Contents & Roughly telliing

◎ Telling you roughly...

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  • You might get disappointed if you visit Nijojo castle in expectation of so-called "CASTLE"... as a military base. Because the purpose of constructing this castle was completely different from others.

  • Although, it doesn’t have the pompousness as a military base, it has many beautiful and gorgeous architectures, gardens and decorations. That would make you forget about time!

  • This is a place where an earth-shaking historical event occurred! It made Japanese citizen stop wearing top-knot and start eating meat and bread.


Read in Japanese

◎ ざっくり解説すると・・・

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  • このお城は、将軍のホテルとして建てられたもので、所謂「お城」をイメージして訪れるとがっかりしてしまうかも。。。

  • しかし、お城特有の物々しさはなくとも、アートに溢れた建物や様々な庭園の美しさは時間を忘れるほどのクオリティです。

  • 日本人がちょんまげをやめ、肉やパンを食べ始めるという、時代をひっくり返すような出来事があった部屋があります。


Photo :Nijojo from the sky(二条城(空撮)) 
Nijojo sky

Story of foundation

◎ Like a Super Gorgeous hotel !

In May 1601, Nijojo Castle was constructed by "Tokugawa Ieyasu’s(1543­-1616)" order. He was the samurai who became the CONQUEROR of the Sengoku/Civil war era(1493­1590) which lasted nearly 100 years.

【Photo】 Ieyasu Tokugawa(徳川家康)
By 狩野探幽 - 大阪城天守閣, パブリック・ドメイン,

By the way, do you know that there was a BIG DIFFERENCE in the purpose of constructing Nijojo Castle and other Japanese castles(Osaka and Himeji Castle, etc).

Most Japanese castles were constructed for purposes of war (as a military base, storage place of weapons and army’s food).  However Nijojo Castle was constructed as a residence for the Shogun when he came to Kyoto.

In short it was a SUPER GORGEOUS HOTEL!

Read more about Story of foundation

At the time when Nijojo Castle was constructed, Japan started the loooooong peaceful years for the first time in a long while. It lasted nearly 300 years under the rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate and is called the “Edo period(1603­-1868)”. The center of the shogunate based in "Edo(current Tokyo)" and off course the person with top authority "Shogun" lived there.

However the Shogun of the Tokugawa sometimes had to come to Kyoto and greet the Emperor. Currently, the emperor lives in Tokyo, but until the Edo era he lived in Kyoto. At that time the emperor was only the “Symbol of the country” and the Shogun in Edo(Tokyo) was holding the real power. But Japan is a country where traditions and ceremonies are very important, so the Shogun sometimes had to pay court to the emperor.  “Nijojo castle” was where the Shogun stayed in Kyoto for that purpose.

So you might get disappointed if you visit Nijojo castle in expectation of a military base. Sorry! In that case, we recommend you to visit Osaka Castle or Himeji Castle.

Although, Nijojo castle doesn’t have the pompousness as a military base, it has many beautiful and gorgeous architectures, gardens and decorations. And it is also the place where several stories which are important in Japanese history began. We’ve written articles which refer to those stories so please read & enjoy the Castle which is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from others!

Read in Japanese








なので、「城」と聞いて、軍事拠点としての物々しさを想像して訪れるとがっかりしてしまうかも知れません。ごめんなさい! その場合には、大阪城や姫路城に行かれることをお勧めします。


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"Tips" to enjoy the Highlights

1. Ninomaru Palace /MUSEUMLIKE PALACE !

At Ninomaru Palace time flies so quickly while you are captivated by a lot of artistic works interspersed throughout the whole building.

The gate called “Kara-mon” is the first point where time flies! You all will surely be stunned by the gorgeous decoration on it. A large restoration was completed in 2013, and the gate got its previous brilliance and splendor back. Look! It is just luxurious!!

Good luck charms (such as cranes, butterflies, flowers, dragons and so on) are engraved on the gate with great craftsmanship. Superb!! Don’t miss it!!

【Photo】 Kara-mon Gate (唐門)
karamon gate

You will see many golden shining imperial chrysanthemum crests.There used to be the hollyhock crests of the Tokugawa clan because the castle used to be the Tokugawa Shogun’s property. But...

Read more about Ninomaru Palace

when the restoration occurred and the power was returned to the emperor on 1867, the castle was given to the imperial palace. For that, all the hollyhocks were covered and hid by chrysanthemums. Yes, this is a history!

【Photo】 Imperial chrysanthemum crests(菊の紋)
By 上野 - 自身で撮影, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Oooooops!! This is just the starting point of the palace tour. Let’s go ahead inside!

The Ninomaru Palace is a huge flat building. The gross area is 3300㎡ (35520sq.ft) with 33 chambers using 800 tatami mats overall. A typical Japanese bedroom of ours has the size of 6 - 8 tatami mats, so we can imagine how big it is.

【Photo】 Ninomaru Palace (二の丸御殿)
Ninomaru Palace

Each room has gorgeous paintings on the sliding doors, walls and even on the ceilings. Most of the works are by Kano-ha school artists, and many are designated as Important Cultural Properties. Let me explain about just one of them here.

See the painting of tigers and leopards in the first room called “Tora-no-ma (Tiger room)”, which is a waiting area for visitors. It looks so powerful as if showing off the authority of the Shogun. It is said that although the painter had not seen living tigers and leopards, he painted them very lively with great imagination by seeing their fur. What an artist!!

One more thing that should be mentioned here is the ranma (decorative transom) in the grand chamber No.3. On a 35cm (13.8 inches) thick board, elaborated openworks were created on both sides with a different design. This is really a masterpiece!

This palace was a “witness” of two big events of the Tokugawa Shogunate history, the “Nijojo castle conference”(in the room called Toozamurai) and the “Restoration”(in the grand chamber), that took place at the beginning and the end of the Tokugawa monopolizing government. We wrote articles about these events. Check them out!!

I strongly recommend the use of the rental audio tour guide device. It will help you to enjoy this museum-like palace more and more.

Read in Japanese

1. 二の丸御殿 / まるで美術館!












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2. The Nightingale Floor / Try to walk like a NINJA!

Under the floor of the corridor in the Ninomaru Palace is a hidden invention. You can't see it but you can hear it.

What do you think it is?

It is a security system to alarm people when intruders enter the building. When somebody walks on the floor it makes squeaking sounds like "kekyo kekyo".

We call it "the Nightingale Floor". Do you think it sounds like the Nightingale is singing? The secret of this song are the metallic parts, which the designer of the floor used under it, to deliberately make those sounds.

【Photo】 Metallic parts under the Nightingale floor(鶯張りの廊下の下の金具)
By Chris Gladis - Flickr: Nightingale Floors, CC 表示 2.0,

But there is another idea. It came up by chance because the metallic parts were maybe hidden under the floor not to damage the kimono when they walk on the floor./p>

Read more about Picture of “The Nightingale Floor”

In that case, the security system is a clever excuse of the noise? The truth is a mystery...but somehow it turned out as the wonderful invention of a security system.

If you didn't know that, you might think the floor was half-broken or you were overweight or something. Don't worry, it is safe.

It is said that the more lightly you try to walk, the more you make sounds. But it seemed that only well trained Ninja , that is a Japanese secret agent in old times like nowadays "Ethan Hunt in Mission:Impossible", could walk without making any sound.

Imagine you are a Ninja and try it. Can you do it?

Read in Japanese

2. 鶯張りの廊下/忍者みたいに歩いてみて!











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3. Honmaru Palace & Gardens / It's a garden museum!

There are 3 gardens in Nijo-jo castle. They have their own unique characters.
OK, let’s take a look at the Ninomaru garden first.

☆Ninomaru Garden

It is said that the landscape of the Ninomaru garden is the most excellent one among all the castle gardens, and is designated a place of scenic beauty.

【Photo】 Ninomaru Garden (二の丸庭園)

Ninomaru Garden

The type of this garden is called Chisen-kaiyushiki garden. It literally means a garden with a pond in the center and a path around it allowing people to enjoy taking a stroll. This style was developed in the Edo era(1603~1867). You can enjoy a nice view wherever you are in this garden.

Read more about Picture of “Honmaru Palace & Gardens”

This garden has calm atmosphere and puts our mind “at ease”. Besides the rock arrangements here and there create a vigorous atmosphere at the same time. It gives us a certain idea, something quiet but very hot and strong inside…. It may be representing the “samurai sprit”?!

In those days, it was possible to see the garden from the inside of Ninomaru palace. But unfortunately we can’t see it now from there. Sunlight may damage to the old works inside, so all the windows are closed nowadays. They used to see the magnificent garden from the magnificent palace! I envy them……

Let’s go on to Honmaru palace and its garden next.

☆Honmaru Palace

The Honmaru palace had the same scale as the Ninomaru palace when it was built. However it burnt down in the Tenmei period(1788). After that, it had been abandoned for a long time. The existing palace was relocated from the former Katsuranomiya palace which was originally a part of the Kyoto imperial palace. It looks like a two story building, but is a three story building actually.

【Photo】 Honmaru Palace(本丸御殿)

Honmaru Palace

Where is the third one then?

The answer is a mezzanine! Household goods of imperial families are still kept on the mezzanine floor. Moreover in the building there still are remains such as a kitchen, bath and Noh stage(a type of traditional play theater). So the Honmaru palace is designated as a nationally important cultural property.

Go through the path, and you will see stone steps. This is the place where a five-storied castle tower was. In 1750, it was destroyed by lightning. After that, it has not been reconstructed. Go up there and you will find this is a great photo spot now! We can enjoy the town view and mountains. You will be impressed when you are here.

【Photo】 Honmaru Palace & View from where the Castle Tower stood(天守閣跡から見る本丸御殿と景色)

Honmaru Palace

☆Honmaru Garden

The Honmaru garden is next to the Honmaru palace. It was made by an order of Emperor Meiji to imitate the European garden style, cutting trees into round shape and planting lawn widely. We want to believe it is European, but…. I think it looks very Japanese-ish. What will you think?

【Photo】 Honmaru Garden(本丸庭園)

Honmaru Garden

☆Seiryuen Garden

After the long walking tour of the castle, you may get tired. Why don’t you take a break at the Seiryuen garden? There is a tearoom serving Japanese sweets and green tea. If you are lucky, you will see a traditional Japanese wedding! Or would you like to have your wedding ceremony here?

【Photo】 Seiryuen Garden (清流園)


There are a lot of flowers and trees throughout Nijojo castle. In spring, Japanese apricot, cherry blossoms and azaleas bloom. In autumn, leaves of ginkgo trees and Japanese maple trees change thier colors.

We can enjoy various seasons with historical landscape. They welcome you!

Read in Japanese

3. 本丸御殿と庭園 / 庭の美術館!!







が!!しかし・・・ 以前は、春と秋に一般公開されていた本丸御殿ですが、強い地震が来ると崩壊の危険性有りと診断され、、2007年より拝観休止となってしまいました。



二の丸、本丸と続き、ちょっと休憩したいなと思ったら清流園にあるお茶室で休まれてはいかがでしょう? お庭でぼーっとしながらほっと一息…


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A Bit of history

1. Restoration of imperial rule/ Bye bye top-knot

What do you think these samurais were doing? Were they praying?

NO!! In the grand chambers of Ninomaru palace an EARTH-SHAKING historical event which clearly affected the entire era took place.

The 15th and last shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate(1603-1867), "Yoshinobu Tokugawa(1837-1913)", decided to return the power to the Emperor and then announced the decision here.

【Photo】 Picture of the restoration(大政奉還の絵)
By 邨田丹陵, Tanryō Murata - 明治神宮聖徳記念絵画館, Public Domain,


This decision was necessary for Japan at that time to become a powerful and developed country to rival other western nations. Though it was a painful choice for the shogun and the samurais. Because it meant to let go the authority the samurai class held for more than 1000 years including the Tokugawa shogunate.

Read more about Restoration of imperial rule

With this decision, the Edo era(1603-1867) so called the “the era of the Tokugawa shogunate” ended and then the Meiji era(1868-1912) started.

Not only the political and social structures but also life in Japan changed soooooo much! 
We Japanese embarked the road to modernization/westernization.

Therefore this room in Nijojo castle is the very starting line of modern Japan was drawn.

Bye bye top-knot unique hair style which is a symbol for the past ages of Japan as in historical period dramas)! Hello western-style clothing!! I imagine it was so refreshing when they got the top-knot cut, because it seems to be troublesome to keep it properly! hahaha!

【Photo】 Topknot(ちょんまげ)


Food culture also significantly changed. It is said that Japanese started to eat beef dishes, bread and curry-rice which is loved by all Japanese people nowadays.

Other than that, Japan's townscape changed with railroads and buildings made of bricks.

I can't help but wonder...What would happen to Japan if "Yoshinobu Tokugawa" had never made this decision in this room?

Read in Japanese

1. 大政奉還 / さようなら”ちょんまげ”

このお侍さんたち何をしていると思いますか? お祈りをしている? 違います!











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2. Constructed with a slight lean / TWO kinds of "NORTH"

By the way, please have a look at the map! You will find that Nijojo ­castle was constructed inclined at about 3 degrees to the road which runs along the north­-south side of the castle.

Why didn’t they build it properly?? Can you imagine why??

【Photo】 Nijojo Castle of Google Map(グーグル・マップでの二条城)

Nijojo MAP

It was constructed like that by MISTAKE for certain reasons...But what mistake??

Read more about Constructed with a slight lean

Originally, Kyoto was established in 794 when Emperor Kanmu(737-­806) moved the capital to it. The roads were laid thoroughly at that time. Don’t you think that Kyoto’s roads are soooo straight that you can see the mountains or the architectures from a distance? They were strictly laid out from east to west and north to south with precision.

And at that time the “The POLAR STAR” was used to fix the the direction of north. Now days this north is called the “TRUE NORTH” and is determined as the real north.

1000 years later, when the construction of Nijojo castle was started, the Shogun “Ieyasu Tokugawa(1543­-1616)” ordered to measure the north­-south direction and build along it. For that, the castle’s site had to be built perfectly along the road...though the mistake of “3 degrees of inclination” occurred.

It happened because of one more order of the Shogun: “Make full use of the latest western technology!”. What do you think was “the latest western technology” at that time to measure the direction?

Yes, it was the “COMPASS”!!

To tell you the truth, the “TRUE NORTH” the direction where the polar star is shining and the “MAGNETIC NORTH” which the compass points at, varies a bit. Though it varies only by a few degrees, the magnetic north is used as the north in general even today. But the Edo era citizen didn’t know this difference, so Nijojo castle was built with an inclination of 3 degrees.

Interesting mistake! The Shogun might have thought like “Hahaha! Your NORTH is wrong Emperor Kanmu...I know the real NORTH!” lol

Read in Japanese
2. 傾いて建設してしまった / 二種類の「北」

ところで、地図で見ると、二条城の横を南北に走る道に対して、お城の敷地は、東に3度傾いて作られているのは知っていますか? どうせならきちんと作れば良いのに・・・と思うほどに・・・







面白いですね! 徳川家康としたら・・・「ふふふ、俺が正しい北を知っているんだぜ、桓武天皇・・・」と思っていたかも知れません(笑)

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3. Nijojo castle conference / Quarrel between a stripling & a old man

Really famous historical clans of Japan appeared here, the Toyotomi and the Tokugawa clan. Have you ever heard of them?

Japan was into the age of civil wars(1493~1590). Lots of feudal lords appeared in many parts of Japan. They dominated lands and people. And they fought with the other feudal lords again and again to increase their territory.

【Photo】 A battle of civil war era(戦国時代の戦い)
By 楊洲 周延(ようしゅう ちかのぶ) - 豊公四国征討図 (, パブリック・ドメイン,


But at last, in 1590, "Hideyoshi Toyotomi(1537~1598)" won the battles and unified the country. The age of civil wars ended.

Read more about Nijojo castle conference

As a conqueror he needed a successor. Hideyoshi once had a boy but got died very young. So his nephew was considered to be his successor. But, to tell you the truth, Hideyoshi really wanted to have his child as his successor.

【Photo】 Hideyoshi Toyotomi(豊臣秀吉)
By 狩野光信 -, パブリック・ドメイン,


Hideyoshi was quite old at that time so everybody were thinking that he would not have a child anymore. Contrary to expectations, he got one!! "Hideyori Toyotomi (1593~1615)" was born to Hideyoshi and his concubine.

Hideyoshi was soooo happy to have a child but at the same time he knew his death was approaching. He was very anxious about the times after his death. So before his death, Hideyoshi made "Ieyasu Tokugawa(1542~1616)", who had power among the feudatories of the Toyotomis, swear to follow and support his son, Hideyori.

【Photo】 Hideyori Toyotomi(豊臣秀頼)
By 不明 - 京都市東山区養源院(ようげんいん)所蔵品。, パブリック・ドメイン,


Though "Ieyasu Tokugawa" was a really ambitious man!! He was waiting the death of Hideyoshi.
He may have laughed inwardly in expectation of being the next leader in the new upcoming era.

And at last Hideyoshi Toyotomi died in 1598.

Well, it was Ieyasu’s turn after the death of Hideyoshi.
Ieyasu started “The Battle of Sekigahara” in 1600. It’s a super famous battle in Japanese history. It started as a struggle for supremacy within the Toyotomi clan and spread all over Japan. Finally Ieyasu defeated the other feudal lords.

The Toyotomis observed it calmly, paying close attention to it.

In 1603, Ieyasu Tokugawa established the Shogunaete in Edo (Tokyo) and began to rule the whole country. There are two terms for this: “Edo Shogunate” and “Tokugawa Shogunate”, you can call it whichever you like!

Then he built Nijo-jo castle as a residence in Kyoto.

Although Ieyasu practically gained the top position of Japan, he was still a retainer of the Toyotomis. A Master-Retainer relationship could not be easily broken.

As the Tokugawas (Ieyasu) increased their power, Ieyasu began to feel that Hideyori, the young son of his former master, was a thorn in his side. He wanted to check what Hideyori was like for they had not seen each other for a long time, and demanded to have an audience.

Hideyori refused the demand for a few years, but at the end he couldn't avoid it anymore.
At last the audience of Ieyasu Tokugawa and Hideyori Toyotomi, two big heads of the time, was held in Toozamurai-ichinoma in Ninomaru Palace on March 28th 1611.

This is “The Nijo-jo castle audience”.Let’s imagine their inner voices.

Ieyasu: “Um…This man is Hideyori! A mere greenhorn!
Hideyori: “The traitor Ieyasu! I never let you have your own way!”
Ieyasu: “Um…This fellow looks more dignified than expected though. I must not be too careless, or I might regret it and should beware of him..."
Hideyori: “I shall pretend to show respect to an old guy for now.”

We don’t know if they really thought in this way or not, ha-ha-ha!! Anyway they had a meal together and exchanged swords, which was to show the proof of the trust in each other. But it is said that Ieyasu was determined to destroy the Toyotomi family at this time.

The old feudal lords of the Toyotomi clan died one after the other, and the Toyotomis got isolated. They began to show hostility to the Edo Shogunate. The relations of the two families took a turn for the worse. At last Ieyasu attacked Osaka castle where Hideyori had lived and destroyed the Toyotomi family in 1615. Hideyori Toyotomi committed suicide at the age of 21.

Afterwards the Edo Shogunate established by Ieyasu Tokugawa had continued for 265 years until the year of the Meiji Restoration.

Read in Japanese

2. 二条城会見 / 若造と老人のいがみあい!




秀吉はこの時すでに年をとっていましたので、周りの人々は、もう子供が産まれることはないだろうと考えていました。しかし、大方の予想に反して、また授かったのです!側室との間に秀頼 (1593~1615)が産まれたのです!















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Open times(拝観時間)
Open : 8:45
Close : 17:00 (Entry16:00)
※ Ninomaru Palace Open:9:00-Close16:00
Adult(University students and over) : ¥600
High & Junior high school students : ¥350
Elementary school students : ¥200
Below : Free


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