Then there is the Nijō Castle (二条城), built in 1603 as the official residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). But Ieyasu did not see the completion of the castle. It was his grandson Iemitsu who completed the palace buildings inside the complex some 20 plus years later after Ieyasu’s death. Iemitsu also expanded the castle by adding a towering five-story castle keep.
After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, the castle was used as an imperial palace for a while since the Tokugawa clan donated the complex to the city and opened it to the public as a historic monument.
Today, its palace buildings are arguably the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan’s feudal era: from its tenshukaku (castle Tower) to its fortress or walls and moats to its yagura (guard towers) to the gates and to the goten (garden and palace complex).
Nijō Castle can be divided into three areas: the Honmaru (main circle of defense), the Ninomaru (secondary circle of defense) and some gardens that encircle the Honmaru and Ninomaru. The entire castle grounds and the Honmaru are surrounded by stone walls and moats.
Incidentally, I had to cut my trip in the ancient city because I had to rush to the train station to see the Fushima Inari Shrine, which at that time I thought to be a component of the Kyoto WHS. It was almost 4 PM – besides, the castle would be closing anytime soon.
Anyhow, the travel to the Shrine was also worth-it despite it not a WHS. Just across the JR Inari Station, two stations away from Kyoto Station, is the Shirne . Going to the Shrine was so easy to navigate: Japanese trains are so reliable.
I would say the shrine was majestic. I have not seen thousands of thousands of tori gates beautifully queued together, providing a tunnel-like passage towards the peak of the mountain. As I passed by these tori gates, I was reminded of my younger days in Angeles City when I participated in a local santacruzan to be the escort of my sister, who at that parade was the Reyna Elena.
While the primary reason most visitors come to Fushimi Inari Shrine is to explore these tori gates, which actually are mountain trails. The shrine buildings beginning the entrance shrine (Romon Gate) were also very attractive – painted in fiery red as if burning magnificently before your very eyes. At the very back of the main grounds is the entrance to the mountain hiking trail (yes, the tori-gates I was talking about awhile ago). Just as you see two dense, parallel rows of tori gates (they are called Senbon Torii or thousands of torii gates), this means you are on the right track.
These over a thousand of tori gates were donated by individuals and companies. If you are well-versed in kanji (the Japanese script), there is a high chance that you will be able to identify who donated what. I am not sure how much a tori gate costed but it could be somewhere between 100,000 Yen and 400,000 Yen (I see some inscriptions in the beautifully colored tori gates). However, larger gates methinks should cost up to a million Yen.
Leaving Kyoto: I made a vow to come back.
There is still more to see and consume.
Perhaps, the next visit, I shall do the advise of my colleague regarding a visit to the Gion district. But more than that, there are still many monuments in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites under the collective title of Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto that I still have yet to wonder.