, Kodaiji is a completely different place at night during Autumn. Along with Kiyomizudera, they are both the most famous places in Japan for nighttime light displays of maples leaves. However, while Kodaiji is a tame and uninspiring mix of bamboo, maple trees, ponds, and rock gardens during the day, at night amid the strategically places lights, Kodaiji is a wonderland of Japanese perfection of seasonal gardens. Nijo and Kodaiji are both outstanding in their own rights and the one thing I can take back from seeing both is that art isn’t just a picture or a painting or a sculpture, it is in the intimidation in the walls of Nijo and the way a light can turn an ordinary garden into a world of dreams and fantasy.

The bamboo garden in Kodaiji

The bamboo garden in Kodaiji

The maples with the moon in the background at Kodaiji

The maple leaves with the moon in the background at Kodaiji

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