In the middle of the City, surrounded by a moat and enclosed by stone walls is Nijo-jo castle that is one of 17 World Cultural Heritage sites of Kyoto. I kind of had a moment where I swallowed a bit of vomit, so I missed the key part of the Ninomaru Palace... the inner bits. You see, in Japan, you are required (well, it is customary) to remove your shoes before entering buildings. You can bring your own sandals, use their own or walk around in your socks. Unfortunately, as I was removing my shoes, a German man (well, he was speaking German) removed his shoes right next to me. While that isn't a problem, the funk on his bare toes WAS! I have NEVER seen anything so vile in my life! And the SMELL! Oh, I can't even describe it!!!
I went from taking my shoes off, to putting them back on in .00008 seconds flat. I didn't want to run the risk that my shoes would be placed even close to his, not to mention that I might even come in contact with anywhere he might step.
Needless to say, I missed a few of the key features of the castle, such as one of the most striking features of the Ninomaru Palace, the "nightingale floors" (uguisubari) in the corridors. To protect the occupants from sneak attacks and assassins, the builders constructed the floors of the corridors in such a way as to squeak like birds when anyone walks on them. I can tell you how to do this... use nails on your floors instead of screws. It seems to work in my house!
I couldn't seem to walk past cherry blossoms without pulling my camera out.
I am not an ornithologist, nor do I even think I know what I am talking about when it comes to birds, but I do believe this is a Black Heron. Yeah, I do know that they are rare, are from Africa and eat small aquatic tasties. Perhaps it is a Cormorant. Perhaps I am making shit up, but it certainly wasn't just me that thought it a rare find.
Kurumayose entrance to Ninomaru Palace.
Detail from Kurumayose entrance to Ninomaru Palace. The hand carved detail is phenomenally intricate and delicate.
I am so impressed that some artisan could detail the peacocks and cranes so elegantly.
The rear entrance of the palace. This portion was very up to date and just like every other service entrance in the world... bland (except for the structure behind the walls)!
It is easy to imagine how old this structure is by the weathered look of the wood. Yeah, 1626 is old indeed!