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September 30, 2009
Los Gatos, California
November 21, 2003
The present Kyoto Imperial Palace is one of the sato-dairi palaces and came to be used often around the time when the Heian-period dairi was destroyed. From 1331, when Emperor Kogon was enthroned, and until the capital was moved to Tokyo in 1869, this sato-dairi served as the Imperial Palace. Over this period, the Imperial Palace was often destroyed by fire and then reconstructed. When it was rebuilt, having been burned down in 1788, the Shishinden and other major structures in the Palace compound were rebuilt in the traditional Heian style. In 1854, when the Palace burned down again, the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered that an Imperial Palace identical to its predecessor be immediately rebuilt, and the work was completed with exceptional speed by the following year. This is the Palace that still stands today.
The Kyoto Imperial Palace, which is surrounded by tsuijibet, or earthen walls with coping tiles, extends approximately450m from north to south and 250m from east to west. It encompasses a total area of approximately 110,000 square meters (approximately 27 acres).
From journal The Other Half of Our Dream Vacation
July 11, 2001
The Old Palace is mostly free of frivolous trappings. In its simplicity hid an extremely ordered, hierarchical society. A couple of things in particular illustrate this one dominant principle of Japanese society. For example, there are separate entrances for the king, the queen, high-level shoguns, and lower-level officials. The doors are distinguished, not by the amount of gold or other precious metals (though you do find gold leaf decorations on some of the palace doors), but by the thickness of the cypress roof, with the king's entrance having the thickest roof overhead. Even the empress was not allowed to use the king's entrance unless she was accompanied by the king. Another example is the waiting room for those seeking audience with the king. There are three waiting rooms: the room closest to the king's throne is the lion room (denoted by the painting on the shoji screen), followed by the crane room, and finally the cherry blossom room. The lion room is highest, i.e., you have to step up from the crane room to reach the lion room. The same goes for access to the crane room from the cherry blossom room. Even the colors of the tatami mats graduate from lighter to darker yellow.
The gardens and the Palace themselves form the center of Kyoto, and are thus a vital and necessary focal point for the tourist. Take a walk through the gardens and along the paths between them. I find that walking in the footsteps of countless old rulers is a powerful and humbling experience. As you walk through the gardens and approach the Palace, do be mindful of its tremendous significance, and that it was the seat of the chrysanthemum throne for two and a half millenia.
From journal Kyoto - The Japan of Old