Friday, October 12, 2012

Kyoto Imperial Palace – Kyoto Gosho

I visited Kyoto Imperial Palace or Kyoto Gosho on my first day in Kyoto. It’s magnificent, especially to those who like formal Japanese architecture, but the impression was quickly overshadowed by the places I saw later on. Kyoto Gosho started its existence in the 8th century as one of the spare palaces where the emperor could crash when his main palace was burned, which used to happen a lot. It is surrounded by an earthen wall, bits of which can be seen in the left and right images bellow. Left image shows Kenreimon gate and right image shows Kenshunmon gate. They are two of the five gates in the outer wall of the palace. The centre image shows Jomeimon gate in the inner wall surrounding the front garden (Dantei) of the main palace building (Shishiden).

The palace grounds have many impressive buildings and when I started writing this post I realised that I wasn’t paying enough attention to them. I was mostly looking at the garden. Because of this, the post contains only random examples of the Kyoto Gosho architecture. The building in the left image below is the royal carriage entrance Shinmikurumayose. The right image below shows Seiryoden, which used to be the Emperor’s residence. There are two lattice cubicles in front of Seiryoden with kuretake and kawatake varieties of bamboo. This building is mentioned in ‘The Tale of Genji’.

Leftmost image below shows Okurumayose entrance of Shodaibunoma building, which was used as a waiting area before the audience with the emperor. Shodaibunoma has three waiting rooms named after the subject of the paintings on their sliding doors. They are the Tiger Room, the Crane Room and the Cherry Room. Images below show some of the paintings.

Images below show the detail of few other buildings.

As mentioned above, I was interested in the gardens more than the buildings and the main garden of Kyoto Gosho is Oikeniwa (images below).

Oikeniwa is designed around a pond with a couple of islands, which are connected to the shore by bridges (image above and below).

The bridges were quite diverse, formal and informal in terms of style, as well as stone, earthen and timber in terms of materials. Some of them are shown in the images below. My favourite was Keyakibashi bridge shown in the top left image.

Such decided avoidance of repetition is seen the selection of lanterns around the palace grounds (images below). The majority of them are formal to go with the predominantly formal shinden and shoin style architecture. Some of the lanterns were metal (see second and third images from the left).

Finally, a few words about the garden trees in and around Kyoto Gosho. There were some trees of historical significance like the 300-year-old Muku Tree (Aphananthe aspera) of Shimizudani residence (leftmost image below). This tree is all that’s left of a court noble residence. The majority of all trees in Kyoto Gosho grounds have undergone a certain degree of shaping. A sample of such garden trees or niwaki is shown in the images below. Some of them bare a close similarity to bonsai.

Overall, it is worth visiting Kyoto Gosho, especially if you have to go to the Imperial Household Agency to secure passes to other places.

For my other posts on Japanese gardens in Kyoto see the following links: