Explore Nijo Castle on a 60-minute guided tour conducted by a City of Kyoto-certified guide. Learn why the best example of feudal era castle architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is significant in terms of history, culture, and art history.
Nijo Castle (Nijo-jo) was originally built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603 – 1867). After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle served as an imperial palace, before being donated to Kyoto City and opened to the public as a historic site. These buildings are arguably the best surviving examples of castle architecture from Japan's feudal era. Designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994, Nijo Castle is divided into three distinct areas: the Honmaru or main circle of defense; the Ninomaru or secondary circle of defense; and the gardens encircling both the Honmaru and Ninomaru. The castle grounds and the Honmaru are further protected by stone walls and a moat. You'll enter the castle grounds through the large gate on the east side of the castle. (The tour ticket booth is located just inside the gate.) Farther inside the castle grounds, you'll find the extravagant Karamon Gate, the entrance to the Ninomaru, and the castle's main attraction, the Ninomaru Palace. The Ninomaru Palace once served as the shogun's residence and office on visits to Kyoto and remains intact to this very day. The palace consists of multiple buildings connected by corridors lined with so-called nightingale floors due to the way they creak when walked upon—a security measure against intruders. The ornate palace rooms feature beautiful tatami mat floors, elegantly decorated ceilings, and beautifully painted fusuma sliding doors.