1st November, 2006 - After a long day of temple-watching the day before, we were at a bit of a loss... we had plans for the afternoon, but had a free morning. That's not to say we didn't have something up our sleeves - we just didn't know if we'd have the opportunity to do it. About twice a year, the Imperial Palace - Kyōto Gosho - throws open its doors to the public. Today was one of those rare days. Could we resist... Alas - no, we couldn't. So after a quick bout of morning sickness, my wife and I headed out for a new adventure.
The last time we were here (only 10 days ago) there were similiar numbers of people to see the Jidai Matsuri. Now - they were massing, in their thousands, to have a peek inside the Palace walls. So without further ado, here we go...
The first stop is the Shodaibu-no-ma... the rooms set aside for visiting nobles, where they could await an audience with the Emperor.
|Waiting in style - Shodaibu-no-ma.|
|Two noble-women indulge in a game of Go... deep in concentration (and varnish).|
The main hall is known as the Shishinden (below), is also known as the Hall of State Ceremonies, and is surrounded by a garden of white gravel.
|The Shishinden (and idiot) as viewed from Jomei-mon.|
|The Shishinden and citrus tree|
|"Shishinden"... just in case you had missed it|
In the middle of the Shishinden is placed the original throne that was used in the 1915 enthronement of Emperor Taisho.
|Throne in the Shishinden (Hall of State Ceremonies)|
The Seiryoden (the Serene and Cool Chamber) was originally the residence of the emperor, and was used through to the 11th century. This building was re-created in 1790 on a slightly smaller scale. It was originally the official residence hall, but came to become another ceremonial hall... The design, in the shinden-zukuri style with cypress bark roof, is typical of residence designs of the later Heian period.
The Seiryoden... not a good place for a zombie out-break
The ten room hall can be converted into a single open room through the removal of walls and doors. The main room also holds an imperial throne, framed by a Korean dog and lion statue.
|Michodai...(Imperial Throne) - protected by pair of Korean dog (left) and lion (right)|
A notable feature of the palace is the gardens, including the Oike-niwa. The former was designed by Kobori Enshu (1579 – 1647) and Emperor Go-mizuno-o. It was originally fed by water from Biwa-ko through an underground pipe, but is now supplied by a well specifically constructed for this purpose.
|Oike-niwa Pond (looking north)|
|Oike-niwa Pond (looking south)|
Otsunegoten Imperial Villa
|Paintings in the Otsune-goten|
Gonaitei was the private garden of the emperor, and included a tea-house. It makes for a nice way to end the tour of the Imperial Palace...
|Goneitai - Emperor's private garden|
The open days at Kyoto Gosho are a mixed blessing. The visit is free, and you don't need to book through the Imperial Household Agency (which would normally be required). However - you don't get the tour in English (as you do with the official tours), and you have to mix it up with upwards of 10-20,000 people at any given time...(guesstimate). The official tours are a bit of a pain to get on (see here for the details) - they don't run on weekends, and you need to book ahead of time generally.
As for the Imperial Palace itself - well, it's not what you call grand, and I have to admit that the heavy use of mannequins puts me off, big-time. However, as a way of seeing at least a re-creation of an Imperial court, it's not bad. Just don't expect to be able to head off and explore anywhere.... both the official tours and the public openings are carefully directed.