Nijo Castle

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History

Nijo-jo began as a mansion built by Nobunaga in 1569. The castle Nijo-jo was erected in 1603 to be Tokugawa Ieyasu's headquarters when he was in Kyoto. The main keep was struck by lightning and burned to the ground in 1750. It was never rebuilt. Ieyasu's palace is filled with beautiful works of art and is very well preserved. The Ninomaru Palace was mainly used for administrative affairs and reflects this in the many offices and meeting rooms it contains. It is designated a National Treasure.


Visit Notes

Nijo Castle is a popular site for visitors to Kyoto but most don't realize that the palace was not the castle. They skip all the other artifacts and go straight to the ornate Karamon and then the palace. The entire compound along with the main keep (that no longer exists) would have been the castle. All those old gates and other buildings are important historical relics too. Nijo Castle provides something a little different If you get tired of visiting all the temples in town. Be sure to pay attention to the many original gates, storehouses, walls, turrets and other structures that also make this a magnificent castle ruin and must see for any castle fans.


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Gallery
  • Ninomaru Palace
  • Southeast Corner Yagura
  • Southeast Corner Yagura
  • Ninomaru Palace
  • Ninomaru Palace
  • Ninomaru Palace
  • Ninomaru Palace
  • Ninomaru Palace and gardens
  • Ninomaru Garden
  • Karamon Gate and tsuijibei walls
  • Karamon Gate
  • Karamon gate
  • Karamon gate
  • Karamon Gate
  • Karamon Gate
  • Karamon Gate
  • East Main Gate
  • East Main Gate
  • Supports for the walls next to the East Otemon
  • West bridge and moat
  • inner moat stone walls
  • Inner moat and main keep foundation
  • Stone walls of the West Bridge
  • Inside the Nishibashi gate
  • Honmaru gangi steps
  • Inner moat bridge and yagura
  • Honmaru and palace
  • Honmaru Palace
  • Honmaru Palace
  • Honmaru Palace
  • Kita Nakashikirimon
  • Kita Otemon.
  • Heijuumon style gate of Ninomaru
  • Tsujibei walls
  • Momoyama Gate
  • Momoyama Gate
  • Momoyama Gate
  • Minami Naka Shikirimon Gate
  • Minami Naka Shikirimon Gate
  • Minami Naka Shikirimon Gate
  • Southwest Storehouse
  • Southwest Storehouse
  • Southwest Storehouse
  • Northwest Storehouse
  • Northwest Storehouse
  • Northwest Storehouse
  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Honmaru East Gate
  • Honmaru East Gate
  • Inner moat and the Honmaru Higashimon gate
  • Narukomon Gate
  • storehouse and nagayamon of the ninomaru
  • Nagayamon
  • Storehouse
  • Outer moat
  • East Main Gate
  • Outer moat
  • North Main Gate
  • Outer moat
  • Outer moat
  • Outer moat
  • West Gate
  • West Gate
  • Southwest Yagura
  • Outer moat
  • Minami Gate
  • Southeast Yagura and East Main Gate
  • Southeast Yagura
  • Stone walls moved here from Nijoko Castle site
  • Map of the castle grounds


More Galleries and Feature Pages
Castle Profile
English Name Nijo Castle
Japanese Name 二条城
Founder Tokugawa Ieyasu
Year Founded 1603
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations Top 100 Castles, UNESCO World Heritage Site, has Important Cultural Properties, has National Treasures, National Historic Site
Historical Period Edo Period
Artifacts Ninomaru Goten Kurumayose & Toozamurai, Ninomaru Goten Shikidai, Ninomaru Goten Ohiroma, Ninomaru Goten Kuroshoin, Ninomaru Goten Shiroshoin, Ninomaru Goten Sotetsunoma, Ninomaru Karamon, Southeast sumi yagura, Ninomaru Goten Tsuiji wall, Ninomaru Goten Daidokoro, Ninomaru Goten Okiyodokoro, North Otemon, West Gate, Southwest Sumi Yagura, North dozo, South dozo, Naruko Gate, Momoyama Gate, North Naka Shikirimon, South Naka Shikirimon, dozo and nagayamon gate, Southeast Sumi Yagura Northern Wall, East Otemon, Honmaru Yagura mon, Honmaru Goten Goshoin, Honmaru Goten Genkan, Honmaru Goten Daidokoro & Karinoma, Honmaru Otsune Goten
Features gates, turrets, bridges, palace, water moats, stone walls, walls
Visitor Information
Access Nijojomae Station (subway Tozai Line) 4 min walk
Visitor Information Park open 8am-5pm (gate closes 4pm); park closed 12/29-12/31; Ninomaru Palace also closed other days; 1030 yen
Time Required 120 mins
Website http://www.city.kyoto.jp/bunshi/nijojo/
Location Kyoto, Kyoto
Coordinates 35° 0' 50.62" N, 135° 44' 51.68" E
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Admin
Added to Jcastle 1999
Contributor Eric
Admin Year Visited 1992, 2004, 2017, 2019, 2021
Admin Visits July 1992; March 23, 2004; July 28, 2017; August 17, 2019; Oct/Nov/Dec 2021


4.29
(59 votes)
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Matthew WardGunshi

6 months ago
Score 0++

Oddly, I can't remember no photography rules inside most castle buildings that I have entered. Maybe it's just the castles I have gone to. I haven't been to Fukuyama yet, though I hope to go soon. Too bad that they don't allow people to enter the Fushimi Turret most of the time, as it presumably has a lot of historical atmosphere. I don't really mind not being able to photograph inside concrete keep reconstructions, but wooden buildings are another story.

Anyway, getting back to Nijo Castle, I hope they do some special openings so that people can go inside on of the turrets or gatehouses-the East Main Gate and Southeast Corner Yagura pics above look wonderful!
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Matthew WardGunshi

10 months ago
Score 0++

Good point. I must have noticed that Japanese castles have moats walls and turrets and gates and then a big building inside that everybody enters, not really noticing the obvious differences between gotens and tenshukakus.

I went to Nijo Castle first just because I went to Kyoto first, and the idea of visiting a castle sounded exciting. I had visited castles in other parts of the world and was interested in them, but had never visited one in East Asia.

One thought I have had: while castles in the Europe, the Middle East, etc., are far from monolithic, many of them tend to basically be one big connected structure, so maybe it's hard for us to wrap our heads around the idea that a castle can have a bunch of entirely separate buildings

The biggest thing I remember about the first visit was the squeaking floors of the Ninomaru Palace and that my girlfriend (now wife), an Osaka native who is descended from artist Kaiho Yusho, got angry at some European tourists for breaking the rules by taking pictures of the art. On my last visit, all of the artworks were reproductions of the originals, but I think that back then (1997), some of the original art was still up. It's still forbidden to take pictures inside the palace, but my impression is that photography could actually damage some of the art that was in the palace back then.
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ARTShogun

10 months ago
Score 1++
Flash photography maybe could, but i'm no expert. Yeah, Japanese castles are larger than their European counterparts, but Japanese people, if they're not castle fans, are also liable to consider a castle and tenshu to be one and the same. Gradually awareness of the true value of castles beyond just the main keep is spreading.
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EricShogun

10 months ago
Score 1++
I've seen two excuses given for no photos - people bunch up and spend too much time taking photos. The other is that camera flashed do damage old artworks. Still, there is way too much of this no photography stuff inside wooden buildings with few visitors and no special artworks. Similarly, for my recent revisit to Fukuyama Castle, even that reconstructed museum main keep was no photos despite few artifacts and few people!
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Matthew WardGunshi

10 months ago
Score 0++

I adore Nijo Castle. It was the first Japanese castle I ever visited, and is a splendid and authentic structure. I think I’ve visited it more than any other castle except Osaka Castle, around 7 or 8 times,

The substantial remains of Nijo Castle are almost entirely original: original inner and outer moat, original walls, a whole bunch of original gates (as noted before, in a variety of styles), two large original yagura, original gardens, a couple of substantial original storehouses, and of course the incredible Ninomaru Palace, which most people probably feel is the best castle palace in Japan. Even the Honmaru Palace is basically a historical structure, part of the Katsura palace that was moved from the Kyoto Gyoen to the castle grounds in the late 1800’s. Yet it doesn’t make the list of 12 original castles.

Before I got seriously interested in Japanese castles, I assume that Nijo castle was ‘original,’ and got confused when I noticed that it wasn’t on the list of ‘original’ castles. I actually tried to figure out which parts of it were rebuilt in modern times, but aside from maybe one of the gardens, I came up blank. I think that what happened is that I assumed that the Ninomaru Palace was the equivalent of a main keep (maybe from visiting Shuri Castle?), so it was ‘original’ on that basis. But after just checking out the palace area on my first few visits, I finally really expressed the castle grounds and came across the majestic stone foundation of the long-lost main keep. Then I figured it out ‘Ah, it’s not ‘original’ because ‘original’ refers only to the main keep, and there is no main keep!’

The odd thing is, if you think about it, castles like Fukuoka Castle or Sasayama Castle, even if they still had all or most of their original buildings, would not be considered ‘original’ simply because they never had a main keep. Which makes no sense at all.

Anyway, as explained very nicely above, the castle is the entire complex, not the Ninomaru Palace alone, and not the missing main keep either. Like Osaka Castle, a lot of visitors head straight for the main attraction and miss the wonderful complex. As wonderful as the Ninomaru Palace is, there is so much more, especially if you like castle gates. Just look at the staggering list of artifacts above: it’s up there with Matsuyama and Hikone Castle, and really second only to Himeji Castle in that respect. Even more than the incredible combination of the Ninomaru Palace. Ninomaru Garden and Karamon gate, I personally love the inner moat area best: those several gates, the two storehouses, the Ishigaki and relocated palace would make it a great castle all by itself.

And the two large yagura are pretty nice too, though I’ve never seen them open to the public. The last time I went there, I could get up close to the Southeast Sumi Yagura, but the Southwest Sumi Yagura area was blocked off, though you can still get a good view of it from a slight distance.

My best advice is to make sure you have at least a couple of hours (3-4 would be better), explore every parts of the castle grounds, and also walk around the outer moat, as you get some good views of the moats, walls, gates and turrets that you wouldn’t otherwise get.
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ARTShogun

10 months ago
Score 1++
It's interesting Nijojo was your first castle. You knew thereafter that castles didn't need keeps and that main keep =/= castle. Most people don't visit Nijojo first, but go somewhere like Himeji or Osaka, and so their castle experiences are very tower-focused.
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SuupaahiirooAshigaru

78 months ago
Score 2++

This is a great castle site. Visited for the second time this week (November 2017, the first time was in June 2014). Very crowded.

Of course the palace (goten) is magnificent. To commemorate the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, in one of the main rooms they have an impressive reconstruction (using life-size dolls) of the ceremony in which the last Tokugawa shogun gave up his power in favour of emperor Meiji.

I was also very surprised by the gates. There are many of them (nearly ten in total?), some small, some large. Most interesting to me is the fact that almost all gates look different and there are some very rare designs. Another unique (according to the signs at least) feature of this castle is the presence of two large earthen-walled storehouses.

For some reason the signs on the site claim that the palace is the only original in Japan. Being quite sure there are some others (Kawagoe, Kakegawa and Kōchi, four in total if I'm not mistaken), I went to the jimusho to inquire. They insisted this is the only original one, though. However, after some extra research online I'm all the more convinced of my initial assumption. I'm a bit fed up with all these superlatives being used wrongly, to be honest.
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EricShogun

78 months ago
Score 1++

That's funny. Yes, you're absolutely right there are other original palaces, much smaller, but still original. Unfortunately, I've had very mixed experiences with some of these so called "staff" at bigger castle sites including one yesterday in Yamagata who gave me completely wrong information.

Indeed, I love all the gates at Nijo-jo too. I revisited last summer when they had the special exhibit of the interior of the Otemon and corner yagura. I still have lots of new photos to update here!
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ARTShogun

85 months ago
Score 1++
No Tenshukaku (donjon) remains at Nijou-jou, but you can climb the stone works and see hundreds of carp in the hori (moat). There is a space in the middle of the complex where a yagura stood which overlooks the whole site, and is very scenic when the blossoms are out. There are still several walls, turrets and gates surrounding the complex. I particularly liked the bridges over the moat. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for much of the country's history. It was raided frequently. At one point the elites built their homes like mini-castles to protect from cultist upraisings or the armies of adventurous feudal lords. Now streets lined with castles, wouldn't that be something to see?
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Anonymous user #1

90 months ago
Score 0++
Visited 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014
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FurinkazanDaimyo

98 months ago
Score 0++
I visited this wonderful site again today. The great eastern gate is now being restored and completely under scaffolds. It remains the entrance to the castle. The exhibition hall was also closed, but we enjoyed the visit of the palace. I got my 100 meijô stamp under a tent to the right after entering the castle grounds.
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Kiddus i2003Gunshi

98 months ago
Score 0++
Liked it very much more like a palace than a castle/fort.
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RaymondWDaimyo

142 months ago
Score 1++
This is a great castle ruin to visit if you want to see one of the few extant castle palaces left in Japan. Other remaining ones from the Edo Period that I know of are at Kochi Castle, Kakegawa Castle and Kawagoe Castle Ruin. I took a friend who was visiting Japan here last weekend. There is a little bit of restoration work going on. The Karamon and parts of the walls surrounding the Ninomaru Palace are under wraps until 30th September 2013. The Ninomaru Palace remains unaffected and is business as usual. Also, there is a drive by the castle staff asking for donations to raise funds for preservation and restoration work.
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A22cricketAshigaru

157 months ago
Score 0++
Original castle in all of it's drafty splendor. The intentionally squeaky floor competes with the rattle of the wooden doors for noise awards. The details are subtle but great. Best suggestion is to look all around as you walk down the corridors.
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Anonymous user #1

161 months ago
Score 0++
An unique and interesting style, with a very Japanese feel. Seeing the old foundations and a moat, make this well populated gardens castle a great visit.
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Anonymous user #1

161 months ago
Score 0++
If I remember correctly (it has been a few years) but the excellent Nijo Jinya is quite close to the castle and certainly worth a visit while you are in the area. This privately owned ‘ninja house’ was originally an inn that housed important visitors to Kyoto and features a great number of traps, secret rooms and tricks that were used to spy on (and sometimes assassinate) customers. Tours had to be booked quite some time in advance but even for those with little language skills everything is visual enough to fully understand with some (painful) demonstrations of how things worked.
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FurinkazanDaimyo

179 months ago
Score 0++
I visited this one 5 years ago and last year. This is a real beauty. Certainly worth it's 5 stars.