Sunday, April 03, 2016

Kyoto : Nijo Castle

Kyoto's Nijo castle is a flatland castle which was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. While the Tokugawa shogunate moved the capital to Tokyo (erstwhile Edo), the Imperial court was based in Kyoto. Construction of the castle took place over a period of 23 years and was completed by Tokugawa Ieyasu's grandson Iemitsu. 
The Nijo castle is divided into three areas- Honmaru, Ninomaru and the gardens surrounding them. The castle grounds and buildings are surrounded by stone walls and moats. 

The Ninomaru palace consists of five wooden buildings lavishly decorated with wooden carvings and covered with gold leaf. 
The shogunate's style of architecture displayed their wealth as is visible in various buildings built during the Edo period, for instance the Toshogu shrine and Taiyu-in Byo temples in Nikko or the Kunozan Toshogu shrine in Shizuoka. The sliding doors and walls are also decorated with lavish wall paintings by renown artists. The Nagoya castle's Honmaru castle is another example of this style of decoration. Entrance to the Ninomaru castle is through its Chinese style Karamon gate.
Low ranking officials and guests were received in the outer areas of Ninomaru while only the high ranking officials were welcomed into the inner chambers. The Ninomaru Palace is well known for its 'Nightingale Floor' corridor. The floors were constructed in such a way that they squeaked like nightingales when walked upon. This was to alert the occupants about any attempts to breach into the palace. Visitors can now see various displays depicting life in the Ninomaru palace during the Shogunate period.
Honmaru Palace is divided into 4 parts - Entrance halls, Reception and Entertainment area, Kitchen and Living quarters. The four parts are connected by corridors and courtyards. Originally the Honmaru was similar to the Ninomaru and consisted about 55 buildings. It was destroyed by fires in the 18th century and was not rebuilt.
In 1893, an imperial villa from the Katsura Imperial Palace was moved to the Nijo castle and renamed as the Honmaru. The enthronement banquet of Emperor Showa was held in the Honmaru in 1928. The Honmaru is not open to public regularly unlike the Ninomaru. 
The stone foundation of the old castle keep is located on the Nijo castle ground close to the Honmaru and visitors can climb up to have a nice view of the Nijo castle grounds.

The third part of the Nijo castle are the various gardens and groves surrounding the Honmaru and Ninomaru.   

The Nijo castle has been a witness of the rise and fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. After the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1867, the Nijo Castle was used as an Imperial palace until it was donated to the city in 1939 who opened it to public a year later. 

The Nijo castle is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a popular tourist spot in Kyoto. It is one of the places in Kyoto which is almost always packed with groups of school students visiting the city on a study trip.

Address: Kyoto Prefecture 604-8301, Kyoto, Nakagyo ku, Nijojocho 541, Nijo jo

Phone: 075-841-0096

Opening Hours: 8:45-17:00 hrs 

Closing days: Tuesdays in Jan, July, Aug and Dec ( closed on following day if Tuesday is a national holiday. Also closed from December 26-Jan 4th annually. 

Entrance Fees: Adults- 600 yen ; 
                        Junior High and High School students: 350 yen                             
                         Elementary school students 200 yen

English Website: Click here

Audio guides: English Audio guides available for a rental of 500 yen.

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