Nijo Castle (二条城) lies in the center of the city and is a very popular site in Kyoto (京都). It was originally built as the residence of shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, the very first shogun of the Edo period (1603-1867). He had it built exactly in the starting year 1603.
After Ieyasu had died, his heirs would continue living here. They even expanded the castle grounds by adding a castle keep for example.
In 1867, as the shogunate came to an end in Japan (日本), Nijo Castle became property of the city and opened up to the public.
The premises of Nijo Castle
Today, the 3 areas (Honmaru (本丸), Ninomaru (二の丸) and surrounding gardens) are still mostly in their original form.
The exception is Honmaru, where some buildings have burned down in the past and have never been rebuilt. The Honmaru palace is also one of the only buildings on the whole premise where visitors can only enter on special occasions. You can walk through the Honmaru gardens and view the area from the old castle keep though.
Other than that, the Ninomaru area with Ninomaru palace is open to regular visitors and is easily the main attraction. Ninomaru palace served as the main residence and office for when the shogun visited Kyoto.
The design and craft of the palace is very interesting and unique. You can easily tell that a very important figure used to reside here. The complex is made up of multiple buildings that are connected through corridors, the floors of which were created to make a squeaking sound on purpose to warn in case of intruders.
The rest of the design, including elegant tatami floors and sliding doors, is very well preserved and maintained.
Surrounding the two inner areas there are multiple Japanese landscape gardens with ponds, stone monuments and beautifully arranged trees.
Visiting Nijo Castle
Several hundred cherry trees are planted here as well, creating a breathtaking scenery during the season. Because the cherry trees in these gardens come from all over Japan, some of them stay in bloom throughout all of April.
Nijo Castle is definitely one of the better places to do Hanami (花見, flower/cherry blossom viewing).
If you are interested in the history of Nijo castle and its shogun, you can hire an English speaking guide at the ticket counter or participate in one of two daily tours held in English as well.
Opening Hours & Admission Fee
- Opened from 8:45 to 17:00 (last entry at 16:00) and 9:00 to 16:00 for Ninomaru Palace
- Closed every Tuesday in the months January, July, August and December (or the day after if Tuesday is a Holiday) and from December 26 to January 4
- Entrance fee is 600 Yen (4,65€/$5.31; exchange rate as of December 2018) for now (to see everything) but starting from April 2019, it will cost an additional 400 Yen (3,10€/$3.54) to enter the Ninomaru Palace
How to get to Nijo Castle
Nijo Castle is located just west of Kyoto’s Manga (漫画) Museum.
From Kyoto Station:
Take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma-Oike Station and transfer to the Tozai Line heading towards Nijojo-mae Station. From there, it’s only a few minutes of walking to the castle. The train ride takes roughly 15 minutes and costs 260 Yen (2€/$2.30).
If you prefer the bus, you can board number 9, 50 or 101 for about 20 minutes and 230 Yen (1,87€/$2.04).
Nijo Castle is a highlight for every fan of Japanese history, especially the Edo period. The castle grounds and buildings are very well preserved and allow for a deep look into their past.
If you’re looking to get the full coverage, booking one of their English guides or joining one of the daily tours will get you every information you could wish for.
It is also very conveniently located so you’ll have no problem finding other activities besides the castle.
Japanese castles, no matter the shape or size, fascinate me greatly. I am sure many of you feel the same way and will appreciate this gem in downtown Kyoto!
That’s it for Nijo Castle! Thank you very much for reading.
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See you there!