Nijo Castle (Nijo-jo) in Kyoto

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Domo arigato.
  • Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    Nijo Castle In Kyoto

  • Nijo Castle outer wall and moat in Kyoto

    Nijo Castle Outer Wall and Moat in Kyoto

  • Nijo Castle outer moat in Kyoto

    Nijo Castle Outer Moat in Kyoto

  • Map Nijo Castle Grounds in Kyoto

    Map Nijo Castle Grounds In Kyoto

  • Karamon Gate Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    Karamon Gate Nijo Castle in Kyoto

  • Karamon Gate Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    Karamon Gate Nijo Castle in Kyoto

  • Nijo Castle inner moat in Kyoto

    Nijo Castle Inner Moat in Kyoto

  • Honmaru Yoguramon Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    Honmaru Yoguramon Nijo Castle

  • Nijo Castle inner moat in Kyoto

    Nijo Castle Inner Moat in Kyoto

  • Nijo Castle Honmaru Palace in Kyoto

    Nijo Castle Honmaru Palace in Kyoto

  • Nijo Castle Honmaru Palace in Kyoto

    Nijo Castle Honmaru Palace in Kyoto

  • Ninomaru Garden Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    Ninomaru Garden Nijo Castle in Kyoto

  • Momoyama-mon Gate Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    Momoyama-mon Gate Nijo Castle in Kyoto

  • Momoyama-mon Gate Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    Momoyama-mon Gate Nijo Castle In Kyoto

  • Seiryuen Garden Cherry Blossom Nijo Castle

    Seiryuen Garden Cherry Blossom Nijo Castle

  • Seiryuen Garden Cherry Blossom Nijo Castle

    Seiryuen Garden Cherry Blossom Nijo Castle

  • Seiryuen Garden Cherry Blossom Illumination Nijo Castle

    Seiryuen Garden Cherry Blossom Illumination Nijo Castle

  • Cherry Blossom Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    Cherry Blossom Nijo Castle

  • South Gate Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    South Gate Nijo Castle in Kyoto

  • North Gate Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    North Gate Nijo Castle in Kyoto

  • Illumination Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    Illumination Nijo Castle

  • Ikebana Art Nijo Castle in Kyoto

    Ikebana Art Nijo Castle

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Facts & Figures

Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kyoto, was the former residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 - 1616), founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate. The massive stone walls, the wide moat and huge gates of the castle are an impressive sight and a testimonial of the power of the Tokugawa clan, which ruled Japan for over 260 years. Best Ryokans in Kyoto Explore Ryokans in Kyoto
Ryokans are the perfect way to discover old Japanese culture and traditions.
The flatland castle complex includes the Ninomaru Palace and gardens, two concentric rings (Kuruwa) of fortifications, Honmaru Palace and some support buildings. It covers an area of appr. 275000 square meters and is a great example of the architecture style during the Momoyama period (1573 - 1603).

  • Nijo Castle:
  • Opening Hours - 8:45 am to 5:00 pm (last entry at 4:00 pm)
  • Closed - 26th Dec - 4th Jan, on Tuesdays in Jan, Jul, Aug and Dec
  • Admission Fee - 600 yen (Adults), 350 yen (Junior High and High School Students), 200 yen (Elementary School Students)

My tips for local activities

How about exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site Nijo Castle in Kyoto with an English-speaking tour guide. Check out this page for more details.

History

Nijo Castle was constructed by shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 - 1616) in 1603. It took the effort by his grandson Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604 - 1651) to finish the castle complex 23 years later. In 1750 a five-storey castle tower within the Honmaru area was strucked by lightning and completely destroyed and never rebuilt. The end of the Tokugawa shogunate came in 1867 and the power went to the Imperial Court. Nijo Castle was used in the following years as the seat of the Imperial Palace. After the palace was donated to the city Kyoto in 1939 the public got access to it in 1940. Nijo Castle received the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

Location

Map of Japan

Nijo Castle is located near Nijojo-mae Station in central Kyoto.
Address: 541 Nijo-jo-cho, Horikawa-nishi-iru, Nijo-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto

How to get to Nijo Castle?

  • 15min from Kyoto Station by Kyoto City Bus nr. 9, 50 or 101 to Nijojo-mae stop or
  • 10min from Karasuma Oike Subway St. to Nijojo-mae Station by Tozai Subway Line

Sightseeing spots within Nijo Castle

Top:

Karamon Gate - This large iconic gate with its gold-covered architecture marks the entrance to the Ninomaru-goten Palace. It was fully restored in 2013. The attention to the details in the woodcarvings of the gate shows the craftsmanship of that time. It was my personal highlight of the Nijo Castle visit.

Ninomaru-goten Palace - The palace, a National Treasure, is still in its original form and was built in the shoin-zukuri architectural style during the Edo period (1603 - 1867). The palace consists of six connected buildings with 33 rooms and more than 800 tatami mats (rice straw mats). Hinoki cypress was used as the main construction material. It was the official residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns during their stays in Kyoto. Enjoy the over 3600 amazing paintings at the walls and sliding doors (fusuma) by artists of the Kano school, beautiful decorated ceilings and the so called nightingale floors (uguisubari). These wooden corridors making a sound when you walk on them. It was the perfect security measure against intruders.

Ninomaru Garden - The shoin-zukuri style Japanese garden with a large pond at its center is a must-see for every visitor. There are 3 manmade islands within the pond called Kame-jima, Tsuru-jima and Horai-jima. Ninomaru Garden was created by the master garden designer Kobori Enshu (1579 - 1647). Best time for a visit is from March till April during the blossoming of the numerous cherry and plum trees.

Seiryu-en Garden - The garden is separated in 2 parts. You will find there a traditional Japanese Garden with two teahouses (Waraku-an, Koun-tei) and a Western-style garden with a spacious lawn area. Seiryu-en was built in 1965 and covers an area of more than 16500 square meters.

Honmaru-goten Palace - The 4 buildings (Genkan, Otsune-goten, Goshoin, Daidokoro and Kari-no-ma) were relocated in 1893 and 1894 from the former Katsura Imperial Palace by the order of Emperor Meiji (1852 - 1912). Before that the old palace was destroyed during the Great Tenmei Fire of 1788, rebuilt by Tokugawa Yoshinobu (1837 - 1913) and demolished in 1881. The palace complex covers an area of 20000 square meters and is open for the public only during special events in autumn. Honmaru-goten is designated as an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government.

Honmaru-goten Garden - The garden is dating back to 1896.

Tonan Sumi-yagura - The watchtower at the southeast corner of the outer moat of Nijo Castle survived a huge fire in 1788 and was used as an observation post.

Higashi Ote-mon Gate - The East Gate of the castle was built in 1662.

Festival & Events (dates can change without notice)

March - April

Nijo-jo Castle Sakura Festival (Cherry Blossom Festival) (end of March - mid of April)
Hundreds of blossoming cherry trees turning this site in a must-see destination. I liked especially the illumination at night.

April

Miyako Odori (1st - 31th)
The traditional annual spring dance of the Kyoto district Gion Kobu performed by Geiko and Maiko is a must-see on your Kyoto visit. Don't miss the most popular dances the Miyako Odori "Cherry Blossom Dances" or "Dances of the Old Capital" at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater (located close to Gion Corner).

May

Aoi Matsuri (15th)
The highlight of this festival is a large parade from Imperial Palace through Shimogamo Shrine to the Kamo Shrines. More than 500 people wearing aristocratic costumes from the Heian Period (794 - 1185). The Aoi Matsuri belongs with the Gion Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri to the three most famous festivals in Kyoto.

Arashiyama Mifune Matsuri (third Sunday of May)
The first part is held at the Kuramazaki Shrine. Later a procession is leading to the Oi River, where more ceremonies and traditional dances (Funa Asobi) are held. The Arashiyama Mifune Matsuri started in 1914.

July

Gion Matsuri (whole month)
The month July is full of different events like the Yoiyama - Kyoto's Magical Night (locals in kimonos look at the giant Gion floats the day before the parade) or the famous Yamaboko Junko (float procession on the 17th of July).

October

Jidai Matsuri ("Festival of Ages") (22nd)
People celebrate with a large parade between Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine the anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto. App. 2000 participants wearing historical costumes from different time periods. Enjoy this great festival which last around 2 hours.

My 100 Best Moments in Japan

Train ride from Osaka to Kyoto

I am visiting Japan nearly every year since 2004. This is my collection of the 100 best moments in my favourite country. Enjoy the pictures and I hope you will start your own journey soon.
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