In central Kyoto, you can find two of the most important tourist sites in the city: the Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle, as well as a few smaller sights and attractions.
Nijo Castle was built in 1603 by the first Shogun of the Edo Shogunate, Ieyasu Tokugawa. After the shogunate fell, it was an imperial palace for a while. Afterward, it was donated to the city and opened to the public. It is now one of the UNESCO heritage sites.
The castle is best known for its nightingale floors. Those are special kinds of floors designed in a way that when someone walks on them, they squeak. It was an ingenious way to secure against assassins. Ever since I read about them in a book, I wanted to see or rather hear them for myself 🙂
The castle inside is kind of boring as the Japanese people are not really big fans of furniture 🙂 You can see tatami mats in the rooms, and wonderfully painted ceilings and doors, but that is it. It is not my cup of tea. However, outside of the main building was a different story. There are beautiful gardens all around. You can climb up the stone foundation of the former castle keep and see the panoramic view of castle grounds.
There is also a cherry tree and plum orchard where you can immerse yourself in the flowers 🙂
If you are interested in more information about the site and its history, click on the link here.
During the autumn season in 2019, Nijo Castle was opened during the night for night viewing and hosted an event called “FLOWERS BY NAKED” – an interactive flower art event to be enjoyed with the five senses through the use of flower arrangements, objects, video, interactives, smells, and music. The night viewings in temples and castles are extraordinary, and that was not an exception. As we walked through the gardens at night, we enjoyed the tranquil atmosphere and marveled at mesmerizing projections on castle walls.
Kyoto Imperial Palace
It used to be the residence of the Imperial Family until the capital was moved to Tokyo. It is located in the Kyōto Gyoen (Kyoto Imperial Park), which is a beautiful park to take a stroll. The park has a couple of other sights as well, like Sento Imperial Palace or a former residence of court nobles. So if you have time, definitely walk around. When I was there, I was unlucky, and before I reached the Imperial Palace, the only dry item on me was my shoes 🙂
I have read on the internet that I needed to have a reservation to enter, but when I got there, no one asked for anything. So I don’t think you need to book anything anymore. I was given a number tag and went into the palace grounds. Even though it is not possible to enter any of the buildings, it is still really nice to stroll around. Even in the heavy rain 🙂 Big plus of rain was that there were almost no people around, yey 😀
As mentioned before, Sento Gosho is also located in Kyoto Imperial Park. It used to serve as the residence of retired emperors during the Edo period. I have read that it has lovely gardens, but I have not been there personally.
I have also read that must be toured as part of a guided tour that you would need to apply for. The whole tour takes one hour, and it is only available in Japanese.
Part of what you can count as Central Kyoto I have already described in Downtown Kyoto article so I will not repeat it here:)