In Kyoto: The Nijo Castle

 

It’s only the second day in the city and it felt like I’ve been here for a week. That’s how much there was to see in this ancient capital.

Day 2 listed more Unesco World Heritage Sites to visit. First up: the Nijo Castle.

 

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan
The Nijo castle in seen from the street. The nearest subway station bears the same name

 

The flatland castle is located a couple of blocks from the Karasuma Street and it’s easily accessed via Subway Tozai. Tourists would know which station to get off, the stop is named after the castle, Nijo.

Nijo-jo has two special designations: it is one of the 17 Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1994.

 

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan
Nijo castle layout

 

 

The 1603-built Nijo Castle was the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu. It was completed 23 years after, in 1626, during the reign of Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa Shogun, with the addition of Momoyama period-built structures transferred from Fushimi Castle.

With its architectural design and commissioned artworks, Nijo Castle’s is said to represent one of the finest examples of early Edo period and Momoyama culture in Japan.

 

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan
Kara-mon gate, the entrance to the Karamon, the secondary circle of defense

 

The details of the Karamon Gate

 

Nijo Castle became the property of the Imperial family after the 15th Tokugawa Shogun, Yoshinobu, returned sovereignty to the Emperor in 1867.

It was renamed Nijo Detached Palace in 1884, then to Nijo Castle, in 1939 when it was donated to the City of Kyoto.

 

The garden path at the Honmaru Palace. Can you name the trees along the path?

 

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan
Tree genus reference board

 

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan
Gate to the Honmaru Palace

 

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan
Perhaps a geisha in training

 

Nijo Castle has two concentric rings of fortifications, each consisting of a wide oat and wall. Entry to the castle is after the outer moat and through the Higashi Ote-mon (main gate).

Ninomaru Castle is a National Treasure. It is accessible through the Kara-mon, the entrance the secondary circle of defense (Ninomaru).

The 3,300 square meter structure, in shoi-zukuri architectural style, consists of five interconnected buildings with 33 rooms used as reception chambers, offices and shogun’s living quarters.

 

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan
The Ninomaru Castle. It consists of five interconnected buildings spread over 3,300 square meters

 

 

Features of the castle: more than 800 tatami mats, lavish quantities of gold leaf and elaborate wood carvings are used as decorations to impress visitors with the power and wealth of the shoguns; paintings of the artists of the Kano School adorn the sliding doors (fusuma) and of each room; and “Nightingale floors” (uguisubari), boards that squeak like birds when walked on, are used in the corridors to protect the occupants from sneak attacks and assassins.

 

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan
“Nightingale floors” (uguisubari), boards that squeak like birds when walked on

 

Scenic path

 

Ninomaru Garden is designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. The original garden is said to be the creation of a landscape architect and tea master, Kobori Enshu.

 

 

Ninomaru Garden, designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty.

 

At the center of the large scale garden’s pond are three islands: the larger formation represents Jorai-jima (The island of eternal happiness), flanked by two smaller formations, which represents Tsuru-jima (Crane Island) and Kame-jima (Turtle Island).

Honmaru Palace. The 1,600-square meter complex in the Edo period architectural style is composed of living quarters, reception, entrance halls and kitchen area, all of which are connected by corridors and courtyards.

 

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan
Gate to the Honmaru Palace

 

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan
The second moat

 

The Honmaru Palace’s was added to the castle complex in 1926 with a five-story donjon (castle tower) as part of its design. It was destroyed by fire in 1788. Replacing the original structure, one part of the former Katsura Palace (former Imperial Palace) within the Kyoto Imperial Garden was moved to the Nijojo.

 

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan
The Honmaru Palace rooftops seen from the Donjon

 

Paintings by famous masters, including Kano Eigaku, are displayed in the palace.

This part of the complex, though, is closed.

Seiyu-en Garden. The interesting feature of the sprawling 1965-constructed garden is the two teahouses, Koun-tei and Waraku-an, which were brought from the villa of a wealthy merchant. These teahouses are used for receptions for honored guests.

For more photos of this feature and other travel stories, visit www.jeepneyjinggoy.com
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Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.

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