Autumn in Kyoto – Nijo Castle

Day Three Afternoon – November 2016

After spending a lovely morning at Arashiyama, we took the JR Sagano Line from Saga-Arashiyama station to Nijo. Instead of transferring to the Tozai Line to Nijo-mae station, we stopped at Nijo station and walked to the Nijo Castle to explore the Nijo area.


Just a brief history on the Nijo Castle. It was originally built in 1603 as the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu and completed in 1626 by the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu. The castle was built based on the early Edo period building designs with lavish paintings and carvings that Iemitsu generously commissioned.

In October 1867, Yoshinobu, the fifteenth Tokugawa Shogun summoned the country’s feudal lords to the Ninomaru Palace and declared that sovereignty would be restored to the Emperor. Upon returning the sovereignty to the Emperor, the castle became the property of the Imperial family. In 1884, it was renamed the Nijo Detached Palace. It was donated to the City of Kyoto and renamed Nijo Castle (Nijo-jo) in 1939 and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

Kara-mon, the main gate to the Ninomaru Palace

The Ninomaru Palace (二の丸御殿 ) is characterised by the elegant, yet simple shoin-zukuri architectural style, which was favoured by the warrior class, built almost entirely of Hinoki cypress. The Palace houses several different reception chambers, offices and the living quarters of the shogun, where only female attendants were allowed.


Before entering the Palace, we need to remove our shoes and place them at the shoes shelf and photography is strictly prohibited in the Palace. When we walked along the corridor of the Palace, the floor chirped. We learnt that the floor, known as the nightingale floor, was designed to protect the occupants from sneak attacks and assassins.

The beautiful wall paintings display in the reception chambers and offices of the Palace are reproductions of the original work. The original wall paintings by the prominent members of the Kano School are being displayed at the 400th Anniversary Gallery. A separate fee is payable to enter the Gallery which we decided not to visit.


After touring the Palace, we walked to the Ninomaru Garden. In the center of the pond stands a large island representing the Island of Eternal Happiness, flanked by two smaller islands representing the Crane Island and Turtle Island. The original garden is said to have been the creation of Kobori Enshu, a master garden designer.

Ninomaru Garden (Special Place of Scenic Beauty)

Next was to the Honmaru Palace which was added to the castle complex in 1626. The Honmaru Palace was destroyed in a large-scale fire in 1788. The present structure built in 1847, a part of the former Imperial Palace of Katsura, was transferred here from the Kyoto Imperial Garden. Unfortunately, the Honmaru Palace is closed for visitors.

Honmaru Palace



We spent around two hours at Nijo-jo. It is a must visit. This is the place where nearly 270 years of Tokugawa Shogun rule came to an end.

This is part of My Kansai Region Travel Series, stay tuned for my next post on our day trip to Osaka.


The Lowdown

Getting there: From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma-Oike Station and transfer to the Tozai Line to Nijojo-mae Station. The entrance of Nijo Castle is a short walk from Nijojo-mae Station.

Opening hours: 8:45 to 17:00 (admission until 16:00) and entry to Ninomaru Palace from 9:00 to 16:00.  Entry to 400th Anniversary Gallery is from 9:00 to 16:45 (admission until 16:30).

Admission: 600 yen to Nijo-jo and additional 100 yen to the 400th Anniversary Gallery

Note: Photography is strictly forbidden in the Ninomaru Palace and the Honmaru Palace is closed.

For more information, go to


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