Nijo Castle – Kyoto, Japan

Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Shogun was a title given to the commander and chief/military dictator of Japan. The Shogun period spanned from 800 to 1867 AD.

Left edge of Nijo’s front wall. Nijo Castle is surrounded by a moat.
Main Entrance

While appointed by the Emperor, the Shogun served as the actual ruler of Japan with the Emperor serving as more of a ceremonial and spiritual leader. Real power was returned to the Emperor in 1867 as part of Meiji Revolution.

The castle’s exterior wall, surrounded by a moat, represents the first line of defense. Once inside the castle, there is a secondary circle of defense known as the Ninomaru. The Karamon Gate serves as the entrance to the Ninomaru.

Karamon Gate

The main feature of the Ninomaru is the Ninomaru Palace which served as the shogun’s residence when visiting Kyoto.

Ninomaru Palace

After the fall of the shogun and return of power to the Emporer, Nijo Castle was turned over to the city of Kyoto and later opened up for public access. The castle was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994 and serves as an excellent example of castle palace architecture from Japan’s feudal era.

Japan – The Unfamiliar Routine

My trip to Kyoto, Japan was filled with visits to incredible temples, gardens, and historic sites. Even the more routine parts of the day were filled with interesting moments.

Candy isle – so many unfamiliar brands.
Even with this translation, I assure you, their English was better than my Japanese.
Toilets are serious business in Japan. Go ahead, touch any button…I dare you.
This is a toilet advertisement. Heated seat, multiple point sprayer, deodorizer, and warm air dryer are features that are sure to make a big splash.
This tofu variety platter with noodles on ice isn’t what I thought I ordered. Well, the beer was great.
Not sure the food is working for me. Maybe I should get more beer?
Seeing and using foreign currency is always interesting. ~ 100 USD
I travel around the United States a lot so it is unique to see a flight board with cities like this listed.
Japan’s bullet trains hit a top speed of 200 mph.
Geisha sighting near the Gion district in Kyoto. You aren’t supposed to photograph Geisha so this was a subtle shot from a distance. She created a celebrity-like buzz at this intersection.
Oh yeah, the school uniforms…it is real.
Seemed to be my beverage of choice while in Japan.

These are a few things that caught my eye during day-to-day moments around Kyoto. There were also a few distinctive mannerisms of the Japanese that stood out in day-to-day interactions.

  • They are very polite and gracious. Who knows what they are thinking, but as someone who also prefers to behave in a polite manner, it felt comfortable.
  • Japan is very clean. Garbage cans in public areas were hard to find but there was no litter. You keep your trash and dispose of it at home.
  • People don’t walk around with food or coffee in their hands.
  • It is rare to hear a car horn, and I loved that!
  • Restrooms rarely had paper towels at the sink or garbage cans. I observed Japanese men and they had handkerchiefs with them for this purpose.
  • Taxi drivers wore white cotton gloves.
  • It was considered improper to place money directly in someone’s hand. Money was always exchanged using a tray that was passed back and forth.
  • Seafood is common for breakfast. Grits and biscuits with gravy were not.

Hope you had a few chuckles with this one. And, just to be clear, I am in no way poking fun at or trying to disparage Japanese culture. I am only pointing out some differences that stood out to me as an American. Not worse, not better…only different. I loved my trip to Japan and look forward to returning again to immerse myself deeper into the culture.

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