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Part 3: Summer 2008 to Fall 2009

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page contents
1 The Imperial Palace in the heart of Tokyo (You are here)
Fushimi Yagura at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo
Sakuradamon at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo
Sakuradamon at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo (2)
Hirakawamon at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo
Sakurada-Niju Yagura at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo
2 Bell at Ganshoin in Obuse, Nagano Prefecture
Old shrine in Obuse, Nagano Prefecture
Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo
Party boat docked on the Arakawa River, Tokyo
Bentendo on Shinobazu pond, Tokyo
Meiji Era Liquor Shop in Ueno Sakuragi, Tokyo
Old corner shrine in Tokyo
3 Postcard size sketches
Sakurada-Niju Turret, Imperial Palace, Tokyo (2)
Sakurada-Niju Turret, Imperial Palace, Tokyo (3)
Sakuradamon at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo (3)
Otemon at the Imperial Palace
Old Sembei Shop in Yanaka, Tokyo
Bell Tower in Kawagoe, Saitama, near Tokyo
Old Shop in Kawagoe, Saitama, near Tokyo
Bentendo on Shinobazu pond, Tokyo (2)
4 Loose sketches done on location in the summer of 2009
Edo Castle
Old building in Jimbocho
Fuji mound of Shimokamata
Shinto Shrine near Hamacho station
Sushi Shop in Ningyo-cho
Old Shop in Kinshicho
Choya Shimbun
Akasaka Medical
Kabukiza
Unagi Shop
Very old shop in Nezu: Chojiya
Nikko Station
Very old building in Nikko
Old neighborhood shrine
Soba restaurant near Toranomon
People in my Pocket Sketchbook
5 Autumn of 2009: Postcard Sketch Binders Substitute for Moleskine
Postcard Subway Sketches
Sakuradamon
Restaurant in Mukojima
Old Fish Shop in Mukojima
Old Sushi Shop in Machiya
Old Shop in Asakusa
Soba Shop in Kameido
>> Sketchbook Home

The Imperial Palace in the heart of Tokyo

This is one of my favorite sketching areas. It's in the heart of crazy, noisy Tokyo and yet it's relatively peaceful. It used to be Edo-Jo (Edo castle) the headquarters for the Tokugawa Bakufu (military government) until the military government was toppled in 1868.

At that time the Emperor Meiji moved from Kyoto to Edo, making it the new capital of Japan, and changing its name to Tokyo. Tokyo means "east capital" and is located in east Japan while Kyoto means "capital city" and is located in central Japan.

This was a radical change in Japanese history. Prior to this, Kyoto had been the emperor's home and the capital of Japan for over a thousand years. It is true that for a time (around the 13th and 14th centuries) the military leaders had made Kamakura their base of operations, but the traditional capital of Japan was always Kyoto -- since the year 794. The military leaders always made sure to maintain an emperor in Kyoto as the official and hereditary sovereign of Japan whose assent -- even if given under duress -- gave legitimacy to their actions.

So Emperor Meiji (called Mutsuhito during his life time) made the vacated Edo castle grounds in Tokyo his new residence. Now his great grandson the current emperor lives there. A lot of the old moats, walls and turrets are still there from Tokugawa times (the Edo era) so this is a thrilling place for the artist and history student.


Fushimi Yagura at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

This is a sketch of Fushimi Yagura (Fushimi Turret) the building visible behind Nijubashi at the Imperial Palace grounds in Tokyo. It is an impressive building, and as I was sketching it I wondered if anyone has ever mistaken it for the palace itself which is actually a modern structure completely hidden from public view. As I finished the sketch two American tourists asked me if that was the palace. There ya go. Nobody lives in it, and it once served as a guard post like all the turrets. I enjoy sketching in this area because I always encounter visitors from other countries, especially China and Korea, and they are usually very open and friendly. One lady from China wanted to buy this sketch right then and there, but since I was not finished, I gave her my URL and said it would be available later.

This was done entirely on the spot with brush and ink and watercolors.


Sakuradamon at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

This is one of several gates surrounding the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, which used to be the grounds of Edo Castle (Edojo), headquarters of the Shoguns. I think I will make it my goal to sketch all the gates here. This one is on the south side of the palace grounds, just south of Nijubashi bridge, and is called Sakuradamon, or cherry field gate. Like most gates here, its massive doors open to a court yard and another set of massive doors at a right angle to the outer door. If you were a hostile enemy who somehow managed to crash the first set of doors, you would be a sitting duck as you came upon the second set. The stones in the wall nearest to the door are precisely cut, but as you get farther from the door you can see the builders gave less attention to their shape until it looks like they were simply picked up and built into the wall with no cutting at all."

One obvious thing about Tokyo that sets it apart from other cities in Japan is the Imperial Palace / Edo Castle grounds, which is why I sketch here so often. I also enjoy talking to international tourists, and end up being photographed many times like a celebrity (or some kind of side show attraction). As I sketched this one I heard a sweet female voice in a group passing behind me whisper "bellissimo!" which made my day.

This was done entirely on the spot with brush and ink and watercolors.


Sakuradamon at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo (2)

This is another sketch of Sakuradamon at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. That last one was sold before the week was out, so I went back and sketched another of the same gate from a different angle, and from a distance so I could include the top of the inner gate that stands at a right angle to the one that is visible. When I told my wife on the phone that I was at Sakuradamon, she told me to be careful because someone was murdered there. This turned out to be a joke, since the murder was not a recent event, but happened in 1860 when Daimyo Ii Naosuke was assassinated by a band of 17 young samurai loyalists from the Mito province as he was entering this gate to meet with the shogun.

This was done entirely on the spot with brush and ink and watercolors.


Hirakawamon at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

This is a sketch of Hirakawamon at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Like many of the gates here, there is a bridge leading to the first gate, which opens into a small courtyard which has a second gate at a right angle. You can see the building which houses the gate behind the first one. This gate is partially hidden by trees.

This was done entirely on the spot with brush and ink and watercolors.


Sakurada-Niju Yagura at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

This is a sketch of Sakurada-Niju Yagura (cherry field double turret) which sits on the corner of the wall overlooking the moat of former Edo castle, the home of the shoguns. In the late 19th century the Emperor (Meiji) moved to Tokyo from Kyoto and replaced the final shogun, and the castle grounds became the Imperial Palace grounds. Very few buildings remain from the original castle. If you do a web search for the Imperial Palace in Tokyo you will see lots of photos of this famous structure.

This was done entirely on the spot with brush and ink and watercolors.


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