Kyoto is often considered as the cultural capital of Japan. With the countless temples and other important historical sites, Kyoto shows travelers the beauty of Japan in many different ways. Among all the possible places you could visit in Kyoto, Nijo Castle will stand out above the rest, figuratively and maybe even literally. This is one of 17 historic monuments in ancient Kyoto that is an UNESCO recognized World Heritage Site.
Although this is not the oldest castle in Kyoto, the construction of the castle began in 1601 during the early days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Ieyasu Tokugawa was in charge of the construction, but the castle wasn’t completed until 1626 during the reign of Iemitsu Tokugawa.
The castle was intended to house any Tokugawa Shogun. During the Edo period the country’s capital city was Kyoto. Most of the original building remain intact but storms and typhoons have damaged structures and some buildings requiring constant maintenance. The central keep or tenshu burned down in 1750. Shortly after that fire, many of the interior structures were also burnt down and the castle was left alone. It wasn’t until 1893 that the land was used for a prince from Kyoto Imperial Palace, he transferred his residence to Nijo Castle.
The castle is surrounded by two walls and two moats. The outer wall has three gates and the inner wall has two. The entire property covers 275,000 square meters and 8,000 square meters is buildings. There are two palaces with in Nijo Castle, the first is Ninomaru Palace and Honmaru Palace. The outer wall has three gates and the inner wall has two. Honmaru Palace and the garden is located within the inner walls. Ninomaru Palace, the kitchen, guard house, and several gardens are within the main walls.
Ninomaru Palace is comprised of five different buildings each built out of Japanese Cypress. The decorations adorning each building features wood carvings and copious amounts of gold leaves. From the walls to the doors, there is beautiful art pieces to enjoy .
The layout of the building was designed so that lower ranking officials would only see the outer rooms and higher ranking ones would be treated to a more elaborately designed inner chambers.
Probably the most interesting feature is the uguisubari or nightingale floors. The floors were made in such a way that when people walked through the corridors, it would sound just like the nightingale alerting occupants of sneak attacks or murder attempts.
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Address: 541 Nijojo-cho, Nakagyo ward, Kyoto
Access: 7 minute walk from Nijojo-mae Station
Hours: 8:45 AM – 4:00 PM
600 yen (Adults)
350 yen (Children)
Website: Nijo Castle (Japanese)