Nijo-jo CASTLE

#Nijo-jo #Tokugawa Shoguns #NIJO-J0 CASTLE

Nijo-jo Castle is a flat-land castle. It was born to be a military castle. It has two rings of wall fortification, built with big stones. The constructions of the walls are a defence system, but their imposingness shows a harmonious design too. It was completed in 1626 by Shogun Tokgawa Iemitsu, and composed of Ninomaru Palace, the ruins of Honmaru Palace and several gardens. Parts of Fushimi Castle, the castle of the extravagant war lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi were moved here like the stunning Kara-Mon, South Gate.


Nijo-jo Castle was the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns during their stay in the city. The Tokugawa designated Edo (Tokyo) as a capital city, but the Imperial Court continued to live in Kyoto. The Shoguns needed a place from where to control the Imperial Court. In 1867, Tokugawa Yoshinobu returned the authority to the Emperor with a declaration at Ninomaru Palace. In 1939 the castle was donated to Kyoto City. Nijo-jo Castle is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Nijo Castle at night

Entrance of Nijo-jo Castle

Nijo-jo Castle is located in Horikawa dori St., north of Oike dori St. Tickets can be purchased on the right side of the main entrance. The entrance of Higashi-Ote-Mon (Eastern Main Gate) is through a bridge over a walled canal. You enter a courtyard where there is the first “check point”, i.e. the Guardhouse. It was used to check the visitors to the castle. Now there are mannequins showing as the guards, in typical clothes, worked during Tokugawa’s period. Crossing the courtyard, Kara-Mon (South Gate), is on the left side, which it s a splendid masterpiece with a curved roof of cypress bark, carved wood panels, and the gate is enriched with golden metals. Kara-Mon leads to an inner courtyard, where Ninomaru Palace is located.

Entrance of Ninomaru Palace

You need to take off your shoes to enter the palace. As soon as you step in, an intriguing ambience welcomes you. Ninomaru Palace has five buildings arranged diagonally and various rooms connected with long, serpentine corridors. The corridors have sliding white paper doors allowing the natural light comes inside and as a result the golden metal decorations and the gold colour used in painting sliding doors, ceilings, are highlighted. The corridors are called “Uguisu-bari”, (Nightingale floor) because it squeaks when you walk upon. More you get closer to Shogun’ s rooms, more it squeaks. This is an incredible alarm system, built with a special technique of the use of wood boards. More than 400 years ago, the electricity was not invented yet! High skills of that time carpenter masters resolved the problem. Nightingale floor adds a touch of innocence to the Shogun’s castle. The rooms were disposed to receive the visitors depending on their social ranks. Each room has decorated sliding doors. The motif of the decorations characterizes the use of the rooms. To protect the Shoguns, weapons were not allowed inside Ninomaru. When visitors were received, bodyguards hid behind the beautiful doors, like in O-hiroma, Audience room. This Audience room has many mannequins representing the last Shogun and Damyo, feudal lords. The Shogun is seated in the raised room of the hall. The wooden coffered ceiling emphasizes the Shogun’ superiority, and the magnificent painting of pine trees of Kano School reinforces his figure. The Daimyos are shown in a posture of submission and obedience. This representation has a dramatic pathos. In fact Tokugawa Yoshinobu is announcing his resignations to Emperor Meiji. 

Second ring of walls inside the ground of Nijo Castle

Nijo-jo Castle for all the ages

The innermost rooms “Shiro (White) Shoin” are the private quarters of the Shoguns. Soft paintings of Chinese mountains make the atmosphere relaxed. Only women were allowed to attend the Shoguns here. The mannequins show beautiful women in elegant kimonos. They were trained to defend the Shogun in case of any attack. If you are travelling with children, Nijo-jo Castle can be a nice visit also for them. If you have visited already many temples, children might be bored. This castle can be explored with a fantasy approach. Make your children trying to find different animals carved or painted. Make them guess about the Nightingale floor. Mannequins help to make some interesting stories, and so on. Then discover the gardens with ponds and flowers, pine trees and high walls. Children can walk freely along the paths. All the family can enjoy. Before the exit there is a space where you can sit. Here souvenirs, drinks, sweets are available.

The garden

Nijo-jo Castle:power,art and beauty

Even though Nijo-jo castle was a place for Shoguns and military corps, wonderful designed rooms and gardens bring romance to it. Today Nijo-jo Castle’s artistic appreciation is very considerable. The rooms with sliding doors painted by Kano School, details in the wooden inlays, use of shining metals, refined lacquer, and the gardens let us dream about the Shoguns wealthy life. Not only men of war and power but also men with a distinctive attitude towards arts and beauty.