Nijo Castle – Former home of the first Shogun of the Edo Period

Nijo Castle is a massive complex in Kyoto Japan built in the early 1600’s as the home of the first Shogun of the Edo Period Tokugawa Ieyasu. The entire Nijo Castle grounds include various buildings, temples, gardens, moats, walls, ponds and watchtowers and unsurprisingly it is one of Kyoto’s many UNESCO world heritage sites.

view of a section of the castle grounds called Honmaru

Shogun’s Kyoto residence

Nijo Castle was my first stop during my one day exploration of Kyoto as it was centrally located, not far from Kyoto Station and very highly recommended by guides and locals. I am very facinated by Japanese history and the role the Shogun used to have in Japan’s political and military hierarchy. He wasn’t quite a “king” as many think but more like the most powerful warlord in land and so he was acknowledged as such by the Emporer of Japan who was thought to be a descendant of the Gods. Japan – An Illustrated History is a book that I highly recommend that anyone interest in Japanese history should read.

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Ninomaru Palace is a sight to behold

Shogun = Boss

Well enough of the history lesson, I arrived Nijo Castle, paid my entry fee and crossed the first moat into the castle grounds. My first thoughts were “the Shogun was really the boss indeed” as I was already impressed just looking at the walls and guardpost, I tried to imagine being a visitor going through this very gate 300 hundred years ago and what it would be like as a dignitary, local or foreigner.

The Nijo Castle gift shop is another stop that threatened my pockets

Ninomaru Palace

The castle grounds had various buildings one of the most impressive being the Ninomaru Palace which was where the Shogun actually lived and everything was connected by impressive gardens and walkways but at the same time separated by wall, moats and other water features. It took me about 2 hours to complete the route including rest stops and resisiting the urge to buy everything in the Nijojo gift shop.

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Lots more photos and leave a comment!

Like Ginkaku-ji I highly recommend a stop of Nijo Castle if you ever find yourself in Kyoto. Lots more photos below and look out for my post on my other stop in Kyoto, the magnificent Kinkaku-ji in a couple days.

Want to see the Shogun? Sorry, you'll have to ask this guy...
There were many illustrators, painters and other artists perched at different spots when I visited
I can imagine how the views change with the different seasons of the year
I was fascinated by the details on this door


5 thoughts on “Nijo Castle – Former home of the first Shogun of the Edo Period

  1. Great post – and I loved Nijo-jo. It’s not quite what a lot of people have in mind when they think “japanese castle” – and it really isn’t that anymore. The original castle part has long gone… but what remains is more a stately residence befitting a shogun. We went here again in April to look at the cherry blossoms at night (illuminated) and it was quite an experience.

    Looking forward to Kinkakuji.

  2. It looks like a most interesting place to visit. And two hours to make the complete rounds? That is spectacular. I tell you, I am so fascinated with Japanese culture; its quite amazing.

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