Nijō-jo Castle

  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
  • Nijō-jo Castle
Location

Kyoto, Japan

Address

English address: 541 Nijojo-cho, Nijo-dori, Horikawa Nishi iru, Nakagyo-ku
Japanese address: 中京区二条通堀川西入二条城町541

Getting there

Access: A short walk from City Bus Stop Nijo-jo-mae (from JR Kyoto Station/Hankyu Railway Karasuma Station), or Nijo-jo-mae Station on the Tozai Subway Line.
From Tokyo and Nagoya take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Kyoto Station and then transfer to the city subway for Nijo-Jo Mae Station. Buses #9, #50 or Raku Bus #101 also go to Nijo Castle from Kyoto Station. Kyoto city bus #12 also goes here from Shijo.

Telephone

+81 75-841-0096

Fax

+81 75-802-6181

More information

http://www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp/bunshi/nijojo/, https://facebook.com/pages/Nijō-Castle, https://foursquare.com/v/nijojo-castle

Prices

Adults: 600 yen
High & junior high school students: 350 yen
Elementary school students: 200 yen
Good (English audio guides are available for 500 yen)
Parking Bus Parking 2,500 yen. 30 spaces
Car Parking 800 yen for the first 2 hours and an extra 200 yen for every hour thereafter. 216 spaces
Motorbike 400 yen
Bicycle 200 yen

Opening hours

8.45am-5pm, last entry 4pm
Closed Tuesdays in December, January, July, August, and December 26 – January 4

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Nijo-jo Castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns in Kyoto, who had been ruling Japan for over 260 years from 1603 to 1868, and it remains an eloquent testimony to their power. The wide moat, massive stone walls, and heavy yet elaborate gates are still impressive, and were the only fortifications the inhabitants felt necessary, so firm was their grip on power. The grounds are large and contain several lovely gardens as well as groves of plum and cherry trees. The palace building itself is imposing, yet upon closer examination, is rich in decorative detail.

Nijo-jo Castle is one of Kyoto’s most popular and impressive sights. It shows the power that the Shoguns wielded over the emperors throughout the Edo Period.

With huge stone walls surrounded by deep moats, Nijo-jo Castle graphically demonstrates the power that the Shoguns (military warlords) wielded over Japan for much of its history. Unlike the more famous Himeji-jo Castle in Himeji, which soars skyward, somewhat in the manner of European castles, Nijo-jo Castle is characterized by low but nonetheless imposing and grand structures, all of which are surrounded by gorgeous gardens. You can enter the Ninomaru Palace, which is famous for its “nightingale floors” (squeaky floors that would alert occupants to the presence of intruders). The decorative panels and carvings here – almost rococo in their flamboyance – reflect the enormous power and attitudes of the warlords who occupied the castle. After touring the Ninomaru Palace, take a leisurely stroll through the wonderful Seiryu-en Garden, which surrounds the buildings of the castle. The only downside to this wonderful complex is that it’s on everyone’s “must-see” list, and it’s often packed with hoards bus tourists and Japanese school students out on school excursions. Try to beat the crowds by going just after opening.

The gorgeous style of this castle was intended as a demonstration of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616)'s prestige.

Nijo-jo Castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns in Kyoto, who had been ruling Japan for over 260 years from 1603 to 1868, and it remains an eloquent testimony to their power. The wide moat, massive stone walls, and heavy yet elaborate gates are still impressive, and were the only fortifications the inhabitants felt necessary, so firm was their grip on power. The grounds are large and contain several lovely gardens as well as groves of plum and cherry trees. The palace building itself is imposing, yet upon closer examination, is rich in decorative detail.

History of Nijo-jo castle

Nijo Castle or Nijo-jo, in the west of Kyoto city, was built for the first shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who ruled a newly-united Japan from 1603-16, but the great man died before the structure was fully completed.

Nijo Castle was to be Ieyasu's luxury pied-a-terre for whenever he visited from Edo (present-day Tokyo). But it was not completed until ten years after Ieyasu's death in 1626 and served as the Kyoto residence for the Shoguns from the third shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, on.

Nijo-jo remained unused from then until 1862. It served as the temporary seat of the Japanese government at the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868. It was here that the Emperor Meiji issued the edict abolishing the Shogunate. Between 1871 and 1884, the building was used as the Kyoto Prefectural Office and much damage was done to the priceless objects within. Restoration has been ongoing ever since.

In 1939 the Imperial Family donated the site to the city of Kyoto; it was opened to the public the next year. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

More recently, Nijo Castle has been used as a film location for both Japanese and foreign productions, including Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai and movies involving Beat Takeshi and Nagisa Oshima.

Aesthetics and Decorations

The new castle, like his mausoleum in Nikko, revealed Ieyasu's taste for the opulent and the symbolic. The greatest artists from the Kano school of painters labored to create beautiful painted screens and sliding doors filled with images symbolizing the power and grandeur of the new Tokugawa regime. Pine trees noted for their longevity and strength, ferocious tigers, leopards and birds of prey, gracious peacocks and cherry blossoms.

Inside the palace are several masterpieces of Japanese art, most notably the painted screens of the main chamber. In this room the shoguns met the daimyo (high-ranking warlord-administrators) who sought an audience. The screens were painted by artists of the Kano school and employ rich colors and large amounts of gilt to depict flowers, trees, birds and tigers. They were meant to impress. Also in the palace are the famous "nightingale floors," which were designed to squeak when steped on and thus alert guards to any intruders.

Layout

Nijo-jo is surrounded by stone walls with turrets at the corners and a moat. The grounds cover an area of about 28 hectares. The original garden did not contain trees as their falling leaves were an uncomfortable reminder of the mutability of things. Thus, the trees you see today are a more recent addition. Nijo Castle is now renowned as a plum and cherry blossom viewing site in spring.

Entrance to Nijo Castle is through the East Gate (Otemon) and then the Karamon or Shiyakumon Gate. This beautifully decorated gate was once part of Hideyoshi Toyotomi's Fushimi Castle in southern Kyoto. This leads to a spacious courtyard planted with pine trees, to Ninomaru Palace (admission 600 yen) and the beautiful lake and garden created by the tea master and landscape gardener Kobori Enshu.

Ninomaru Palace

The Ninomaru Palace is divided into five buildings each with different tatami mat-floored waiting rooms. The decoration was meant to impress those seeking an audience with the shogun. The shogun's own chambers (Shiroshoin), on the other hand,are subdued, decorated with Chinese-style monochromes and resting sparrows. This is where the shogun slept and his female attendants waited on him.

Separate from the palace is a large kitchen complex.

The buildings are also noted for their impressive security measures: "nightingale" (uguisubari) floors in the wooden corridors separating the rooms, which squeak when walked on, and hidden rooms for bodyguards to keep close watch for any sign of treachery.

The Great Hall

The Great Hall was the audience chamber where the shogun received his feudal lords or daimyo and has a raised seat where the shogun sat above his retainers. The floor is made from a single piece of keyaki (zelkova) wood and the sliding doors are elaborately decorated with paintings of pine trees. The ceiling is equally ornate with a gold background.

Waiting Room

The Waiting Room (Tamari-no-ma) is noted for a door with a famous painting of a heron attributed to Naonobu Kano (1607-1650).

Inner Castle

The Inner Castle or Honmaru was destroyed in 1788, during one of the Tenmei Period (1781-1788) fires that ravaged the mostly wooden Kyoto. It was replaced with a residence from Katsura Imperial Palace.

Gardens

The castle area has several gardens and groves of cherry and Japanese plum trees. The Ninomaru garden was designed by the landscape architect and tea master Kobori Enshu. It is located between the two main rings of fortifications, next to the palace of the same name. The garden has a large pond with three islands and features numerous carefully placed stones and topiary pine trees.

The Seiryū-en garden is the most recent part of Nijō Castle. It was constructed in 1965 in the northern part of the complex, as a facility for the reception of official guests of the city of Kyoto and as a venue for cultural events. Seiryū-en has two tea houses and more than 1000 carefully arranged stones

How to get there

From Tokyo and Nagoya take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Kyoto Station and then transfer to the city subway for Nijo-Jo Mae Station. Buses #9, #50 or Raku Bus #101 also go to Nijo Castle from Kyoto Station. Kyoto city bus #12 also goes here from Shijo.

Train

  • JR Kyoto station ⇒ City Bus Routes 9, 50 and 101 ⇒ Get off at Nijojo-mae station
  • Hankyu Karasuma station ⇒ City Bus Routes ⇒ Get off at Nijojo-mae station
  • Hankyu Omiya station ⇒ Taxi(5minutes)
  • At Keihan Sanjo Station transfer to Sanjo Keihan Station on the Tozai Line ⇒ Get off at Nijojo-mae station

Car

  • It is about 30 minutes from both the Kyoto-Higashi Interchange and the Kyoto-Minami Interchange on the Meishin Highway

Parking

  • Bus Parking 2,500 yen. 30 spaces
  • Car Parking 800 yen for the first 2 hours and an extra 200 yen for every hour thereafter. 216 spaces
  • Motorbike 400 yen
  • Bicycle 200 yen

Accommodation near Nijo Castle in Kyoto

Nijo Castle is a convenient area to base on a visit to Kyoto as you are close to both the JR and subway stations, though most of Kyoto's attractions are to the east and north of the area. Just across the road from Nijo-jo is the international class ANA Hotel. Other options close to Nijo Castle include: the Kyoto Kokusai Hotel (formerly the Kyoto International Hotel), Kyoto Guesthouse Roujiya and Hoikawa Inn Hotel.

Nearest Hotels: See hotels near to Nijo-jo Castle on Agoda.com

Reviews by visitors

The Castle complex is in the centre of Kyoto, but you wouldn't know it when you are there. The castle palace is beautiful to walk through. The wooden floors squeak with soft tones reminiscent of birdsong, hence the name nightingale floor.

The castle gardens are equally enchanting. A path leads up to the top of the castle donjon, but there is no castle there. 
A small but nice gift shop is next to a little cafe selling drinks and matcha ice cream. 

This was definitely a great choice for the limited time spent in Kyoto.

~ElleKitty13

The main Gate with golden foil is one of the most beautiful Japanese gates I have ever seen. The inside is as beautiful with room after room with beautiful screens. The gardens are comparably less interesting but still worth a look

~HelenaGuerra

We paid to get in, it was very nice if a bit busy. You are allowed to go inside Ninomaru palace (shoes off) which was interesting. The gardens were the highlight for me, and we saw a heron!

~Amy T

Cool place to see how the shogun lived it up. The castle or palace as I would call it is big and spacious. The moat around the stone walls are nice to see as well. 

We also visited the new museum housing some of the impressive wall art. Nice to see but very brief tour.

The spacious grounds are well cared for and there are a few garden spots. Very nice and must see attraction in Kyoto.

~rgmccollum

A nice example of a Japanese castle but the palace is underwhelming- most of the original hand painted panals in the interior have been replaced with reproductions. To see the originals in a separate gallery you must pay an additional fee. As for the grounds- large enough to escape the overwhelming crowds but nothing spectacular. The walls and moat were however quite impressive in their size and precise construction.

~sirianrussell

The is an amazing site full of history spectacular walls and moats, great range of buildings and some beautiful gardens.

This was the source of the shoguns power and reflected the power of Kyoto as the capital( up to the late 19th century.
Everything is on a large scale. The low buildings are both beautiful and interesting with some amazing very Japanese style pictures. Those on show are copies but the originals can also sometimes be seen in a gallery within the complex.

The information is short but enough to help one marvel at the linked together structures.

There are many gardens all with different structures and of course flowering at different times. There is also the option of an evening light show option at a price.

Overall very good value and you can do most of it yourself including buying the tickets.

Assume at least 3 hours if you want to see most of it.There are some refreshments but do take some water.

~randle_williams

Nijo Castle is great place to visit during your stay in Kyoto. Although it is not nearly as old as the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, it is significantly different. There have been some renovations on the main inner gate and the woodwork is stunning. 

One of the most remarkable things about Nijo Castle is the nightingale flooring system. Within the living area, all the walkways have a system in place that sounds like birds chirping when you walk on them. This was to allow the guards to know if anyone was moving about that shouldn't be there. 

During certain times of the year, they light up the castle on the inside and have musical performances. The castle usually closes around 5pm, so if you are lucky enough to be in Kyoto during these occasions (once or twice a year), you should make time to visit because they have it open at night.

** It says I visited in July 2015, but I actually visited it several times in 2013-2014 while living in Kyoto.

~Joel C

Got here at the end of the day, too late really as got chased out so i'd recommend no later than 1530 for entry. The main building is interesting, and the walls and gardens great to walk around and take photos of. Tickets not to pricey. Worth the visit.

~George D

Visit there in April was very nice. There were a lot of Sakura trees along the revier. but the entrance was under construction, so we could not take picture of the entrance.

~mechelyoung123

We travelled from Osaka to Kyto to visit Nijo Castle. The castle is well known for its history within Japan. The front gate of the castle was under scaffolding. Between the outer and inner moat are the rooms of the shogun and his retinue. To see the rooms you need to take off your shoes. The route consists of wooden floors that are designed to squeak or chirp when you step on them. This is why they are called "nightingale floors". The rooms are plainly decorated in the Japanese style. The paintings are replicas as the originals are in the 400th Anniversary Gallery that is near the main entrance to the castle. It costs only 100 yen and is worth the visit. In one room there are mannequins to show how the lords lined up to hear the declaration from the Shogun. Outside of the buildings is a wonderful Japanese garden with waterfalls and ponds. We were not able to visit the inner palace but I assume it is possible. No photos are allowed throughout the palace buildings. To get to the Nijo castle from the Kyto train station you can take Bus 9 north.

~Christopher W

The grounds are lovely and the cost isn't too bad but there isn't much of a castle, especially compared to say Osaka castle and they don't allow alot of pictures.

~Proarchangel

Easy to get to, this "castle" is a superb example of many of the historic castles around Japan. The gold leaf work is incredible and walking around the gardens gives an appreciation for the exactness and detail work that is typical of Japanese gardens.

~Greg H

Castle is a must-see with squeaky wood floors so if Ninjas tried to sneak in to attack residents, they'd be discovered since they'd inadvertently step on a loose board. Each room has panels that are different. I like the tiger & leopard one. They also have a souvenir shop & cafe. Love the Roasted Tea Soft Ice Cream at the cafe.

~fitnesswla

A must visit in Kyoto, the Nijo Castle is an impressive square place surrounded by water with very nice doors and a castle which is worth the visit. the gardens are also very beautiful.

~Didier B

A beautiful castle in the middle of the city, of excellent Japanese aesthetics. Wonderful gardens all around. It is worth having a guide so as to acquire more information about its history.

~allyAthen

With so many castles in Japan, Nijo-jo should be a must see as it's listed as a UNESCO heritage site. You may want to save your ¥500 on the audio guide, as much of the information on the guide can be also be found on the signages throughout the castle.

~Lee C

Nijo Castle is easily reached on the city metro and is Y600 to enter so not too bad. The grounds themselves are quite expansive and you can walk around quite freely. You can also go inside some of the buildings but photos are not allowed, which is odd as almost all the wall artwork are reproductions as the originals are in a separate gallery building for which you have to pay extra to see!

The gardens are beautiful in the way of most gardens in the city, so you can see more of what you have likely already seen. The inner castle buildings are not open though you can get some good views climbing up some of the fortifications.

Generally quite busy with visitors but the size seems to accommodate this and it didn't feel too busy while we were touring.
One for the visit list when in Kyoto.

~PKRV

A beautiful and historic castle. The location is in the city, therefore lots of tourist around.

The castle itself is nice with a beautiful garden and bridges.
Although nothing inside, but the ceiling and wall decorations are amazing. Just admire their architecture and building technique can attract you.

After visiting this castle, then you can move on to the Higashiyama District where there are many temples inside.

~denmark_x4

This is an amazing place to visit. I recently went there and hired an English audio set just inside the main entrance. It was extremely informative and made the visit very worthwhile. Highly recommend this. At the end of the route is a wonderful cafe overlooking the gardens.....where i indulged in a yummy iced coffee!

~annieflorence2

At first the site of school groups turned us off since we had just come from Kinkaku-Ji which was packed with them, but the ground of Nijo Castle are expansive and there is a lot to see so it isn't as overwhelming as the entrance into Kikaku-Ji. There are audio guides available at the entrance for 500 yen and we thought it was worth it because it explained the artworks and murals in the castle quite well. Unfortunately these are limited so it may not always be available. We were lucky to get 3.

The castle itself is beautiful and worth taking your time to explore. Listening to the audio track will give you a deeper appreciation for the symbolisms used in each room. Shoes are not permitted so be sure you have socks on or bring some in your bag. Photography is also not allowed in the castle.

The castle gardens are beautiful and huge- nice to walk about and explore. We found the experience definitely worth the entrance fee.

~GingerAce

This is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Kyoto. We rode the JR West Line to Kyoto from Osaka and the train ride was about half an hour. Then we took the local Bus Service Number 9 to the stop just outside the main entrance of Nijo Castle (Great Eastern Gate - which was undergoing some repairs). We were allowed to walk through the Ninomaru Palace (after removing our shoes) and the surrounding gardens but not the Honmaru Palace. Worth the 600 Yen admission fee.

~Pak Soon L

You also see more Kyoto travel guide at here.