The beautiful palace and grounds of Nij??j?? (Nijo Castle) in Kyoto were a delightful introduction to Kyoto. School kids on field trips, tourists, and photographers made the most of a pleasantly warm and almost sunny day.
The highlight of the tour had to be the famous nightingale floors in Ninomaru Castle. Having read a fictional series, the Tales of the Otori, by Lian Hearn, describing the effect of the flooring (I recommend “Across the Nightingale Floor”), it was intriguing to hear them chirp first hand (foot?) and try (and fail) to move soundlessly down the halls in my stocking feet. No matter where I placed my steps, the floors sang out and were I an invading ninja, I’d be a goner. Unfortunately, this will be an experience that may only be described or witnessed in person as no cameras (or shoes) are allowed in the castle.
The palace grounds were also beautiful in that manicured and artfully arranged way of Japanese formal gardens. This site is indeed worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage status.