UNESCO World Heritage Site Nijo-jo Castle, a fortified complex dating from 1603, was the official residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun. Walk in the pretty gardens or visit Ninomaru Palace to see fine Japanese artworks. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Kyoto, a city already full of must-visit attractions.
Inside the grounds of Nijo-jo Castle are two palaces, Ninomaru and Honmaru, although only Ninomaru is open to visitors. The palaces are said to be the best-surviving examples of castle palace architecture from Japan's feudal era. Inside Ninomaru Palace are beautiful Japanese artworks, including about 3,000 folding screens and ceilings painted with gold leaf. The palace gardens, landscaped in a traditional Japanese style, are a peaceful place to walk. Many seasonal flowers bloom there, including camellias, azaleas, and maples.
Organized tours of Kyoto regularly include Nijo Castle on their itineraries, along with other highlights, such as the Golden Pavilion, Kiyomizu Temple, and the Imperial Palace. Nijo Castle is quite near the Imperial Palace, so it’s easy to visit them together.
Things to Know Before You Go
- An admission fee is charged to enter the Nijo-jo Castle grounds.
- English audio guides and in-person guided tours are available.
- Although the Honmaru Palace is not usually open, visitors can walk around the Honmaru Gardens and climb the stone tower for views of the palace and gardens.
How to Get There
The closest train station to Nijo-jo Castle is Nijojo-mae on the Tozai line. Or, get there by bus. From Kyoto Station, take Kyoto City Bus numbers 9, 50 or 101, or from Shijo Kawaramachi, take Kyoto City Bus number 12.
When to Get There
The grounds are open from 8:45am until 5pm, with last admission at 4pm. The Ninomaru Palace is open from 9am until 4pm. The castle is closed on Tuesdays in January, July, August, and December, and between December 26 and January 4.
Tokugawa Ieyasu’s Grave at Nikko
Travelers interested in the history surrounding Tokugawa Ieyasu, who lived in Nijo-jo Castle, should visit his memorial in Nikko. This town in the mountains in Tochigi Prefecture is easily accessible on a day trip from Tokyo. The Toshogu Memorial and other temples here, dating from the early 17th century, are some of the finest traditional architecture in Japan and are a UNESCO-listed site.