Nijo Castle, Kyoto

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  • Nijo Castle
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    by Ewingjr98
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  • Orchid's Profile Photo

    At Ninomaru Palace tread lightly please....

    by Orchid Updated Oct 25, 2014

    Within the sturdy walls and moats of Nijo Castle, approached through the the grand Karamon gateway lies a paean to the glory of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the form of the glorious Ninomaru Palace, whose residence this once was. A highlight of the palace is one of the world's first burglar alarms!

    During the Edo period, assassination by ninja was a very real threat. So the nightingale floor (Uguisu-bari), a effective if low-tech alarm system served to alert Daimyo or Shogun bodyguards that intruders of ill intent were on the prowl.

    When one puts ones weight on the floorboards of the Ninomaru Palace, the surface bends and warps, causing the securing nails to rub against a jacket or clamp, generating low creaks reminiscent of chirping birds. This chorus of faux birdsong, alerting the palace guards, giving any would be assassin the choice of flight or death.
    I guess fat assassins did not succeed, as the heavier the footfall, the louder the chirp!

    And so it was that when the cacophony of tour guides 'listening-to-me'-ing their unfortunate followers subsided, the creaking palace floors did indeed sound like a twittering of many birds. There are 5 buildings in the complex, connected by corridors with the famous creaking floorboards, and it takes some time to wander through on soft socked feet, along passageways with fine square-panelled ceilings and elaborate wall paintings, viewed through the sliding panels of the interior rooms. The grandest rooms are the audience hall of the Shogun himself, where said potentate with sit on an elevated platform, flanked by bodyguards hidden in closets. Trusting times indeed.

    I first read of the 'nightingale floor' in Lian Hearn's fine novel, 'Across the Nightingale Floor', so it was a special pleasure to be able to try one out for myself.

    Another strict 'no photo' establishment (inside the palace), the entrance is included in the ticket to Nijo Castle (600 Yen in 2014). Opening hours of the castle are 8:45 to 17:00.
    Opening hours are the same as for the castle.

    Palace exterior The nightingale floor Interior view - ceiling and wall panels Detail at palace portal
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  • Orchid's Profile Photo

    A Flatland Castle

    by Orchid Updated Oct 25, 2014

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    The most famous castles in Japan are located on spectacular naturally defensible landforms. Nijō castle though stands on a plain, now surrounded by the city of Kyoto. It is defended therefore by massive stone walls whose inhospitable rock drop precipitously into the surrounding moats. The walls are studded with white stuccoed defensive turrets.

    There are concentric rings of fortifications, though the innermost keep is no more. The visitor arrives now through the Eastern Gate, and proceeds clockwise to the Koramon gate, which deposits one at the entrance to the
    sublime Ninomaru Palace where one can attempt the nightinggale floors.

    Outside, the pathway leads past the artfully arranged rocks in the pool of the Ninomaru Garden, across the Inner Moat, where the high walls surround the Honmaru Palace and Gardens. The platform of the Donjon, in the south west corner gives fine views across the castle grounds, and the curiously terraced inner fortifications.

    After exiting the Inner keep, on can walk back to the East entrance though the new Seiryū-en garden, replete with plum and cherry groves, its paths lined with azalea hedges.

    Entry to the castle is 600 yen, and it opens from 8:45 to 17:00 (earlier in winter)

    Defensive Turret & Outer Moat Ninomaru garden In the Honmaru Garden Azaleas in Seiryū-en garden Terraced castle walls
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  • heydelin's Profile Photo

    Largest palace i've been to

    by heydelin Written Aug 2, 2014

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    From the Golden Temple, I hopped on a bus 201 to Nijo castle. I paid 230 yen again. Entrance fee is 600 yen. The whole castle is so big. Taking photos is prohibited inside the castle. The garden in this castle is wonderful as well and too bad my camera’s battery almost died. I spent an hour resting in a refreshment area in the castle ground.

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  • stamporama's Profile Photo

    An 'easier' castle to visit

    by stamporama Written Jul 29, 2014

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    Unlike many castles in Japan which can be 7 floors high, Nijo Castle is a one-story affair so touring it is more leisurely. Since Kyoto was spared from the ravages of war, everything within the castle is original which is why apart from being a World Heritage site it is also regarded as a National Treasure of Japan.

    The main attraction of the castle is its lush, picturesque Ninomaru garden and the adjoining Ninomaru Palace, where one could view reproductions of the wall paintings. The originals were transferred to the 400th Anniversary Gallery (additional admission fee charged) just beside it where they can be viewed. When you walk inside the palace, you might notice chirping sound coming from the floor. The floors were intentionally designed to make such sound as a sort of intruder alarm particularly at night.

    Footwear must be removed before entering. Once inside you cannot touch anything but the floor and no photos/videos. It can be a bit warm and stuffy inside especially in summer as there's no A/C and sliding doors/windows are shut so better bring a hand fan.

    Gate to the palace grounds Charming palace garden
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  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo

    Nijo Castle - Central Kyoto

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Oct 19, 2013

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    Nijo Castle is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, a UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The castle was begin in 1603 under Tokugawa Ieyasu, and completed in 1626 during the reign of his grandson Tokugawa Iemitsu.This stage of construction included a five-story castle yhat was built in the center of the fortress. The large castle, the centerpiece of the site, was destoyed by lightning and the ensuing fire in 1750. This remained a shogunate castle until around 1867 when power was returned from the Shoguns to the Emperor, and the castle was donated to the city of Kyoto in 1939.

    Entrance to the castle complex is 600 Yen per adult, which includes a nice, long tour of the interior of the impressive, 33-room Ninomaru Palace, built with the original castle. To the west of the Ninomaru Palace is the Honmaru Palace, built with the original castle, and destroyed in 1788, the current structure was completed in 1847. On the north side of the castle grounds are the impressive Seiryu-en Gardens, which were built in 1965.

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  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo

    Nijo Castle

    by Jim_Eliason Written Jun 18, 2012

    Residence of the Shogun, this castle was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1601. The castle lacks the traditional keep of Japanese castles but contains a couple of palaces and large gardens in its expansive setting.

    Nijo Castle Nijo Castle Nijo Castle Nijo Castle Nijo Castle
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  • jlanza29's Profile Photo

    Another Jewel of the many in Kyoto ....

    by jlanza29 Written May 4, 2012

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    The ostentatious style of this castle was intended as a demonstration of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu's prestige.
    Nijo-jo Castle was the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa shoguns, who ruled Japan for the over 200 years from 1603 to 1868, and it remains an eloquent testimony to their power. The wide moat, massive stone walls, and heavy yet elaborate gates are still impressive, and were the only fortifications the inhabitants felt they needed, so firm was their grip on power. The grounds are large and contain several lovely gardens as well as groves of plum and cherry trees. The palace building itself is imposing, yet upon closer examination, is rich in decorative detail.

    Inside the palace are several masterpieces of Japanese art, most notably the painted screens of the main chamber. In this room the shoguns met the daimyo (high-ranking warlord-administrators) who sought their audience. The screens were painted by artists of the Kano school and employ rich colors and large amounts of gilt to depict flowers, trees, birds and tigers. They were meant to impress. Also in the palace are the famous "nightingale floors," which were designed to squeak and thus alert guards to any intruders.

    Spent about an hour here and saw everything in a non-rushed way .... entrance fee was 600 Yens

    Make sure you walk around the gardens ... just beautiful......

    Main entrance to castle Beautiful views !!!!! Cherry blossoms all over the gardens

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  • SallyM's Profile Photo

    Nijo Castle

    by SallyM Updated May 2, 2011

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    Nijo Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Nijo Castle is different from the other castles we visited in Japan as the main building, the Ninomaru Palace, is a single-storey rather than a tower with steep stairs. It is built in the shoin-zukiri style, with linked sections. The wall paintings are by members of the Kano School. The complex was created by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616). In the first grand chamber there are dummies representing feudal lords paying their respects to the shogun.

    The corridor floors are designed to squeak when they are walked on - to prevent intruders sneaking in. Because of the noise they make they are known as 'nightingale floors'.

    In the castle grounds are beautiful gardens, including a cherry tree grove and plum tree grove, and the Seiryu-en Garden, constructed in 1965, which contains a large pond and two teahouses. There are also audio information panels in the grounds in 4 languages: Japanese, Chinese, English and Korean.

    The castle gates open at 8.45 a.m., and the Ninomaru Palace opens at 9.00 a.m. - if you arrive early you can look round the gardens first.

    Nijo Castle - from street Karamon Gate, Nijo Castle Blossom in the Plum Tree Grove, Nijo Castle Seiryu-en Garden
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  • Gili_S's Profile Photo

    The Nijo Castle

    by Gili_S Written Feb 9, 2010

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    The Nijo Castle itself is dated to the 17th century while Kyoto was still the Capital of Japan. During the years some parts of it been burned by fire and only in the mid 20th century it was given to the city of Kyoto and been opened to the crowed as a touristic site.

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  • Gili_S's Profile Photo

    Nijo Castle & Fortress

    by Gili_S Written Feb 9, 2010

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    The Nijo Castle is a large complex of fortress and palaces spread on a large area of 275,000 square meters. When you plan to visit here plan about half a day for it if you want to see it all. In this tip I added photos of the fortress and gardens.

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  • muratkorman's Profile Photo

    A world heritage of Kyoto

    by muratkorman Written Sep 12, 2009

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    Nijo Castle is one of the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto. The castle was originally built in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The palace building Ninomaru is kept in its original form and is famous for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors and squeaking floors when someone walks on them as a security measure for intruders. The other parts you can visit are Honmaru Palace, Seiryu-en Garden and Ninimaru Garden. The admission is 600 JPY. Opening hours are between 8:45 to 17:00.

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  • Rabbityama's Profile Photo

    Nijo Castle

    by Rabbityama Written Jan 11, 2009

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    When most people think of Japanese castles, they picture the large majestic buildings, like Himeji Castle. Nijo Castle was built with the Shoin-zukuri architectural style, so it does not look like a typical Japanese castle however, do not let this deter you from going. Nijo Castle is well worth the visit!

    It is probably more appropriate to refer to Nijo Castle as an Imperial Palace, similar to the imperial villas, because the residents were indeed the Imperial Cabinet. The main section, the Ninomaru Palace, was commissioned by Tokugawa Ieyasu to be built in 1601 and was completed in 1603. The palace you see today is this very same palace; it was never burned down or reconstructed, so the building, as well as the beautiful paintings inside are all originals. The Nightingale floors have also been preserved, so as you walk in the palace, you will noticed the floorboards squeaking. These were used to indicate to those inside that someone was intruding, so outsiders could not easily launch a surprise attack or spy.

    The Ninomaru Garden is also quite beautiful, and it dates back to 1626, so it was part of the original palace.

    The Honmaru Palace was brought from Katsura Imperial Villa from 1893-1894 and dates back to 1847. The Seiryu-en Garden was built quite recently, in 1965, so it was not part of the original castle however, don't be too disappointed, because the Ninomaru Garden is both more beautiful and the original palace garden!

    Nijo Castle is a beautiful historic site with great examples of original Japanese architecture, artwork, and gardens. It was designated as one of Kyoto's World Heritage Sites in 1994, an honor it certainly deserves!

    The entrance fee is 600 yen.

    Nijo's Ninomaru Palace Ornate Wooden Sculptures at Nijo Castle Nijo's Ninomaru Garden View of Nijo's Honmaru Palace Nijo's Honmaru Palace
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  • Toshioohsako's Profile Photo

    Visit Nijojo!

    by Toshioohsako Updated Jul 19, 2008

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    Its a castle buit in 1603 by the first Shougun Tokugawa Iyeyasu for his Kyoto residence. This place is called "Ninomaru" (second castle). Its a typical masterpiece of "Momoyama" architecture. It has a large garden and enjoy taking pictures here.

    The Nijo Castle is one of many UNESCO's World Heritage Site in Kyoto.

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  • yurxlnc's Profile Photo

    Nijo Castle

    by yurxlnc Updated Jul 13, 2008

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    This was the former residence of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu , built as a residence for him and his successors.
    It is now known as Ninimaru [secondary castle], built in 1803 and famous for its Momoyama architecture.
    The main castle Honmaru had a five storied tower.
    Admission 600 yen.
    Open 8.45-17.00 daily, but closed on Tuesdays January, July, August and December. Also closed 26 December -4 January.

    tourists at nijo castle the palace castle walls and moat wood work garden with water lilies
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  • trvlrtom's Profile Photo

    Don't miss the gardens

    by trvlrtom Updated Apr 17, 2008

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    The Nijo Castle deserves its reputation as one of the highlights of Kyoto. Most likely if you are in the city you will visit it. The buildings are impressive and worth every moment you spend there, but don't skip the gardens either.

    There are three of them: the Seiryu-en, the Green garden, and the Ninomaru, each different and special in their own way. The Seiryu-en has two parts, one with a large pone in the Japanese style, and the other with a spacious lawn mostly in the Western style. The large Ninomaru garden goes way back in time, with several small island in the pond. It's also worthwhile to walk along the path on the west and south sides of Honmaru, where there are cherry tree and plum tree groves, exceptional in their respective seasons.

    Cherry grove, beautiful even in the rain.
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