Gosho, Kyoto Imperial Palace

#gosho #kyotoimperialpalace #sentogosho

Kyoto was founded in 794 as the capital. It was called Heian-kyo at that time. The Imperial Palace was built on the West side of today ‘s Gosho, Imperial Palace. The city was built following the Feng-Sui, Chinese geomancy, The Heian-kyo’s Imperial Palace was placed in front of a very wide street, about 80 meters, facing to South. The city was planned with straight horizontal (East-West), and vertical (North-South) streets, giving the form of chess board. We can still see the original plan in downtown. Over the years Kyoto has been destroyed so many times by fire and the Imperial Palace was moved to the actual location, between Teramachi dori St. and Karasuma dori St.. What we see today is a reconstruction made in 19th century, built in Heian style. The Emperor Meiji and Taisho were born here, but after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the capital was moved to Tokyo, so the Emperor did too. Gosho is now used for official visit reception for important foreign delegations. Nowadays Gyoen, Imperial Park, is a public park, and it is a delight for the citizens. Gosho is open to the public twice a year as special events. To visit the two palaces, Gosho, (Imperial Palace), and Sento Gosho (Retired Emperor Palace) permits are needed. Imperial Household Agency is near the central gate of Karasuma dori St., permits are issued there. Passport is requested. You have to follow a guided tour, that is about one hour.

Non-corner corner! Northeast corner of Gosho

The wall surrounding Gosho,Imperial Palace, has white stripes, denoting the belonging to the Emperor. Also some temples and shrines have walls with white stripes showing imperial influence or connection. The main gate is Kenrei-Mon, facing to South and it is the one the Emperor used. An interesting detail can be found at the North East corner of the wall. As the bad influences and evil spirits come from this direction, the corner has a convex shape, to protect the Palace from the evils. Along the perimeter of the wall, there is a small canal with water from the Lake Biwa. I think it is both a kind of decoration and a border between outside and the “pure” inside. The Japanese Emperor is thought to have Celestial descent.

Vermillion passageway, Gosho

The visitors entrance to Imperial Palace is “Seisho-Mon”, West side gate. Inside the wall there are 18 buildings but you cannot enter it. But the visit worth it. The main spots are: “Seiyo-den”, (Serene and Cool Chamber), here the Emperor lived, “Shinshin-den”, (Cerimonial Hall), that was the place where important ceremonies such as Coronation were held, and “Ko-Gosho”, (Little Gosho), that was used for audiences and receptions. “Oike Niwa”, (Pond Garden), is a wonderful example of landscape garden, created by Kobori Enshu (1579-1647). “O-Gakumonjo”, (Imperial Hall of Studies), was used as a place where the Emperor was instructed by his tutors, and to cultivate arts, such as poetry and music.

Heian style architecture, Gosho

Visiting Gosho, Imperial Palace, makes us understand how the Imperial family and aristocrats were living. The Japanese spirit is deeply connected with nature. Also for the concept of building, in this case Imperial Palace, nature is the most important. It is easy to imagine the Emperor and his Court doing their daily duties while gardens, with the change of seasons, were the “in motion” paintings. The Emperor Akihito had the Coronation Ceremony in Tokyo when he ascended the throne, after his father Emperor Hirohito passed away. A tradition of more than 1.000 years ended.

Stone bridge of “Oike niwa”, Gosho

Sento Gosho(仙洞御所)

Sento Gosho (Retired Emperor Palace) is located to Southeast of Gosho. Also its walls have white stripes. The villa was built for the retired Emperor Go-Mizuno, by the Tokugawa Shogun in 1630. The villa was destroyed by fires and rebuilt in 1854. Omiya Palace, next building, where the Empress lived, is 1867’s reconstruction. The Imperial Family uses it today when they visit Kyoto. Sento Gosho is famous for the beauty of its gardens. Emperor Go-Mizuno was an adept in Zen, tea ceremony, flower arrangement. He was also very talented as a garden designer. He designed the garden of Sento Gosho with Kobori Enshu, a master gardener. The pebbles of the pond were sent from a Daimyo, feudal lord, who had them gathered from a beach near Mount Fuji. He sent the pebbles to Emperor Go-Mizuno, wrapped each by each with silk. How delicate it is!

Sento Gosho, South gate

Court lady on board!

The park surrounding the two Palaces is open day and night. Often It is often used as a short cut going from one direction to another of the city. There are many trees, making it in a green oasis in the middle of the city. In the Northwest corner there is a nice playground for children. Kyoto people stroll in the park, and enjoy plum and cherry blossoms, and the autumn foliage. People bring a “Bento”, box lunch, and relax here. Some people do physical exercises, others read. Near Imperial Household Agency there is an easygoing place where people can eat some simple food, or rest at the tables. There is also a souvenir shop.
At the Southwest corner of the park there is a nice tea-house, facing a pond and a little Shinto shrine. At the Southeast corner, there is a playground for baseball and a tennis court.
Two of Kyoto’s major festivals start from Gosho, Aoi Matsuri (May 15) and Jidai Matsuri (October 22).

Aoi Matsuri, Festival of Hollyhock

This place was only for Emperors and aristocracy in the past days, but today Kyoto people can enjoy the park, and the Imperial Palace during the special openings. I bet the pride of Kyoto people comes from over 1,200 years of history. And Gosho, Honourable Place, is still deeply connected with their heart.