Nijo-jo Castle

Tokugawa Ieyasu is an important name in Japanese History.  Appointed Seii-Taishogun (or Shogun) by the Emperor in 1603 after he unified Japan and ended the Civil War.  Under his rule he established the Tokugawa Shogunate which lasted over 260 years.

Tokugawa announced his appointment at Nijo Castle and used the castle as his residence when visiting the Imperial City.

Kara-Mon Gate

Entry Way to the Ninomaru-goten Palace


The ornate architecture of this gate is used to denote wealth and stature.  The roof is Cyprus bark rather than the normal tile or copper.  The images on the gate include cranes, pine, bamboo and plum blossoms which symbolize longevity.

Ninomaru-goten Palace

The Main Palace of the Shogun

The Palace has six connecting buildings and thirty-three different rooms.  Each room has a specific purpose.  For example, in the most formal room the Shogun sits on a platform and is positioned so that the pine tree paintings appear to be covering him.  The floors, fastened together with wood dowels, create an eerie melody when walked upon.  Unfortunately, no cameras are allowed inside the palace.

One interesting fact is that the paintings of tigers are based on the skins of the animals as the artists had never seen real tigers.  There was also a strong belief that every third or fourth tiger cub was a leopard so they were also added in.

Hanging Bells

Alarm Bells

These bells warned the surrounding populace of fire or other emergencies.  Originally hung at the villas of the Kyoto Shoshidai who were responsible for policing the Imperial Court and the lords of Japan’s feudal domains.  These bells, at the Shimoyashiki villa, moved to Nijo-jo Castle after the Shoshidai position was abolished in 1867.

Ninomaru Garden

The garden is designed to look unique from three different directions.

The garden designed in 1626 by Kobori Enshu is a classical Shoin-zukuri style.  The largest island symbolizes paradise and it is flanked by a crane island and a turtle island which are both metaphors for longevity.

Imperial Chrysanthemum

Attention to Detail

The roof of the palace, originally adorned with the Hollyhock a symbol of the Tokugawa clan changed quickly when the last Tokugawa Shogun returned authority to the Emperor in 1867.  The palace, now Imperial property, had the hollyhock replaced with the Imperial Chrysanthemum.

The Inner Moat

The moat surrounding the Imperial Palace

The moat, filled with coy fish, surrounds the Honmaru-goten palace and gardens.

Honmaru Garden

Created to honour a visit of the Emperor Meiji (1852-1912)

The gardens to the south of the palace, created in honour of a visit by the Emperor, provide a stunning backdrop to the palace.

Base of the Keep Tower

View from the base of the Keep Tower

The five storey keep tower, that provided security to the palace, destroyed by fire in 1750 and never replaced.  The stone precipice upon which it sat remains and provided a spectacular view of the gardens and Honmaru-goten Palace in the background.

Minami Nakashikiri-mon Gate

uzumi-mon gate (embedded gate)

This gate, built in 1626, is on the southern side of the inner castle and leads back to Ninomaru garden.  The earthen walls reinforced with stone blocks make it impenetrable.

Seiryu-en Garden

A fusion of Eastern and Western Styles


This garden, created in 1965, used buildings, trees and stones from the garden of the wealthy Suminokura merchant family.  The design blended two tea-houses complemented by the lawns of a western style garden.

Well Worth the Visit

The visit to the castle cost 2100 Japanese Yen (JPY) which covered five people (600 JPY each for two adults, 350 JPY each for two students, and 200 JPY for a youth).  This was the equivalent of approximately $24.00 Canadian but the learning was priceless.

One Reply to “Nijo-jo Castle”

  1. cool. Did you read shogun? I wonder how much truth he took from history? Regardless, the castle must of been breathtaking as you walked in it. Were all the rooms available or just certain ones? I can just imagine the tea house and sourrounding garden. Love the history element of what you are doing.

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