While in Kyoto I was also able to stop by and see Nijo Castle (Nijojo). It was built in the early 1600′s by Tokugawa Ieyasu. While the name probably isn’t familiar, his story certainly is: the novel (and later mini-series) Shogun.
The place screamed of a true military stronghold, fortified with multiple massive walls and both interior and exterior moats. I can imagine how intimidating it would have been approaching the walls when lined with samurai. Once inside the gates, though, the buildings themselves were fairly ornate. Gold leaf was liberally applied throughout.
Don’t let the luxury fool you. Even inside the place was a fortress. There were numerous secret passages to spy on your guests with as well as “nightingale floors” meant to alert anyone inside of would-be assassins. The floors would “tweet” like a bird as you walked across them. (Listen here – IE only)
Normally creaky floors would be annoying but the shogunate found a way to make it both pleasant and useful. I love the Japanese.
As the sun set we stopped off in a small tea house in the castle gardens and had some green tea and yummy daifukumochi. I’m totally hooked on the diafuku, a Japanese treat filled with sweet red bean paste (anko). It sounds disgusting, I know, but it’s delicious.
More on food later in the week, though, as eating was half the fun and adventure…