53.二条城(Nijo Castle)

Location and History

In fact, there were several castles which were called “Nijo Castle”. They were all built in the center of Kyoto called “Nijo” by authorities to be their lodgings and protect themselves. Ieyasu Tokugawa built the last Nijo Castle here after came to power in 1600.

徳川家康肖像画、加納探幽筆、大阪城天守閣蔵(The Portrait of Ieyasu Tokugawa, attributed to Tanyu Kano, owned by Osaka Castle Museum)licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The present land of the castle is a shape combined from two squares. The east one was a little larger, and the original. The west part was added later when renovation was done before an emperor visited the castle. Tokugawa clan used the castle for receptions such as inaugurations of shoguns and imperial visits.

二条城付近の航空写真(A aerial photo around Nijo Castle)

The castle had two keeps “Tenshu” in total. The first Tenshu was moved from Yamato-Koriyama Castle to there, and then moved to Yodo Castle during the renovation. The second one was moved from Fushimi Castle to there. Unfortunately both of them were burned down by strikes of thunder in the 18th century. It has been very difficult to keep Tenshu for a long time from then on.

二条城の初代天守が描かれた洛中洛外図屏風、林原美術館蔵(The first Tenshu of Nijo Castle in the Rakuchu-Rakugai folding screens, owned by Hyashibara Museum of Art)licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

There was a long term of over 200 years when the castle was not used because the governance of the Shogunate had been stable and Shoguns didn’t need to come to Kyoto. However, the situation was changed at the end of the Edo Period. Major domains such as Choshu and Satsuma rebelled against the Shogunate using the imperial power. The 14th and 15th shoguns had to come to Kyoto to deal with the problem and stayed at Nijo castle. In the end, the castle was used as the stage for “the restoration of Imperial rule”.

「大政奉還」壁画、邨田丹陵筆、聖徳記念絵画館蔵(The mural of “the Restoration of Imperial rule” attributed to Tanryo Murata, ownd by Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery)licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons


The present Ninomaru main hall is where many historical events were held. It is one of the four remaining lord halls in Japan. The hall is made up of six parts. “To-zamurai” is the first and largest part which was used for warriors to wait, and so on. It has an outstanding roof appearance you can see outside.

遠侍の外観(An appearance of To-Zamurai)taken by Wakanachi3 from Photo AC

The fifth part is “Kuroshoin” which was used for meetings among the shogun and relative lords. This is where the last shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa declared “the restoration of Imperial rule” in 1867.

黒書院の外観(An appearance of Kuroshoin)

For a taste of something castle like, look outside the castle around the entrance. The East Main Entrance “Higashi-Otemon” and the Southeast Corner Turret “Tounan-Sumi-Yagura”remain alongside stonewalls and the outer water moat. They could be a good photo spot.

東南隅櫓、奥は東大手門(Tounan-Sumi-Yagura, the back is Higashi-Otemon)

And, look at the main enclosure “Honmaru” inside the inner water moat. This area was built for emergencies. The stone wall for the Tenshu base remains at the southwest corner of Honmaru. The second Tenshu was on it.

本丸と内堀(Honmaru and the inner moat)
天守台の石垣(The stone walls for the Tenshu base)

Later Life

The castle might be lucky compared with other major castles after the Meiji Restoration. The castle was used as “Nijo Imperial Villa”. For example, the reception for enthrone of the Taisho Emperor was held at this site.

大正天皇即位饗宴の絵(The picture of the reception for enthrone of the Taisho Emperor)licensed by Ninijo via Wikimedia Commons

During that time, the former house of prince Katsura was moved to Honmaru as the Honmaru hall we can now see. Lastly, the castle has been open to visitors as the Imperial Gift Former Imperial Villa Nijo Castle since 1940. It also became a World Heritage Site since 1994.

本丸御殿、現在この建物は非公開(The Honmaru hall, now this building is not open to the public)taken by Wakanachi3 from Photo AC

My Impression

The Chinese style Gate “Kara-Mon” in front of the Ninomaru hall is a great object to see. It is very gorgeous and many tourists always take pictures. I would like you to look at the details of the gate.

二の丸御殿前の唐門(Kara-Mon in front of the Ninomaru hall)
唐門の飾り(The decorations of Kara-Mon)

Kyoto has been said to be easy to attack, difficult to protect. The Honmaru of this castle is not so large. I think the founders of the castle might think a large castle is not always useful in this city. That’s why the castle part was made compact so that it would keep against an enemy for a while by a small number of soldiers.

How to get There

It is useful to use train or bus to get there.
Nijojo-Mae station on the Tozai line of the Kyoto Municipal Subway is the nearest. When using JR line, it takes nearly 20 minutes on foot from Nijo station. Or take a bus from Kyoto station.

Links and References

世界遺産 元離宮二条城(World Heritage Site Nijo-jo Castle)
・二条城―京洛を統べる雅びの城、歴史群像名城シリーズ11(Japanese Book)

投稿者: Yuzo

城巡りが好きなYuzoです。日本には数万の城があったといわれています。その内の200名城を手始めにどんどん紹介していきます。 I'm Yuzo, I love visiting castles and ruins. It is said that there were tens of thousands castles in Japan. I will introduce you top 200 castles and ruins of them, and more!

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