Sorry about the long delay on posting, but after a busy day of sight seeing and cooking and cleaning up supper, we have been falling into bed and sound asleep by no later than 9pm! Today is a rest day, so ta-dah! posts!
Japan has the oldest continuous monarchy in the world, with 125 Emperors stretching back to 660BC. Their rule has at time been purely ceremonial with most of their interest focused upon being the head of the Shinto religion, to periods where they were battlefield leaders.
In the Heian period (794-1185) saw the first rise of the Shoguns which were military commanders to fight the Emishi, a tribe of people in the North of Honshu and Hokkaido. When the Emishi were conquered the shoguns faded into the pages of history. But in Kamakura period, [1192-1333] the monarchy became weak allowing two powerful families to grab enough power to spike wars that ebbed and flowed across Japan. Which were only brought to a end when the Tokugawa clan seized total power of the country and moved the capital from Kyoto to modern Tokyo, starting the beginning of the peaceful Edo period.
Nijo-jo was built in Kyoto as a home to the Tokugawa clan, where the Emperor resided and was still respected as a divine ruler and head of the Shinto religion. As befitting the supreme family of Japan, Nijo-jo was bedecked with gold leaf, paintings by masters and gardens framed by the shoji doors for those within the inner areas of the castle.
This is the main inner gate, leading to the Shogun's palace.
and details of the magnificent carvings
and closer yet...
and just to remind you, as if that were possible to forget, the power the Tokugawa's wielded, they decorated the bottom of the gate posts.
I have no idea where these bells were originally housed, but there are two of them, and to show their size, here's Greg with a demonstration.
Part of the gardens through yet again another gate.
The gardens were calm and peaceful and a joy to experience. However due to the increasing clouds the day became grayer and really dulled the colors down.
A detail of the main outer gate.
And the view of the moat and from the ruined top of one of the towers.
The Imperial Palace. When Emperor Meiji was given the power of the throne back from Tokugawa, he had his artisans go around and knock off all of their clan insignia, and replaced them with the chrysanthemum insignia of the monarchy.