Nijō Castle is the last site we saw on our first day in Kyoto. By the time we got there, my feet were killing me and I was tired and hungry, but when you only have three days in Kyoto, you power through. I remembered Nijō from my first trip to Japan, but I wanted to see it again. They don’t allow photographs of the inside of the castle, which is a shame because there are amazing murals and details in there. When you go inside the castle, you are asked to take off your shoes. The first time I went it was winter and we were given little slippers to wear. This time, I was barefoot, which made walking on the old, wooden floors a little unnerving. (Splinters!) But the floors are the most interesting part of Nijō Castle. Known as “nightengale floors”, the floor boards chirp when you walk on them. You can hear a little sample of how they sound on this Wikipedia page. The nightengale floors were an old form of a security system because the noise alerted the shogun if someone was sneaking into the castle. It really noisy in the castle with all of the tourists walking around.
Like most castles and shrines in Japan, the Nijō Castle is surrounded by amazing gardens. They have a chart on their website that notes the flowering trees you can view during the year. I’m really sure that there’s not a time in Japan when things aren’t beautiful. While we were in Kyoto we stayed at the Sakura Terrace. It was super close to Kyoto Station (maybe a ten minute walk) so we were able to catch a train or a bus quite easily. There is also a Mister Donut in Kyoto Station, so we were able to continue our Misdo mornings while we were away from Tokyo! The rooms at Sakura Terrace were simple and lovely, but the best part was the free (one drink) happy hour every night after 6pm. We enjoyed sitting on the terrace, chatting, writing postcards, and toasting to a great vacation among the hydragea every night during our stay. It was a perfect way to recover from walking all around the city all day and to gear up for dinner. Naoto enjoyed a daily dip in the Japanese baths, which is probably why he booked this hotel in the first place.
A few more Japan posts to go…are you still hanging in there?