Next on our list of sightseeing top spots was the Nijo Castle, which was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence the first shogun of the Edo Period. It was expanded by his grandson by adding a five story castle keep a few years later. From 1867 onwards the Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace before being donated to the city as a historic site. Since then, people could come and visit the castle and its surroundings, which are now right in the city centre.
We bought tickets outside the castle wall and entered through the Karamon Gate in the East. The gate to the secondary circle of defense is currently being renovated, so we passed through the wrapped-up gate to reach the Ninomaru Palace, the main attraction of the Castle.
The Ninomaru Palace served as the residence and office of the shogun during his visits to Kyoto. It survived in its original form with 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. You can still hear this today, it’s quite fun walking over these old nightingale floors (but you have to take your shoes off).
The rooms are beautifully decorated with panels and paintings showing flowers, animals and the surrounding country site. Even the panels on the ceiling are elaborately decorated.
Outside of the Ninomaru Palace extends the Ninomaru Garden, a traditional Japanese landscape garden with a large pond, ornamental stones and manicured pine trees. You have to pass through another gate to reach it.
The garden is still dry from the cold winter and there are just very few cherry blossoms to see. We walked around and climbed up the stone foundation of the former castle keep to get a view over the castle grounds.
- The entrance of Nijo Castle is a short walk from Nijojo-mae Station along the Tozai Subway Line
- Alternatively, the castle can be reached from Kyoto Station by Kyoto City Bus numbers 9, 50 or 101 (15-20 minutes)
- The castle is open from 8:45 to 17:00 (entry until 16:00) every day except Tuesdays in Jan, Jul, Aug and Dec (or following Wed if Tue is a national holiday). It will be closed between Christmas and the beginning of January
- The admission is 600 yen but audio guides are extra