The Reason Why Nijo Castle Captures the Essence of Japanese People’s “Formal” Character.

If you spend time in Japan, you may notice that the country has plenty of what appear to be silly, bothersome rules. You run into all sorts of problems when you learn the Japanese language, or when you participate in Japanese traditions like the tea ceremony, martial arts or Ikebana.

Why are the people that way? Isn’t it okay if the people engaging in the traditions simply accomplish the original goals – to drink tea, beat others and display flowers beautifully?

The fact that achieving the end goal is not enough has much to do with the “formal” character of Japanese people – which is not a modern phenomenon.

In fact, the same character trait existed 150 years ago, and it can be directly connected to some of the more attractive features of Nijo Castle.

Basic information of Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle is a famous sightseeing spot built in Kyoto during the Samurai era. Construction began in 1601. It was intended to be the residence of the Shogun, the most powerful person in Japan. It continued as a political center from 1603 to 1867.

Visitors today enjoy the Nightingale Floor, which sings when you step on it; the castle’s interior architecture; and its beautiful Japanese garden.

A revolution on paper

In the 19th century, Japan was separated into two groups that fought with each other. The reformers wanted to re-open the country after 200 years of isolation from the world; those on the traditionalists didn’t want it.

We won’t delve into the history in detail, but after some internal fighting, Shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa (a traditionalist) finally returned his power to the Emperor – not because he was assassinated, but by submitting his official resignation to the Emperor in 1867.

It was in Nijo Castle where that historical moment occurred. The Shogun gathered his  servants in the Ichino-ma and Nino-ma Chambers and declared that he was returning power to the Emperor.

When you visit Nijo Castle, you’ll see mannikins of these long-ago figures, frozen in a re-enactment of that historical scenario.

Japanese people “have been” formal

The transfer of national power took place as a result of a signature on a piece of paper. You can see why people today have high regard for official procedures, can’t you?

Today, Japanese people still believe it’s important to use correct honorifics and follow the correct procedure in the tea ceremony. The reason for this is the same: it’s because the people highly value adherence to official rules.


Nijo Castle HP

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