Sunday, 18 August 2013


One day I'm going to do a full post detailing the Shinsengumi. In fact, I already have one mostly written, sitting deep in the bowels of my "blog" folder. But today, although we're going to be visiting the group's iconic headquarters, we're going to glaze over a bit of the history and the details. If you're unfamiliar, it's enough to know, for the time being, that they were a small group of elite samurai who acted as a sort of special police for the Tokugawa bakufu, and like modern police, they sometimes clashed with other divisions, such as the rival Mimawarigumi. They were subject to a strict and somewhat arbitrary code of conduct, the penalty for violating which was being commanded to commit suicide. They wore intimdatingly colourful haori into battle, per the above photo (though they probably actually wore yellow, not blue), and were organized into eleven squads, each led by a talented soldier with all manner of stories surrounding him. They were basically the late-Edo Gotei 13tai, and wow do I hate myself for even typing that.
 And they operated out of this place.
 Easy access! Only one gate is open to the public at the moment. I know, because I started by taking a stroll around the whole complex. It took a solid 20 minutes.
 The moat isn't particularly deep and certainly not impassably wide, but you can imagine how stressful it would be to try to lurch across and then scale the walls while the defenders constantly fired rifles and bows at you.
 K, so here we are inside. Nijoujou is full of flat, open spaces.
 My plan was to arrive as early in the morning as possible, in order to avoid the crowds and thus get better shots. As you can see, my plan was a rousing success.
 You can only go into some of the buildings, and only at some times of year, and only if you pay extra money. I didn't really try to understand it. The site was used for different things at different times, including the Tokugawa residence, a young noble's household, and the Imperial Cabinet, and of course parts of it have been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries, so functionally speaking it's a bit of a patchwork.
 Should that be "so" keep off? A bit demanding if that's the case, but I can't think what else it could be. Hmph.
 Bells, but I couldn't read the explanation. I'm sorry.
 The first area opens into a beautiful garden...
 ...which, naturally, you are not allowed to walk through. Still though.

 A second moat protects the inner, more important section, the actual "castle" part of the castle.

 You've gotta be kidding me, there's a whole garden type thing up here too?! Wow. Nijoujou is just overflowing with green.

 I don't even really like nature, and even I'm beginning to think that I'd enjoy living here. I mean, not by myself, obviously. Maybe me and some of my close friends, and a few tenants, a retinue of bodyguards, and staff. Yeah, that could be really nice.

 Let's head up these stairs...
 ...but not before whirling and taking a shot of this couple. ^0^

 I thought I'd be able to look out and see some of the Kyouto cityscape, but I was wrong. Instead, the trees block our view, lending a feeling of insulation. I also thought a refreshing breeze would blow off the moat and cool me off, but I was wrong. Instead, it was still hot as balls.
 So cool.
 Glancing back.

 As we make our way back to the entrance we're directed to another, smaller garden. This one has what appears to be the warden's residence. In reality there's probably like a ride 'em mower or something in there.
 Conspicuously regular trees.
 Some of the buildings are suspiciously modern.
 I was curious about this, but not enough to both pay an additional 100 yen and take my shoes off. One or the other, ok; the two in combination, can't be bothered. Probably wasn't anything too too spectacular anyway. What, now you're curious too? Oh, fine.
Probably a bunch of stuff like this, if I had to guess. Ok, that is kind of cool.
There are better castles, and 600 yen entrance is a little steep, but Nijoujou is a nice visit. Also, while researching this post I found a video that you might enjoy, so let's finish out with that:

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