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Notes on the Geography of Japan: Nijo Palace

The Nijo Palace (more properly Ni-no-Maru) was built at the edge of a ruined imperial castle in the early 17th century by Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The Emperor Meiji came here in 1868, sat down, and signed the edict that abolished the Shogunate.

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Japan: Nijo Palace picture 1

He also took charge of the palace and replaced the ubiquitous Tokugawa leaf-crest insignia with his own, the chrysanthemum.

Japan: Nijo Palace picture 2

The kara-mon, or Chinese-style gate; previously part of the Fushimi Castle. The palace is built entirely of wood in the shoin style, with a set of en echelon gabled buildings beginning with the antechamber (the to-zamurai, shown rising behind the gate) and connecting in a zigzag pattern off to the left through the assembly hall (shikidai), reception rooms (ohiroma), private rooms (kuro-shoin), and shogun's quarters (shiro-shoin). The whole sequence extends over a distance of about 500 feet.

Japan: Nijo Palace picture 3

An example of the way the several buildings are joined, in a pattern leading from the most to the least public area.

Japan: Nijo Palace picture 4

Gable of the antechamber (to-zamurai).

Japan: Nijo Palace picture 5

Gable of third building, the reception room (ohiroma).

Japan: Nijo Palace picture 6

Eave detail, with the ubiquitous emblem.

Japan: Nijo Palace picture 7

The palace garden is a paradise garden, with stones given as gifts to the shoguns. The trees are a recent addition, because falling leaves in Japan's parlous past seemed too suggestive of the fate of powerful men.

Japan: Nijo Palace picture 8

Originally, the garden was probably dry.

Japan: Nijo Palace picture 9

The garden flanks the palace, so that several rooms look directly upon it. Question: would the view be more dramatic if the water was replaced by raked sand?


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