Nijo Castle

A late start after the early morning and other exertions of yesterday.

I had a tour of Katsura Imperial Villa Garden booked for the afternoon but the morning was free. The castle of Nijo (“Nijo-jo”) was vaguely on the route so it won out.

This was my first castle of the trip; quite different from the shrines and temples I’ve been sightseeing most days. There’s politics attached, for one (warning: myJapanese history is hazy at best): built at the behest of the shoguns but rarely visited by them, the castle was the scene for the final handover of power from the shoguns back to the emperor, after nearly 300 years.

The majority of the complex (two palaces and surrounding gardens) have somehow survived more or less intact since the 1600s; little surprise that the entire site is a world heritage site.


The (self-guided) tour begins at the Ninomaru Palace, magnificent home/office of the shogun. Bright, airy corridors adorned with paintings of animals and trees lead you around the building and the massive rooms contained inside. Several rooms (such as the meeting halls and bedrooms) have figures inside to illustrate how the rooms were used.

Space is the word: big rooms, big corridors and high ceilings. Perhaps to have space in Japan has always been a mark of sophistication and wealth…

Lastly, the Ninomaru Palace sports real, authentic, nightingale floors. The throng of tourists make the place sound like the dawn chorus.

Outside lies a lake garden…



Deeper within the complex is found the Honmaru castle and garden, of which only the latter is open to the public. The present palace does not date back nearly so far as the Ninomaru.

One remaining tower from the original structure provides a view of the surrounding area…




Overall, an excellent way to spend a couple of hours and surely an unmissable part of a trip to Kyoto – but, I get the feeling there’s so many unmissable sights here…