Kyoto Gosho – Imperial Palace

   I left Greece the 19th of March and arrived in Tokyo the 21st after passing through Northeastern Greece, Bulgaria and then flying over Asia for 14 hours.While I was in the gigantic plane I watched an eternal sunrise…following the sun from Istanbul to Tokyo Narita airport. It was difficult to sleep and I managed to gather just few hours.

The real beginning of my trip to Japan started this day, the 23rd of March 2016…we arrived in Kyoto traveling from Tokyo a day earlier with the Tōkaidō Shinkansen 東海道新幹線 . I was so tired and jet lagged after three days on my way there, trying to keep my eyes open to experience the unique ride in the bullet train. It was fast…but my eyelids much faster!

  First night in Kyoto and my head was still spinning from meeting my dream to be in Japan, I experience disorientation and a strong difficulty to understand the signs on the roads, the Google maps on the smartphone underline my cognitive obstacles, its cold, I am excited and hungry. Thank God my traveling companion was living in Japan for sometime..I felt lost many times in Kyoto. The cultural gap was present the first few days. Everything around was a new experience.

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Waking up excited the 23rd in a hurry to be punctual for our first guided tour in Kyoto Gosho-Imperial Palace. My travel companion, TC from now on, thankfully arranged the permissions to enter the Palaces. No one can just appear at the gates without permission, at least a year ago that was the case. Changing trains was complicated the first few days and troubled my brain a lot. It took me sometime to feel confident be on my own and by the end of my travel I felt the train changing like a skillful surfing activity.

We managed to be there a little before the appointed time and entered the Palace. I was looking forward to experience the Gardens most of all. The Palace here was the main attraction. Huge empty spaces covered with perfect gravel lines and formations, looked like untouched by time and human activity. The first realization of the Japanese perfectionism. Symmetry, clear straight lines, impeccable geometry and the two symmetrical trees, a cherry tree Sakura to the East and an orange Tachibana tree on the West.

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Shishinden

The Shishinden (above), which was rebuilt in 1855, is the most important building on the Palace grounds, and was used for important ceremonies of state such as enthronement ceremonies. The Shishinden is the symbol of the Kyoto Imperial Palace and the enthronement ceremonies of Emperors Taisho and Showa were held here. It is a one-story building purely made of wood. It was built in the architectural design of the Irimoya(hipped and gabled roof) and Imperial Palace style with high florring.Its roof is made of hiwada, or layers of cypress bark. The building measures approximately 37 m width, 26.3 in depth and 20,5 m in height. All around the building, there are shitomido (latticeced shutters), which are suspended from iron hooks that are attached to the inside of the building. There are 18 steps leading up to the main entrance of the building. The slatted piece of flooring composed of six planks of wood , hanging in a frame over the main entrance, is an item that survived the 1854 fire.

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The tiled  rooftops, an artistic masterpiece.

 

   History

Kyoto was the capital of Japan for a period over 1000 years. In 784, Emperor Kanmu moved the capital from Heijikyo in present day Nara to Nagaokakyo in Kyoto. He moved again in 794 to Heiankyo, which was built in the center of the present day Kyoto. Heiankyo served as both political and cultural center. The Imperial Palace was situated in a fixed place, called the dairi, which was rebuilt each time it was destroyed by fire or warfare. While the Imperial palace was being rebuilt, it was customary for the Emperor to move temporarily to the residences of members of the aristocracy. This custom was later called sato-dairi.

In the Heian period the sato-dairi came to be used as the de facto Imperial palace. The present Kyoto Gosho is one of the sato-dairi or temporary residencies. When it was rebuilt after having burned in 1788, the Shishinden and other major structures in the palace compound were rebuilt in the Heian tradional style. In 1854, when the palace burned down again, the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered that an Imperial Palace identical to its predecessor be immediately rebuilt, and the work was completed with exceptional speed by the following year.This is the Palace that still stands today.

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Seiryoden

This structure was used as the Emperor’s residence. It is built in the traditional shinden style like the Shishinden, bu the floor is lower built. Its more appropriate for every day life. This building is also renowned throughout Japanese literature. The best known work in whichi Seiryoden is mentioned is “The tale of Genji” written by Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century and describes court life in the Heian period.

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Oikeniwa Garden

The Oikeniwa garden is a strolling garden, the main feature of which is a large pond with an artificial shoreline toward the fron and stepping stones across to a boat mooring place.There is an arc-shaped Keyakibashi bridge that stretches across the pond.

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Surely not the most amazing garden I have seen in Japan but simple, elegant and beautiful! The first time I saw the amazing Japanese Pine trees!

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Shodaibunoma

This building was used as a waiting area for courtiers paying official visits to the Palace. There are three rooms arranged from the highest rank to the lowest, from East to West. The rooms are named after objects painted onfusuma sliding doors.The highest ranked room is the toranoma (tiger room), which is also called kugyonoma painted by Gantai. The second is the crane room – tsurunoma by Kano Eigaku and the third is the cherry room-the sakuranoma by Hara Zaisho.

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Shunkoden

The Shunkoden  was one of the Imperial Residences where arms were kept. In the Kamakura Era, Shinkyo (Sacred Mirror) was kept in it, and therefore it was called Kashiko-dokoro. The present Shunkoden stands at a different place from where the old Shunkoden stood in the Heian Era. The present Shunkoden was built on the occasion of the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Taisho at the spot where Kashiko-dokoro was located.

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The guard

For the end of this tour in Imperial palaces I save the counting guard. He was the protagonist of a little play…felt like a shepherd trying to gather us, his sheep. Always counting each head before he enters a new gate, always rushing everybody to move…move..move.. we had much fun spying on him!

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