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Home - Travel - Sightseeing Guide - Kansai - Kyoto - Central Kyoto
Nijo Castle (Nijojo) 
# 6   of 60 most visited
sights in Kyoto

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Nijo Castle (, Nijōjō) was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). His grandson Iemitsu completed the castle's palace buildings 23 years later and further expanded the castle by adding a five story castle keep.

After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace for a while before being donated to the city and opened up to the public as a historic site. Its palace buildings are arguably the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era, and the castle was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994.

Nijo Castle can be divided into three areas: the Honmaru (main circle of defense), the Ninomaru (secondary circle of defense) and some gardens that encircle the Honmaru and Ninomaru. The entire castle grounds and the Honmaru are surrounded by stone walls and moats.

Karamon Gate

Visitors to Nijo Castle enter the castle grounds through a large gate in the east. English audio guides are available for rent (500 yen) at a kiosk just inside the gate. Venturing further into the castle will bring you to the Chinese style Karamon Gate, the entrance to the Ninomaru (secondary circle of defense), where the castle's main attraction, the Ninomaru Palace is located..

The Ninomaru Palace served as the residence and office of the shogun during his visits to Kyoto. Surviving in its original form, the palace consists of multiple separate buildings that are connected with each other by corridors with so called nightingale floors, as they squeak when stepped upon as a security measure against intruders. The palace rooms are tatami mat covered and feature elegantly decorated ceilings and beautifully painted sliding doors (fusuma).

Ninomaru Palace

The tour route passes by multiple waiting and audience rooms. Only the highest ranked visitors were allowed all the way into the main audience room where the shogun would sit on an elevated floor, flanked by bodyguards hidden in closets. Lower ranked visitors would be allowed only as far as the adjoining rooms without direct view of the shogun. The innermost rooms consisted of offices and living chambers, the latter of which were only accessible to the shogun and his female attendants.

Outside of the Ninomaru Palace extends the Ninomaru Garden, a traditional Japanese landscape garden with a large pond, ornamental stones and manicured pine trees.

Ninomaru Garden

The Honmaru (main circle of defense) was the site of a second palace complex and a five story castle keep. However, both structures were destroyed by fires in the 18th century and were never rebuilt. After the fall of the shogunate, an imperial residence was moved from the Katsura Imperial Palace to Nijo Castle's Honmaru where it remains today as the Honmaru Palace.

Unlike the Ninomaru Palace, the Honmaru Palace is not regularly open to the public, although there are occasional special openings. Visitors may, however, walk around the Honmaru gardens and climb up the stone foundation of the former castle keep, which offers views over the castle grounds.

Honmaru

The Honmaru and Ninomaru are surrounded by green space and tree lined walking paths. Cherry trees of numerous varieties are planted throughout the castle grounds, including nearly 400 cherry trees of late blooming varieties in a cherry orchard. Because of the many cherry tree varieties present, the blooming season at Nijo Castle usually lasts from late March through the entire month of April.

The castle also features a plum orchard, which is typically in bloom from late February to early March, and Seiryuen, a half Japanese, half Western style garden built in 1965 for cultural events such as tea ceremonies. Many areas of the castle grounds are also populated by maple, ginkgo and other trees that offer brilliant autumn colors usually during the second half of November.

Nijojo during the cherry blossom season

Any Questions? Ask them in our question forum.

How to get there
The entrance of Nijo Castle is a short walk from Nijojo-mae Station along the Tozai Subway Line.

From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma-Oike Station and transfer to the Tozai Line to Nijojo-mae Station. The whole trip takes about 15-20 minutes and costs 260 yen. Alternatively, the castle can be reached from Kyoto Station by Kyoto City Bus numbers 9, 50 or 101 (15-20 minutes, 230 yen one way) or from Shijo-Kawaramachi by Kyoto City Bus number 12 (15 minutes, 230 yen one way).

How to get to and around Kyoto

Hours and Fees
Hours:8:45 to 17:00 (admission until 16:00)
Entry to Ninomaru from 9:00 to 16:00
Closed:Tuesdays in Jan, Jul, Aug and Dec (or following day if Tue is a national holiday)
December 26 to January 4
Admission:600 yen
English:Good (English audio guides are available for 500 yen)

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Hotels and Ryokan
Kyoto offers a wide range of accommodation for all budgets and tastes, including historic ryokan, Western style hotels and low-budget hostels. Among the most attractive districts to stay are the Kyoto Station area, the city center around Shijo Street and the Higashiyama District.
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Ryokan Hirashin
3min walk to Shijo Karasuma Sta. Spacious Japanese-style rooms. 140 years of history. Public baths renovated in 2006.
Izuyasu
Peaceful small ryokan with 170-year history. 10min walk from JR Kyoto Sta. The 7th inn keeper serves Kyoto Kaiseki cuisines. Private baths & Wi-Fi. Renovated in 2013.
Japanese hotel, Ryokan Nishiyama
Experience the real Japan at our affordable ryokan. Close to major tourist spots in Kyoto.
Ryokan Wakamiya
Inexpensive, cozy inn with helpful staff. 7 min walk from JR Kyoto Sta. Free Internet PC. Communal baths on top floor.
Hotel Sanoya
3 min from north exit of JR Kyoto Sta. but in quiet area. Cozy, clean Japanese rooms with bath. Internet PC in lobby.
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Khaosan Kyoto Guest House
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Tours and Packages
Kyoto Tours
Various tours and travel packages for Kyoto and surroundings.

User Ratings
Ratings for Nijo Castle:
japan-guide.com Rating:
  best of Japan  
User Rating (by 1290 users):
86/100
  recommended

Best rated sights nationwide (out of 805):
170.  Shinjuku (Tokyo)   86/100
171.  Mount Aso (Aso)   86/100
172.  Takaosan (Tokyo)   86/100
173.  Porotokotan (Noboribetsu)   86/100
174.  Outdoor Activities (Minakami)   86/100
175.  Nijo Castle (Kyoto)   86/100
176.  Sanuki Udon (Takamatsu)   86/100
177.  Senganen Garden (Kagoshima)   86/100
178.  Nara Park (Nara)   86/100
179.  Asahiyama Zoo (Asahikawa)   86/100
Most visited sights nationwide (out of 928):
20.  Peace Park (Hiroshima)   2794
21.  Imperial Palace (Tokyo)   2729
22.  Todaiji Temple (Nara)   2714
23.  Sensoji Temple (Tokyo)   2607
24.  Ginkakuji (Kyoto)   2530
25.  Nijo Castle (Kyoto)   2401
26.  Chinatown (Yokohama)   2317
27.  Minami (Namba) (Osaka)   2294
28.  Imperial East Gardens (Tokyo)   2255
29.  Great Buddha (Kamakura)   2183

User Feedback
We strive to keep japan-guide.com up-to-date and accurate, and are always looking for ways to improve the user experience. If you have any updates, suggestions, corrections or opinions, please let us know:

English Links
Nijo Castle Pamphlet - Part 1
Nijo Castle Pamphlet - Part 2
Official English pamphlet (pdf).
Nijojo
Official English website.

Japanese Links
Nijojo (Kyoto City)
Official website.

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