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Travelogue K18

July 25, 2019


I awoke late morning, to the sound of disgruntled guts. My discomfort was eased within the hour by small breakfast pastries and a short walk to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Our outing was marked by low-hanging skies and sparse raindrops. Where the Gardens now stood, there had previously stretched the Outer, Inner and Great Inner wards of Edo Castle, home to the shogun for a quarter millenium. Although we strode from from one end to another in some twenty minutes – from Fujimiya Tower to the old Edo Castle Tower foundations – the same walk, 150 years earlier, would have lasted some hours. That is, if we had been allowed to make the journey at all, given the press of buildings to pass through, their doors opening only to those of high enough rank. This was without counting, of course, the required waiting times for those who held such rank.

Along the way, we gathered that the Imperial Household Agency had taken pains to point out the extant structures here and there: the small gatehouse before the larger rebuilt gatehouse; a surviving roof ornament; a retainer waiting room; a guardhouse for four watches of 120 guards; a watchpost on the ridge overlooking the current palace (perhaps then only garden). In homage to the Showa Emperor’s childhood nickname “Young Bamboo”, the Agency had also dedicated a section of garden to a collection of bamboo species, of which one specimen – jade-green and covered up and down in scales – was particularly fetching. All the while, beneath fruit trees and around lawns, we found ourselves tracing unaware the shape of some phantom footprint.


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