Built in 1603, Nijo-jo Castle was the stronghold of the Tokugawa Shogunate and was designed to express wealth, power, and intimidation to all who entered it.
Nijo-jo Castle – History
Nijo-jo Castle was built as the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu, and was completed by the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu. It’s a flatland castle that includes two concentric rings of fortifications, the Ninomaru Palace, the ruins of a previous palace (the Honmaru Palace), various support buildings, and several gardens.
The castle is built on 275,000 square meters of land, and of that, 8000 square meters is occupied by buildings. It’s one of the finest examples of architecture from the early Edo period and Momoyama culture in Japan and includes beautiful examples of Edo period building design, lavish paintings, and skillfully crafted carvings.
However Nijo-jo has suffered it’s share of destruction. In 1750 it’s Donjon (or central keep) was destroyed by lightning. Then in 1788 the inner palace was destroyed by a city-wide fire and remained empty until 1893. In recent times it’s suffered several assaults by typhoon.
According to Wikipedia Nijo-jo’s architectural design is, ‘an excellent example of social control manifested in architectural space,’ citing:
‘Low-ranking visitors were received in the outer regions of the Ninomaru whereas high-ranking visitors were shown the more subtle inner chambers. Rather than attempting to conceal the entrances to the rooms with bodyguards (as was done in many castles) the Tokugawas chose to display them prominently. Thus the construction lent itself to expressing intimidation and power to Edo-period visitors.
Finally the castle boasts a skillfully designed and implemented Nightingale Floor that chirps and twitters beautifully as you walk around and was designed to protect and alert occupants of the castle to intruders aka – ninja!
In pictures: Nijo-jo CastleSadly there are no photos from inside the castle as photography is not allowed.
If you’re in Kyoto you should definitely visit Nijo-jo to see the castle for yourself – it’s very beautiful and impressive. The Nightingale Floor alone is worth the visit!
Next post: WAK Japan – our calligraphy lesson
Until next time,
Kally & Mon.
Visiting Nijo-jo Castle
To visit the castle you need to get to the Nijojomae station on the Karasuma subway line. I can’t remember which exit you take but I’m fairly certain that the castle exit is clearly marked.
Once you exit the train station the castle will be directly in front of you – easy!
The entrance fee for Nijo-jo is 600 JPY.
[Image Credit (1-7): Monique Nielsen]
What is your favourite castle or shrine in Kyoto? Leave a comment, let us know!