Kyoto Highlights (Part III), Honshu Island, Japan (2019)

We began our third day in Kyoto, with a tour of the Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, led by the master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho (the third generation artisan to own and direct the nationally acclaimed family studio)

We began our third day in Kyoto, Japan, with a tour of the Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, led by the master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho (the third generation artisan to own and direct the nationally acclaimed family studio)

 

“Woven on takabata looms since they were introduced from China over 1200 years ago, silk mon orimoro (design figures incorporated into the weave, itself), is exquisite, luminous, luxurious and multi-colored.  The high precision and skill level required to weave this fabric and the resulting extraordinary beauty and quality demands that it be distinguished from ordinary brocade by giving it a distinctive name, Nishiki.  In the Japanese language, the idiographic character used for Nishiki is a combination of the symbol for woven cloth combined with the symbol for gold, implying that the value of Nishiki is equal to that of money.

“Since ancient times, the word Nishiki has been used as an adjective to indicate great beauty as in the term, ‘Nishiki Autumn,’ to describe a colorful landscape in fall.  Nishiki, as a work of art, represents the pinnacle of silk weaving, rarely found in the world.  Historically, it has been highly coveted by the Japanese people, and remains a great source of national pride as an example of Japanese beauty.  Nishiki is created through the combined skills of numerous craftsmen, involving a broad range of technical processes that require time and patience. The work of Koho Tatsumura can be compared to that of a conductor who gathers together craftsmen like musicians in an orchestra, to complete each musical piece.  As the silk threads, each shining like gold, combine with one another, they come to harmonize as a brilliantly colored, dazzling, sublimely created Nishiki creation.

“The superb visual-textural feeling of silk’s infinite variations and hues, enhanced through processes cultivated over a millennium, is translated into works of art that will always draw our affection, regardless of the era.  At the studio of Koho Tatsumura we continue to produce woven fabrics as a Japanese art, preserving the tradition and skill, seeking to ever expand the beauty of Nishiki.

“Rather than thinking of weaving as flat and two dimensional, it can be created as a three-dimensional fabric.  This is one of the main defining characteristics of Nishiki, that it is woven in layers, creating a 3-dimensional effect.  Moreover, the individual translucent silk threads are like glass rods with a slightly rounded, triangular prism shape.  This is metaphorically referred to as a ‘silk prism.’  Because of this structure, silk thread both allows light to penetrate as well as reflects light and thus is able to sparkle with a diamond-like complexity.  By bringing the properties of silk thread to life in a woven piece of work and, moreover, moving it forward into the world of three dimensions, Nishiki becomes a ‘fabric of Light’ that manifests infinite changes in the light it encounters.” — http://www.koho-nishiki.com/en/

 

Master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho sells many of his fabulous beautiful three-dimensional woven silk fabrics as works of art in his studio, Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan

Master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho sells many of his fabulous beautiful three-dimensional woven silk fabrics as works of art in his studio, Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Because there is no appropriate word for Nishiki in either English or French, we feel that the Japanese word ‘Nishiki’ can be used in foreign languages. Japanese-English dictionaries define ‘Nishiki’ as ‘brocade,’ but the two are really conceptually different things.  In order to expose the boundlessness and charm of what can be called ‘the most beautiful woven fabric in the world’ to a greater number of people worldwide, we continue our efforts to encourage the acceptance of the term “Nishiki” until it is universally recognized and used.” — http://www.koho-nishiki.com/en/

 

One of two 90-year old hand looms for weaving Nishiki silk fabrics at Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan; on the left are visible the Jacquard punch cards that are programmed with the patterns for a given fabric

One of two 90-year old hand looms for weaving Nishiki silk fabrics at Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan; on the left are visible the Jacquard punch cards that are programmed with the patterns for a given fabric, with 33,000 cards required for the most complex fabric produced at the studio

 

One of the masterpiece Nishiki silk fabrics produced by Tatsumura Koho and for sale (for well in excess of $US 100,000) at his studio, Kyoto, Japan, representing waves in the ocean with over 200 colors of silk used to weave it

One of the masterpiece Nishiki silk fabrics produced by Tatsumura Koho for sale (for well in excess of $US 100,000) at his studio, Kyoto, Japan, representing waves in the ocean with over 200 colors of silk used to weave it

 

The gateway standing at the entrance to Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is called a torii, indicating that the area inside the gateway is sacred space, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The gateway standing at the entrance to Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is called a torii, indicating that the area inside the gateway is sacred space, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is quite old – by the end of the 7th century it already commanded considerable indluence; today, it is a well-known for a variety of ritual ceremonies and festivals and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kyoto, Japan

Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is quite old – by the end of the 7th century it already commanded considerable indluence; today, it is a well-known for a variety of ritual ceremonies and festivals and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kyoto, Japan

 

The tower-gate(ro-mon) and the corridors to right and left are in front of the Main Shrine (Honden) at Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrineare painted red, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The tower-gate(ro-mon) and the corridors to right and left are in front of the Main Shrine (Honden) at Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrineare painted red, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#1), Honshu Island, Japan

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#1), Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#2), Honshu Island, Japan

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#2), Honshu Island, Japan

 

The desert to conclude our luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura was simplicity and freshness on a plate – delicious fresh fruit, artfully arranged, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The desert to conclude our luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura was simplicity and freshness on a plate – delicious fresh fruit, artfully arranged, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Kyoto Highlights (Part II), Honshu Island, Japan (2019)

A traditional tea ceremony with centuries-old creamics and tea cups performed by the head monk of Kennin-ji Temple – believed to be the olded Zen Buddhist temple in Japan -- Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

A traditional tea ceremony with centuries-old creamics and tea cups performed by the head monk of Kennin-ji Temple – believed to be the olded Zen Buddhist temple in Japan — Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our second day in Kyoto, Japan, we began with a meeting with the head monk of Kennin-ji Temple who explained the history of the temple who taught us how to meditate and then led us through a formal tea ceremony with tea cups that were several hundred years old and examples of the best ceramics artisanship in Japan during that period.  Kennin-ji Temple is believed to be the oldest Zen Buddhist temple in Japan, dating back to the 13th century (the original temple buildings, like much of Kyoto, were destroyed by fire).  At present, there are three branches of Zen in Japan – the Rinzai, Soutou and Oubaku schools.  Kennin-ji belongs to the Rinzai tradition. The temple was founded in 1202 by the priest Yousai (1141-1215), the Buddhist monk who introduced both Zen Buddhism and tea cultivation to Japan upon returning from study trips to China.  The head monk talked with us about Zen Buddhism and gave us insights into an old Japanese Zen saying, “sou iu mono do” (“that’s how things are”) – an excellent perspective for dealing with the vicissitudes of life, both the ups and downs.  We then had the opportunity for an extensive tour of the temple.

 

Historic tea ceremony tea pot and cups at Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Historic tea ceremony tea pot and cups at Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Zen Buddhism heavily emphasizes meditation or zazen.  Zen evolved into much more than simply a philosophy, and came to permeate the arts including the tea ceremony, whose practitioners pursued an imperfect, rustic beauty.  It was quickly patronized by aristocrats and the warrior class, including the ruthless 16th-century shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who commissioned the tea room found on the temple grounds.” — http://www.jnto.go.jp/ph/spot-activity/kansai/kyoto/kenninji-temple/

 

The small garden outside the tea room where we had a formal tea ceremony at Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The small garden outside the tea room where we had a formal tea ceremony at Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Tea plants (camellia sinensis) on the grounds of Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Tea plants (camellia sinensis) on the grounds of Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Kennin-ji is a historic Zen Buddhist temple in Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan, near Gion and is considered to be one of the so-called Kyoto Gozan or "five most important Zen temples of Kyoto", Honshu Island, Japan----

Kennin-ji is a historic Zen Buddhist temple in Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan, near Gion and is considered to be one of the so-called Kyoto Gozan or “five most important Zen temples of Kyoto”, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Buddha and sacred objects, under the ceiling mural of twin dragons, at the Main Hall, Kenninji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Buddha and sacred objects, under the ceiling mural of twin dragons, at the Main Hall, Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The traditional Japanese rock garden at Kenninji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan, is regarded as one of the finest in the country

The traditional Japanese rock garden at Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan, is regarded as one of the finest in the country

 

Kennin-ji Temple is filled with important works of art and design which include paintings, sculptures, and the Zen garden, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Kennin-ji Temple is filled with important works of art and design which include paintings, sculptures, and the Zen garden, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

After lunch in the Gion district, we met with one of Kyoto’s leading Tatami (mat) artisans, Mitsuru Yokoyama, who gave us a tour of his studio and explained the art of making tatami, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

After lunch in the Gion district, we met with one of Kyoto’s leading Tatami (mat) artisans, Mitsuru Yokoyama, who gave us a tour of his studio and explained the art of making tatami, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A selection of tatami making tools in the studio of Mitsuru Yokoyama, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan [see www.yokoyamatatami.com]

A selection of tatami making tools in the studio of Mitsuru Yokoyama, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan [see http://www.yokoyamatatami.com]

At Ryogen-in Zen Buddhist Temple, Yokoyama led us on a tour of the temple, where we saw its five gardens, including Totekiko, considered both rare and quite famous, being the smallest stone garden in Japan; Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Mitsuru Yokoyama, the tatami artisan, supplied the tatami mats for the recent renovations at Ryogen-in Zen Buddhist Temple, led us on a tour of the temple, where we saw its five gardens, including Totekiko, considered both rare and quite famous, being the smallest stone garden in Japan; Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Totekiko, the inner rock garden at Ryogen-in Zen Buddhist Temple, is the smallest rare stone garden in Japan.  The main point of the garden is the sandy ripples of the stones.  The garden shows the truth that the stronger the power of a stone thrown into water is, the larger the ripple are.

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Kyoto Highlights (Part I), Honshu Island, Japan (2019)

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha; it is part of Rokuon-ji Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan – viewed here from the forested hill leading to the Sekka-tei Teahouse

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha; it is part of Rokuon-ji Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan – viewed here from the forested hill leading to the Sekka-tei Teahouse

 

From Kobe, where our ship docked, we joined a small group of friends for a three-day trip to Kyoto, Japan’s former imperial capital, for our third visit.  We had the opportunity to revisit some of Kyoto’s 17 World Heritage Sites and had some great new experiences, meeting some leading artisans and getting a blessing at a Buddhist temple where Apple CEO Steve Jobs had spent some time getting an introduction to Zen Buddhism.  Our blog posts on Kyoto are abbreviated and include some highlights from our explorations.

 

The garden and buildings, centered on the Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha in this world; the villa also functioned as an official guesthouse, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The garden and buildings, centered on the Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha in this world; the villa also functioned as an official guesthouse, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

In 1994, Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) and Rokuon-ji Temple were registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

In 1994, Kinkaku (The Golden Pavillion) and Rokuon-ji Temple were registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The outer gate of Nijo-jo Castle, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, leading to rooms that witnessed some of the most important events in Japanese history in the 400 years since it was built (no photographs were allowed inside)

The outer gate of Nijo-jo Castle, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, leading to rooms that witnessed some of the most important events in Japanese history in the 400 years since it was built (no photographs were allowed inside), Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan; the castle was completed in 1603 and built for the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867), a period of peace and prosperity that ended when Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu announced in the castle his intention to restore imperial rule (1868 was the beginning of the Meiji Restoration)

 

Our first night’s dinner was in the Geisha district, Gion, where a young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

Our first night’s dinner was in the Geisha district, Gion, where a young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan -- #2

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan — #2

 

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan -- #3

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan — #3

 

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan -- #4

A young Geisha performed several traditional dances for us, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan — #4

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Bamboo Garden, Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

One of the highlights in Arashiyama is the famous Bamboo Grove, named by CNN as one of the most beautiful groves on Earth, Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

One of the highlights in Arashiyama is the famous Bamboo Grove, named by CNN as one of the most beautiful groves on Earth, Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Arashiyama (嵐山) is a pleasant district in the western outskirts of Kyoto, Japan.  The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting.  Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and fall color seasons.” – http://www.japan-guide.com

 

Before entering the Bamboo Garden in the Arashiyama District of Kyoto, Japan, we passed a cemetery and a temple that was mostly hidden by beautiful Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)

Before entering the Bamboo Garden in the Arashiyama District of Kyoto, Japan, we passed a cemetery and a temple that was mostly hidden by beautiful Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)

 

Walking in the Bamboo Garden in the Arashiyama District of Kyoto, Japan, is like entering another world – the thick green bamboo stalks seem to continue endlessly in every direction an

Walking in the Bamboo Garden in the Arashiyama District of Kyoto, Japan, is like entering another world – the thick green bamboo stalks seem to continue endlessly in every direction and there’s a strange quality to the light

 

We decided to visit the district as one of the highlights in Arashiyama is the famous Bamboo Garden.  Lonely Planet notes: “Walking into this extensive bamboo grove is like entering another world – the thick green bamboo stalks seem to continue endlessly in every direction and there’s a strange quality to the light.”  On CNN, it was referred to as one of the most beautiful groves on Earth.  It is quite calming to walk through the grove and hear and see the trees gently swaying in the breeze.  Within the forest are several Shinto shrines.  Nearby we visited a beautiful Buddhist compound including a temple.  And of course, on the main street there were many shopping and snacking opportunities for our small group of four.

 

The entrance to Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

The entrance to Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Seiryoji Temple is a time-honored temple of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism.  It is better known as Sagashakado Temple (Hall of Shakyamuni Tathagata in Saga).  Seikakan, the mountain villa of Minamoto-no-Toru, the model for Kikaru Genji, the hero of “Tale of Genji”, was once located at this place.  After his death, the villa was converted into Seikaji Temple, which is the origin of Seiryoji Temple.  In 1945, a life-size image of Shakyamuni Tathagata was enshrined.  Thus, the temple is commonly called Sagashakado Temple.  Later, the high priest Chonen came back from China (Sung) with a standing image of Shakyamuni Tathagata, which had been brought to Japan from India via China.  In order to enshrine the image, the priest planned to build a new temple to be called ‘Great Seiryoji Temple’.  Since he passed away without accomplishing his wish, his disciple, Jozan, established Seiryoji Temple and enshrined the image.  In 1953, a covered space was found in the back of the image, and internal organs made of silk were placed inside.  Since then, the image has also been called the living Shakyamuni Tathagata.  The main hall  was reconstructed at the initiative of the fifth Tokugawa Shogun Tsunayoshi, his mother, Keishoin, and others in 1701, where the principal image, the standing statue of Shakyamuni Tathagata (National Treasure), is located.  The tombs of the high priest Chonen, Minamoto-no-Toru, Emperor Saga, and Empress Danrin are located in the precinct of the temple.” — from a signboard at Seiryoji Temple

 

The decorations at the entrance to Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

The decorations at the entrance to Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

 

Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) and Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) and Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

 

We were privileged to welcome several Geishas aboard our ship, docked in Kobe, Japan, for singing, music and dancing before dinner where we had an opportunity to talk with them (with the

We were privileged to welcome several Geishas aboard our ship, docked in Kobe, Japan, for singing, music and dancing before dinner when we had an opportunity to talk with them (with the assistance of a translator), as they individually came around to our table, about their training and work and performing arts

 

Shrines, Temples and Rock Gardens, Kyoto, Japan

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavilion) is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha, Kyoto, Japan

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavilion) is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Although ravaged by wars, fires, and earthquakes during its eleven centuries as the imperial capital, Kyoto was spared from much of the destruction of World War II.  It was removed from the atomic bomb target list (which it had headed) by the personal intervention of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, as Stimson wanted to save this cultural center which he knew from his honeymoon and later diplomatic visits…  With its 2,000 religious places – 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, as well as palaces, gardens and architecture intact – it is one of the best preserved cities in Japan.” — Wikipedia

 

The pavilion is part of a temple that is formally named Rokuon-ji Temple, but commonly called Kinkaku-ji Temple or Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan

The pavilion is part of a temple that is formally named Rokuon-ji Temple, but commonly called Kinkaku-ji Temple or Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan

 

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavilion) is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha.  The pavilion is part of a temple that is formally named Rokuon-ji Temple, but commonly called Kinkaku-ji Temple or Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Rokuon-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple, in the Shokokuji School of the Rinzai Sect.  The garden and its buildings, centered on the Golden Pavilion, were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha in this world.  The villa also functioned as an official guesthouse, welcoming the Emperor and other members of the nobility.

 

Two ducks enjoying the Sakura shaded pond in front of the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, Japan

Two ducks enjoying the Sakura shaded pond in front of the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, Japan

 

Pink and white Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) in the garden of the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, Japan

Pink and white Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) in the garden of the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, Japan

 

Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto is famed for its Zen garden of 15 irregularly places rocks on raked white gravel, representing islands in an ocean or some say (after a few too many cups of warm saké), ‘a tiger carrying her cubs across the water’.  It is designed so always at least one of rocks is hidden from the view from any vantage point.  It is a supreme art work and the best Zen temple in Kyoto, if not in Japan.

 

Japan_s most famous zen garden, the Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple, viewed from Hojo (the building that used be the head priest_s residence), Kyoto, Japan; 14 of the 15 rocks in the g

Japan’s most famous zen garden, the Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple, viewed from Hojo (the building that used be the head priest’s residence), Kyoto, Japan; at least one of the 15 rocks in the garden are hidden from view from any vantage point

 

Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season is a special time of the year to visit the Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season is a special time of the year to visit the Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

 

The garden of Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

The garden of Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

 

We were the only guests at our guide_s “secret garden” in the heart of Kyoto, Japan; similar to the world-famous Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple (which is overflowing with tourists f

We were the only guests at our guide’s “secret garden” in the heart of Kyoto, Japan; similar to the world-famous Rock Garden of Ryoanji Temple (which is overflowing with tourists from around the world), it was set in a Zen Buddhist Temple whose location I must keep secret…

 

Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan

The entry to the residence of the Shogun_s family residence, Ninomaru-goten Palace, which was moved to and expanded within Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan, by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first S

The entry to the residence of the Shogun’s family residence, Ninomaru-goten Palace, which was moved to and expanded within Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan, by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Edo Shogunate (1603-1867)

 

“Nijo-jo Castle was constructed in 1603 in Kyoto, Japan, by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Edo Shogunate (1603-1867).  In 1626, during the reign of the third Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu, the castle was greatly increased in size for the Imperial visit by Emperor Go-Mizuno-o.  In addition, it was at Nijo-jo Castle in 1867 that the fifteenth and last Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu decided to surrender his authority to rule the country to the Emperor, bringing 700 years of samurai rule to an end.  From 1884, the castle was used as an occasional residence by the Imperial Family until 1939 when it was presented to Kyoto City.  In 1994, the castle was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto’.” — Nijo-jo Castle signboard

 

Our visit to Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan, coincided with the height of Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season

Our visit to Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan, coincided with the height of Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season

 

Elaborate, gilded paintings on the screen walls within Ninomaru-goten Palace in Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan; this room was the waiting room for daimyo lords and foreign dignitaries wait

Elaborate, gilded paintings on the screen walls within Ninomaru-goten Palace in Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan; this room was the waiting room for daimyo lords and foreign dignitaries waiting for an audience with the Shogun

 

The family crest of the Tokugawa Shogunate was on each door in Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan; note that after rule of Japan was returned to the Emperor and the Castle became an Imperial r

The family crest of the Tokugawa Shogunate was on each door in Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan; note that after rule of Japan was returned to the Emperor and the Castle became an Imperial residence in 1884, most of the crests were replaced with the Emperor’s family crest

 

“It was here in the Ohiroma of Ninomaru-goten Palace in Nijo-jo Castle in 1867 that the fifteenth Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu made the pronouncement known as Taiseihokan (Restoration of Imiperial Rule) which handed back political power to the Emperor, thus bringing to a close the 265-year reign of the Edo Shogunate.  At the end of the Edo period, the movement to bring down the Shogunate, which was centered primarily on the Satsuma and Choshu domains of southwestern Japan, intensified, and imperial forces were also on the point of joining in the struggle.  In view of this, Yoshinobu resolved to bring the long history of the Tokugawa Shogunate to a close himself, as the last Shogun, working under the assumption that the Tokugawa family would be able to continue to dominate Japanese politics.  In response to petitions from all sides to surrender his political authority, it was here in the Ohiroma that, on the thirteenth day of the tenth month of 18967 (by the old calendar), Yoshinobu assembled senior vassals from forty domains who were resident in Kyoto, and circulated a consultative paper, thus indicating to the domains his intention to return political control of Japan to the Emperor.  On the following day, Yoshinobu tendered a memorial to the Imperial Court, and on the fifteenth, the Emperor sanctioned the return of political power, and the Restoration of Imperial Rule was completed.  Nijo-jo Castle thus was the stage on which the appointment of the first Shogun was announced, and where the end of the shogunal government was decided.” — Nijo-jo Castle signboard

 

The beautifully decorated and painted Ohiroma of Ninomaru-goten Palace in Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan, where the Shoguns sat on the upper level and received daimyo lords and foreign dig

The beautifully decorated and painted Ohiroma of Ninomaru-goten Palace in Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan, where the Shoguns sat on the upper level and received daimyo lords and foreign dignitaries who stood on the lower level

 

The moat around Ninomaru-goten Palace in Sakura season, within Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan

The moat around Ninomaru-goten Palace in Sakura season, within Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan

 

One of the beautiful Japanese gardens in Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan

One of the beautiful Japanese gardens in Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan

 

Several of the buildings of Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan, set in the gardens, with modern-day Kyoto in the background

Several of the buildings of Nijo-jo Castle, Kyoto, Japan, set in the gardens, with modern-day Kyoto in the background

 

Eat local: Japanese-style breakfast at Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

While there is no lobby, no restaurant, no fitness center, Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, Japan, offers the few guests accommodated each night tranquility in both the guest_s room with a vi

While there is no lobby, no restaurant, no fitness center, Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, Japan, offers the few guests accommodated each night tranquility in both the guest’s room with a view of a private Japanese garden and access to a few public rooms, such as this library with its own garden view

 

During our three-day visit to Kyoto, Japan, we stayed in a traditional ryokan – Tawaraya, regarded as a beautiful example of a small, traditional Japanese inn.  “A ryokan (旅館) is a type of traditional Japanese inn that originated in the Edo period (1603–1868), when such inns served travelers along Japan’s highways.  They typically feature tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata and talk with the owner.  Ryokan are difficult to find in Tokyo and other large cities because many are expensive compared to hotels, and Japanese people increasingly use hotels for urban tourism….  However, ryokan are more typically located in scenic areas, such as in the mountains or by the sea…  Most ryokan offer dinner and breakfast, which are often included in the price of the room.  Most visitors take their meals at the ryokan, which usually promote themselves on the quality of their food.  Meals consist of traditional Japanese cuisine known as kaiseki, which features seasonal and regional specialties. (Kaiseki originally referred to light meals served during a tea ceremony, and today refers to a meal consisting of a number of small, varied dishes.)  In order for each dish to be enjoyed at the proper temperature, ryokan stress that guests should be punctual for their meals.” – Wikipedia

 

Visiting during the heart of the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season, the center of Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan, contains an outdoor cherry tree that was in full bloom, providing a calming

Visiting during the heart of the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season, the center of Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan, contains an outdoor cherry tree that was in full bloom, providing a calming vista to all guests who walked back to the front entrance from their guest rooms

 

Adjacent to the small library was a reception room where guests are met and served hot tea upon arrival, Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

Adjacent to the small library was a reception room where guests are met and served hot tea upon arrival, Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Tawaraya is the finest ryokan in Kyoto and, arguably, the finest in all Japan.  Private gardens and incredible attention to detail make it a very special Kyoto experience…  But this isn’t why celebrities and political leaders from all over the world have stayed there.  Rather, it’s because Tawaraya is one of the few accommodations anywhere that manages to get everything right.  The rooms are impeccably decorated, in keeping with the wabi-sabi aesthetic of spare simplicity, with each item carefully chosen.  All guest rooms look out over their own private gardens and invite hours of contemplative gazing.  And the staff possess the uncanny ability to know what you want before you do.  All in all, it’s a magical little world that you won’t want to leave.  Only that would be a shame in a city with as many wonders as Kyoto.” – www.insidekyoto.com

 

Our traditional Japanese breakfast at Tawaraya Ryokan featured seafood, tofu and vegetables, Kyoto, Japan

Our traditional Japanese breakfast at Tawaraya Ryokan featured seafood, tofu and vegetables, Kyoto, Japan

 

This service box contained tofu and vegetables with a separate copper carafe of hot soup heated by the charcoal brazier, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan

This service box contained tofu and vegetables with a separate copper carafe of hot soup heated by the charcoal brazier, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan

 

Accompaniments for the tofu and soup, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan

Accompaniments for the tofu and soup, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan