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Nijō Castle

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

541 Nijōjōchō, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301, Japan

Opening Hours

8:45 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

JPY 1,300

Find it on google maps

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expert
Millga
Local tour guide
"Visit Nijō Castle early in the morning to enjoy a more serene atmosphere before the crowds arrive, and don't miss the nightingale floors inside Ninomaru Palace—they chirp underfoot as a historic security measure against intruders, a detail easily overlooked amidst the splendor of the rooms."

What is Nijō Castle?

Nijō Castle, known locally as Nijō-jō, stands as a stunning exemplar of Japan's feudal era architecture and power, right in the heart of Kyoto. It's a place where every stone and wall tells a story of the shoguns who once walked its expansive grounds. This castle is not just a fortress but also a palace, ornately decorated to showcase the wealth and authority of the Tokugawa shoguns during the period when Kyoto was the capital of Japan.

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Today, with its massive stone walls, carefully planned gardens, and magnificent buildings, Nijō Castle is a cherished UNESCO World Heritage site. It offers visitors a rich insight into the Japanese concept of 'wa', which denotes harmony, and you can feel this in the balance and aesthetics carefully woven throughout the castle's design.

History of Nijō Castle

Construction of Nijō Castle began in 1603 under the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun, as a residence for himself and his successors when visiting Kyoto. Over the years, the castle underwent several enlargements and renovations, with significant contributions from shoguns such as Iemitsu and Ienobu. However, it was not just a residence; Nijō Castle also served as a military stronghold and a symbol of the Tokugawa clan’s prestige and absolute power.

Interestingly, it was at Nijō Castle in 1867 where Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the 15th and last shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, declared the end of his clan’s rule and the restoration of imperial rule. This event was pivotal in the Meiji Restoration, transforming Japan from a feudal society into the modern state it aspired to become. After this significant turning point, Nijō Castle was used for a range of purposes, including as an imperial palace briefly, before being donated to the city of Kyoto and opened to the public in the 1930s.

Why is Nijō Castle Important?

Nijō Castle holds critical historical importance as the stage on which the power dynamics of feudal Japan played out. It's a symbol of both the pinnacle of shogun power and the surrender of that power back to the imperial authority. As any local would intimately understand, the castle encompasses the evolution of Japanese politics, culture, and architecture over several centuries.

The castle is also an architectural masterpiece, showcasing some of the finest surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era. The lavish decorations and intricate craftsmanship seen in Ninomaru Palace, part of the castle, reflect the power and cultural sophistication of the Tokugawa shoguns. The famous 'nightingale floors' designed to chirp when walked upon and thus alert guards to any intruders, are but one example of the ingenious design elements used in the castle’s defense.

Things to Do & See at Nijō Castle

When you visit Nijō Castle, the grandeur of the Karamon Gate, with its intricate carvings and gold leaf accents, is bound to leave you in awe. Venturing further, you’ll discover the Ninomaru Palace, with its multiple rooms once used by the shogun and his entourage, each uniquely adorned with exquisitely painted screens and carvings; photography here is not always permitted, but the images will stay with you forever.

The extensive gardens of Nijō Castle are a delight in themselves. Designed by renowned landscape architect and tea master Kobori Enshū, the gardens feature meticulously pruned trees, elegant ponds and, if you visit at the right time of year, a vibrant display of cherry blossoms or autumn foliage. Entering the Honmaru area, you can climb to the top of the stone foundation where the main keep once stood and witness a sprawling panoramic view of Kyoto — a sight that, even after all these years, never fails to captivate.

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Before you leave, be sure to wander the pathways that meander through the castle grounds. You might encounter spots that are not as frequented by the casual visitor, such as the remains of the Honmaru Palace foundations. And with each step, listen for the telltale chirp of the nightingale floors, a design so nuanced it's become the stuff of legend. Trust me, these unique experiences within the castle walls are the ones that etch the deepest memories.

Frequently asked questions

What is Nijō Castle?

Nijō Castle is a historic castle located in Kyoto, Japan. It was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns and is known for its magnificent architecture, beautiful gardens, and nightingale floors designed to chirp when walked upon as a security measure.

What can visitors see at Nijō Castle?

Visitors to Nijō Castle can explore its well-preserved buildings including the Ninomaru Palace, the gardens which feature cherry blossoms and plum trees, and the ruins of the Honmaru Palace. The castle is also a great place to learn about the history of Japan during the Edo period.

Are there guided tours available at Nijō Castle?

Yes, guided tours are available at Nijō Castle. Visitors can join guided tours to gain more in-depth information about the castle's history, architecture, and cultural significance. Audio guides may also be available in multiple languages.

What are the opening hours of Nijō Castle?

The opening hours of Nijō Castle typically vary by season and may have adjustments for holidays or special events. Generally, the castle is open from 8:45 AM to 4:00 PM, but visitors should check the official website or contact the castle directly for the current schedule.

Is there an admission fee to enter Nijō Castle?

Yes, there is an admission fee to enter Nijō Castle. The fee helps with the maintenance and preservation of the historic site. Rates may vary for adults, children, and seniors, and there may be discounts for groups. Visitors should verify the latest fee structure before visiting.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

541 Nijōjōchō, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301, Japan

Opening Hours

8:45 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

JPY 1,300

Find it on google maps