Nijo Jinya–A Ninja House in Old Kyoto
I rode my bike downtown yesterday. It was warm and sunny and my first day this year on my bike without a jacket. I rode down from my house almost entirely on quiet, narrow residential streets. The late blooming double flower cherries were shedding pedals like snow, while azaleas, dogwood, wisteria and yellow kerria were in full bloom, everywhere. My destination was Nijo Jinya. The Ogawa family has been living in this designated National Treasure for several hundred years, since the days when it functioned as an inn catering to feudal lords visiting Kyoto.
The 17,600 sq. ft., sukiya-style house has 24 rooms. Because guests of Nijo Jinya were the wealthiest and most powerful people in feudal Japan, security was a high priority. The house is fitted with numerous devices to outsmart treacherous intruders. There are hiding places between cupboards, low ceilings in hallways to discourage swordplay, hallways that dogleg around blind staircases in order to trap an enemy, soundproof hiding places for a bodyguard, escape openings, a suspending staircase, closets with back doors, hiding places for valuables and documents and areas built with acoustic qualities that allowed guards to hear all conversation below.