I'd like to start with Seison-kaku, a villa in Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa. The garden itself is a splendid traditional garden, with tea-houses, pines, plum groves and cherry trees. But the villa is particularly interesting because it was built for a woman: Shinryu-in, widow of Maeda Narinaga. It is fascinating to look at the different rooms, which are named after the paintings on their skirting boards (tortoise room, butterfly room etc.), to stand in the grand reception room (pictured above) and imagine life as a Japanese noblewoman in days gone by. This is the future Taro pictures for Margaret.
Last time, I spoke about Nijo Castle in Kyoto, which houses a magnificent set of mansion buildings. For those of you familiar with Lian Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor, the castle actually has a nightingale floor, which you must walk on in stockinged feet. It squeaks as you walk, so that no one can sneak up on the castle's owner to assassinate him. Looking at interiors like the one pictured above, one can imagine the splendour Taro lives in as a feudal lord.
Lastly, I take you to the temple town of Koya-san, high in the mountains. It was founded by Shingon Buddhist teacher Kobo Daishi in 816, and contains the headquarters of the Shingon sect, plus many other temples, and is a place of pilgrimage. Like Margaret and Taro at the end of the story, my fellow-travellers and I were housed by monks in a temple lodging. It was a very special night for me, standing in the temple garden at night, looking up at the stars and singing quietly to myself Lover's Bridge, the song I wrote for Margaret and Taro. Like this bride and groom at Grand Meiji Shrine, Tokyo, our heroes have a lot to look forward to.