Take A Peek Inside The Nijo Castle Of Kyoto

The city of Kyoto is most famous for its impressive and numerous religious sites set against an incredible natural backdrop.  The impressive and imposing Nijo Castle is the opposite of the inviting temples and shrines that are littered throughout the city.  This was built as a place to keep others out while protecting those inside so they could rule.  Today it is one of the best remaining castles in Japan that show life under the feudal era that ended in the mid 1800’s.       

Nijo Castle was built in 1603 for shogun Tokugawa Leyasu.  After being expanded several times, it’s current version consists of two concentric rings of fortification.  A moat is protected by a large and thick stone wall with guard towers placed in strategic places.  Although not as imposing as other castles in Japan, it has plenty of obstacles to keep unauthorized visitors out.

Ninomaru Palace

Although the outside is a formidable show of force, inside the walls lies wonderful architecture and beautiful gardens.  The Ninomaru Palace was the residence of the shogun and consists of multiple buildings connected by corridors.  Impressive paintings on the walls and ceilings along with other types of art work decorate the various rooms.  You can’t help but notice the squeaking as you walk through the palace.  This is n to because the building is old.  It was built this way.  Called nightingale floors, they were intended to alert bodyguards of potential assassins in the building to take out the shogun.  Hidden doors also allowed bodyguards ways to get the shogun out in a hurry.  It is obvious that the shogun was very concerned about his safety. 

There is also a Honmaru Palace which contains living and entertainment areas.  It is not open to the public most of the year, but the traditional Japanese gardens are.  It along with the Ninomaru garden features cherry trees, pine trees, ponds, and stones all intracity designed and maintained.  While the outside was meant to keep people out, the gardens are inviting and peaceful like much of Kyoto. 

Palace gardens

Nijo Castle is a great place to visit to give a little variety in your Kyoto visit.  It can be tough to tear yourself away from the amazing temples and shrines, but Nijo castle gives a more complete view of the history of the city and of Japan during its feudal stage. 

Visiting Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle is located in central Kyoto.  You may take the Tozai subway line to Nijojo-mae Station.  It is also a short walk from Nijo station on the JR Sagano train line. Bus numbers 9, 12, 50 or 101all have stops near the castle as well.  Hours are 8:45 AM to 5:00 PM.  The castle is closed select Tuesday’s during the non peak tourist season.

You enter the castle through the eastern gate.  English audio guides are available for an additional fee. 

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