Nijo Castle in Winter

Naturally I’m rather fond of Japanese architecture but for some reason traditional buildings of the castle variety have never really grabbed me…  Nijo Castle is different.

For one… it’s not your A-typical castle.  It isn’t a wedding cake perched high on a hill overlooking the town, it’s at ground level as is the majority of Kyoto and very accessible.

Its open hallways with nightingale floors (early ninja detection system!), beautiful artworks and gilded lanterns deserves a leisurely paced stroll and deep ponder –  but it is the garden that keeps me returning.

Nijo-jo or castle, in the centre of Kyoto, is one of the very first sites I visited in Japan when I was just 15 years of age and it is somewhere I have returned to on many occasions through the last few decades. I always see it differently. The seasons will do that of course. But so will my mood, the light, the people I’m sharing it with, the sound.

Some people believe that winter suggests avoiding garden visits in Japan but winter gardens have a distinct personality of their own. These photos were take a few years ago on one of several visits – it was early winter as you can see by some of the autumn leaves left dangling from branches.

Deep winter means more stark contrasts with dark forms against pale backgrounds, dotted with winter flower colours – depending on the garden of course. And when it snows… oh when it snows. Instant transportation to another world.

Iced over ponds, snow dusted pines, muffled sounds and just handfuls of other folk allow for some serious moments of peace and beauty. I say rug up and get out there during the months of December through to End Feb and embrace the quiet and graceful ways of the winter garden.  You can thank me later.

If you’d like to join our winter Japanese cuisine and culture tours for 2018 you can find the list HERE !


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