Nijo Castle, also known as Nijo-jo, is a historic castle in Kyoto, Japan. It was built in 1603 as the residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period. The castle consists of two concentric rings of fortifications, the Ninomaru Palace, the ruins of the Honmaru Palace, various support buildings, and several gardens.
It’s known for its stunning architecture and design, which was intended as a demonstration of the shogun’s prestige. The castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns in Kyoto, who had been ruling Japan for over 260 years from 1603 to 1868, and it remains an eloquent testimony to their power. Today, Nijo is high up on the list of the best things to do in Kyoto and is rightly so a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Right next to the Nijo station
- Built-in 1603 as the residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period.
- Nijo Castle is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- An eloquent testimony to the power of the Tokugawa shoguns in Japan
- Holds night light up events throughout the year
History Of Nijo Castle
The castle was built as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa shoguns, who would go on to rule Japan for an impressive 260 years. It is surrounded by a double moat and made up of three distinct areas: the Ninomaru Palace, the Honmaru compound, and the castle’s two gardens.
The castle played an important role in Japanese history, particularly during the Edo period. In 1867, the 15th and last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, returned the ruling power to the emperor, bringing an end to the shogunate era and Nijo Castle was used as the location for the transfer of power from the shogun to the emperor, marking a significant moment in Japanese history.
During World War II, the castle was used as a military police headquarters, and some of the original structures were destroyed. However, the castle was restored in the post-war era and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.
The castle’s architecture is characterized by its grandeur and simplicity, which reflects the power and authority of the shogun who ruled Japan during that time. The structure consists of two concentric rings of fortifications, with the Honmaru Palace in the innermost ring.
It features a blend of traditional Japanese and Chinese styles, with a focus on functionality and practicality. The walls are made of stone, and the roofs are covered in traditional Japanese tiles. The interior features intricate wood carvings, painted screens, and sliding doors that are decorated with gold leaf and other ornate designs.
The most famous feature is the “nightingale floors” in the corridors of the Honmaru Palace. These floors are designed to squeak like birds when someone walks on them, which served as a security measure to prevent intruders from entering the palace undetected. The floors were also used to announce the arrival of important guests.
Nijo Castle is known for its beautiful gardens that surround the palace buildings. They were designed by Kobori Enshu, a famous garden master, during the Edo period and have been gardens divided into two parts: the Ninomaru Garden and the Seiryu-en Garden.
The Ninomaru is within the Ninomaru Palace and was designed for Emperor Go-Mizunoo. It features a pond with a small island and a walking path that takes visitors around the garden.
The garden has a traditional Japanese design with carefully placed rocks, trees, and flowers.
You can also see the famous “tsukimi no ma” or moon viewing pavilion, which was used by the emperor for moon viewing parties.
The Seiryu-en Garden is on the eastern side of the castle and has a more eclectic design. It was named by the Kyoto mayor Gizo Takayama and is divided into two parts. The western half is a Western-style garden with a large lawn and flower beds. The eastern half of the garden is a traditional Japanese garden with a pond, a waterfall, and a teahouse. You can enjoy the contrast between the two styles and take a peaceful stroll through the garden.
Both gardens are meticulously maintained and offer visitors a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can also learn about the history of Japanese garden design and appreciate the skill and artistry that went into creating these beautiful landscapes.
Visiting Nijo Castle
Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your visit:
- Opening hours: Nijo Castle is open daily from 8:45 am to 5:00 pm, with the last admission at 4:00 pm. Note that the Ninomaru-goten Palace has separate admission hours from 8:45 am to 4:10 pm.
- Tickets: Admission to Nijo Castle costs 1000 yen for adults and 350 yen for children. Tickets for the Ninomaru-goten Palace are an additional 400 yen for adults and 200 yen for children.
- Guided tours: Guided tours of Nijo Castle are available in English and Japanese. They are included in the admission price and last about an hour. Check the website for the latest schedule.
Once inside the castle grounds, you can explore at your own pace. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as there is a lot of walking involved. Some of the highlights of the castle include:
- The Ninomaru-goten Palace: This is the main attraction of Nijo Castle. It was built in the 17th century and features stunning architecture and artwork. Don’t miss the “nightingale floors,” which squeak to alert guards of any intruders.
- The gardens: Nijo Castle has several beautiful gardens that are worth a visit. The Seiryu-en garden is particularly impressive, with its large pond and waterfall.
- The Honmaru Palace: This palace was built in the 16th century and served as the residence of the shogun. It is currently closed to the public, but you can still admire it from the outside.
Overall, Nijo Castle is a fascinating glimpse into Japan’s feudal past. With its impressive architecture, beautiful gardens, and rich history.
|Name||Nijo Castle (二条城)|
|Address||541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301, Japan|
|Ticket Cost||Adults: 1,030 JPY; Junior High and Elementary School Students: 350 JPY|
|Opening Times||8:45 – 17:00 (Last admission 16:00); Closed on Tuesdays in January, July, August, and December, and December 26 – January 4|
|Luxury||Hotel Nikko Princess Kyoto – 1.5 km|
|Kyoto Hotel Okura – 1.7 km|
|Mid-range||Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shinmachi Bettei – 1.3 km|
|The Junei Hotel Kyoto Imperial Palace West – 1.5 km|
|Budget||Guest House Oumi – 0.8 km|
|Kyoto Nijo Ohan – 0.9 km|