History of Nijo-jo Castle
This castle was originally built in 1603 as the official Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate Government. It was subsequently enlarged by adding some structures transferred from Fushimi Castle built in the 1573-1614 Momoyama period and is one of the finest examples of early Edo period and Momoyama culture in Japan, making splendid use of early Edo period building designs, lavish paintings and carvings. In 1867, Tokugawa Yoshinobu,the 15th Shogun, returned sovereignty to the Emperor and the castle became the property of the Imperial family. It has been owned by Kyoto city since 1939. The castle was designated as the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1994.
Composition of the castle
The castle consits of four mainn structures
(1) "Ninomaru" Palace (National treasure)
Characterized by the elegant, yet simple "shoin-zukuri" architectural style, the entire floor area of the palace totals 3,300 square meters and it consists of linked sections of 33 rooms with the use of 800 "tatami" mats. The superb wall paintings are the work by prominent Kano School members.
(2) "Ninomaru" Garden (Special Place for Scenic Beauty)
In the center of the pond in this large-sacle garden stands one large island called "Horai-jima", the Island of Eternal Happiness, flanked by two smaller islands, "Tsuru-jima" crane island and "Kame-jima" turtle island.
(3) "Honmaru" Palace (Closed)
The "Honmaru" Palace was added to the castle complex in 1626. A five-storied castle tower (donjon) was part of the original construction, but it was struck by lightning and burnt down in 1750 and then destroyed in a fire in 1788.The present structure built in 1847, a part of the former Imperial Palace of Katsura, was transferred from the Kyoto Imperial Garden.
(4) Seiryu-en Garden
Constructed in 1965, the garden is divided into two parts: one part is the Japanese-style garden with a large pond and the other has a spacious lawn area. There are two teahouses for holding receptions for honored guests.
How to enjoy
Just go through the gorgeous gate, "Nino-maru-kara-mon" gate, and you will be met by the main building, "Nino-maru-goten" Palace, the main structure, and you will be amazed at its magnificence. In other words, you will never end up admiring the power of Tokugawa-era Shogun. The tour inside the main building will take you some 30 minutes. You can enjoy seeing the vast interior, splendid wall paintings, mock-up figures of Shogun and feudal lords meeting in the grand hall, and so on. As you walk on the path outside the main building, you can see the garden with a pond and trees in perfect harmony. Other buildings and the gardens will also be a pleasure to your eyes.