Saturday, May 29, 2010

Castle Context

I went to Nijo Castle today and it was an excellent experience. It's a wonder the teachers didn't have it on the agenda. We got a free tour, just out of shear luck and learned about many things related to the visual culture of Japan. One of the more obvious ones was how the Shoguns showed power. During the 12th Century, there became the first shogun, Tokugawa, who came to rule for over 260 years. They still had the emperor at this time, but he was more of a figure head just like he is in modern Japan. Tokugawa's symbol was a three leaf clover.
He had several meeting and waiting rooms, depending on who he was meeting with. If they had originally been counted amongst his enemies, they were kept in the farthest waiting room, where lions and cheetahs were painted on the screen wall to show off his power. Interestingly enough, neither animal had been to Japan at this time, he had only seen pictures. In more personal meeting halls, like people the Shogun was close to, the wall paper was much more relaxed, more easy going. And in the special room where only the Shogun and his concubines could go, there was a very cloudy, relaxed, even dreamy type of wall paper.
The councilors' meeting room was blank because they were servants to the Shogun. And finally, the royal message receiving room, while rich in color and design, had the Shogun on the lower level to the messenger. To show loyalty to the crown. However, the crown laid in the east and Tokugawa put the messenger room in the south corner of the castle, showing a disrespect to the Emperor. Not only was paintings a good way to show power, but the floors in the halls were called nightingale floors. The reason they were called this, was because they were designed so the boards squeaked when anything came across them, as a way to protect themselves from enemies. Nijo castle has two moats, an outer moat and an inner moat where I can only assume the royal family stayed. The inner castle was the originally, but after an attack they built out, expanding but keeping certain parts.
It's a very beautiful castle, and I was lucky to get a history of the building, in English so I could understand. I recommend this to anyone who is seeing Japan.

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