Kyoto
                                  August 28 - 31                         Shanghai


Kyoto is a walking city.  Or so we thought, when we examined the tourist map supplied by the hotel.  It looked as if it were about the size of Newport RI or so, about 6 blocks long and 5 blocks across, with lots of historic stuff to see, close to the hotel.  Well, we discovered, as we walked for hours on the first day, that only the important streets are on the map, and there are several blocks  between each of the important streets.  We concluded that it was a sucky map (sic) and that we were getting tired of walking.

Kimono Fashion ShowThe Nishijin Orimono, or Textile Center in Kyoto, is a combination of store, museum, and fashion center.  Kyoto is known as an important center of the silk weaving industry, and we saw some beautiful examples of this ancient art.  Kimonos, clothes, men's ties, all made of Japanese silk woven in the area surrounding the Center, were all on display.  We also were treated to a kimono fashion show, which we both thought was remarkable.  The fashions were stunning.

Entrance to Nijo-joToday, we visisted Nijo-jo, or Nijo castle, built by Tokogawa Ieyasu, the first shogun, around 1602 when he was promoted to the title shogun (First barbarian qwelling generallissimo)(no seriously).  The emperor was enthroned in Kyoto at the time, and he made it a point to show the emperor and the rest of Japan that he was in charge, by building a massive flamboyantly military castle in elegant, subtle and imperial Kyoto.  The castle still exists, and is something to see, although it lacks completely any heating or plumbing, and all light was provided by candle.  The walls of the interior rooms of the castle are all painted by painters of the Kano school, the very hippest painters in the 1600's, and it was all  quite stunning.  Although, you would think that the most powerful person in Japan could afford a chair, at least.  No furniture at all.

Above Nijo-joNijo castle although it looks quite impressive, is actually quite lightly defended, in terms of stoneworks and such, and so the Shogun built another, more secure fortress behind the castle called Honmaru.  This unfortunately burned to the ground and was replaced by moving another building to the location, so the original form of the fortress was lost.  Still, it is an impressive building from the outside.  This view is from the top of a fortification, which apparently held a tall pagoda tower, on the cornerof the the fortifications surrounding Honmaru.  You can see the only exit from the Honmaru palace to the outside, and the moat surrounding the fortress wall.

An important security feature of Nijo castle, is that the floors of the corridors outside the rooms are designed to squeak as you walk on them.  They are called Nightingale floors, and they do create a chirping sound as you walk.  The amazing thing is that this feature still works after hundreds of thousands of tourists walk over these floors every year.

Garden at Nijo-joThis traditional japanese garden is part of Nijo-jo.  It is quite a bit larger than the photo shows, and was designed by an important japanese garden designer in the early 1600's.  Interestingly, the emperor came to vist Nijo castle, and to prepare, the Shogun built a seperate palace just for the emperor, on the opposite side of the garden.  Then, in order to make everything perfect for the emperor, he had all of the  stones turned, so that the view from the emperor's palace was the most attractive view of the garden.

Just outside of Nijo-jo, we found a great little sword shop.  Some of you may know that Chris has been interested in Nihonto or Japanese swords.  They are considered an art form in Japan, and a whole craft industry has been maintained to polish, make fittings(scabbards, handles etc.) for, as well as create new swords.  Anyway, after some gesturing, some very potent tea, and a couple references to the dictionary and phrase book, we were able to purchase a sword, and have new fittings made for it.  After the shop owner gets approval from the government and the museum, the sword will be assembled and shipped.  This all takes about 9 weeks.

Parking GarageLastly, this photo is of a typical 4 car garage.  These elevated racks to hold one car over another are all over Tokyo and Kyoto.  We even saw a sort of carousel parking machine, inside a building.  I suppose the parking situation could get worse in Boston.

Well, that is it for Japan.  We had a great time, and can't wait to see China!  Keep those cards and letters coming, maybe you can be a lucky winner too!

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