You might still be able to trade it for Los Angeles.

Back in the 1990s, the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo were reputed to be worth as much as the whole of California. (These days, with the way house prices in California are plunging, the relationship might hold once again.)

So today, I walked the East Gardens of the Former State of California. Here’s a snap of Fujimiyagi, a castle keep built at one corner of the hill (partly to defend the castle, and partly so that the Emperor had a good vantage point to watch fireworks). The rest of the photoset is here, or click on for more.

The Keep

Unfortunately, the overcast sky made it really, really hard to take good photos. Everything came out a little washed out, but there were still some not-bad photos in the collection – even some obligatory photos of flowers. (I brought my 40D and the 50mm f/1.4 lens along today, so today’s photos actually have some depth of field.)

There’s some spectacular stonework in the gardens – most of it dates from the early seventeenth century, when a castle was built in the gardens to defend the palace against invaders. Here’s part of the topmost hill that the castle was built on.

The Tower Wall

There’s also a stack of beautifully preserved old buildings from the mid-1800s – samurai guard-houses, the old keep (above), and even an old gymnasium (no longer open to the public, unfortunately). I’m working on an HDR photo of one of the guard-houses – will post it here when it’s done.

Up top, there’s an enormous lawn – still tan-coloured at the moment, because the grass has just been buried under snow for a couple of months.

And like any self-respecting royal residence, it has a moat.

(Side note: I wandered down to the Bic Camera store in Ginza on my way back from the gardens. It’s insane. Imagine a ten-floor JB Hi-Fi, with a “golf equipment” section and a “bedding” section, and you won’t be too far off. Problem is, with the yen as strong as it is, it’ll be cheaper for me to buy everything in the States.)

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