Japan Holiday: Kyoto Part 2

Japan Holiday: Kyoto Part 2

The current 125th Japanese Emperor ascended the throne in 1989, and the imperial family still visits their immaculately maintained Kyoto Palace residence once in a while (photos below). The original Palace, built around the late 12th century, remained the Emperor’s principal resident until 1868, when the capital was moved to Tokyo. It encompasses 910,000 sq metres, and visitors to the grounds are only permitted to walk around a predetermined outer circuit within a limited time, always closely monitored by the Palace’s security personnel.

Nijo Castle was built in 1603 by the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, but was only completed by his son, Iemitsu, 23 years later. Like many surviving ancient power centres, it illustrates the finest castle architecture of feudal Japan. Photography is not permitted as one tours the interior of the building, with its intricately painted scenes on wooden partitions and walls; each room’s motif designating its use. It was recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994.

Kinkaku-ji, commonly known as the Golden Pavilion, unlike the centrally located Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle, is situated in the north-western Kyoto area. It was originally built by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu as his retirement villa, with its second and third floors gilded internally and externally with gold to impress a Chinese envoy sent to negotiate a trading alliance with him. A Chinese golden phoenix capped the roof. Yoshimitsu became one of the richest shoguns in Japanese history. On his death in 1408, Kinkaku was donated to the Buddhist Zen Rinzai sect and became a temple. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955 as the original was destroyed in a fire. 20 tons of gold leaf was used in its refurbishment. It was also designated a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1994.

Photo Credit: Zheluo Cai