In 1601, Ieyasu Tokugawa ordered all daimyo (feudal lords) to provide materials
and labor to construct Nijo Castle, which was completed in 1626. It was the Kyoto
residence of the Tokugawa Shogun (although they only used it a few times over the
250 years the Shogunate was in existence). The primary purpose of the castle was
as a symbol of Tokugawa power, achieved based on the size and architectural style.

Nijo Castle, considered to be a perfect example of
Momoyama architecture, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle is built on the site of Oda Nobunaga’s Nijo Palace in Kyoto.
In 1601, Tokugawa Ieyasu required all daimyo to contribute to the construction of
Nijo Castle (Nijo-jo), completed during the reign of the third Shogun (Iemitsu) in 1626.
Parts of Fushimi Castle were moved here in 1625. The castle was the Kyoto residence of
the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled from Edo but required residence near the Imperial Court.
The castle was highly decorated with gold leaf and was built almost entirely of Hinoki Cypress.
Nijo was built with little in the way of fortifications other than the moats and gates to imply
that the Tokugawa have little fear of attack. The Ninomaru Palace was built between
1624-26 to prepare for the scheduled visit of the Emperor, in a style to impress.

An interesting note is that the Ninomaru Palace was the site where the
Emperor recognized the authority of the Tokugawa Shogunate,
and the last Shogun returned authority to Emperor Meiji.


Nijo Castle Higashi Otemon 9167
(East Main Gate) and Outer Moat
1500 x 1065 (438 KB)

The defenses of Nijo Castle are designed for their appearance rather than for defense.
Even so, this is a well-reinforced gate, and there were always many samurai on guard.


Nijo Castle Outer Moat 9211
1359 x 900 (403 KB)

The outer moat, shot later in the afternoon on the way out.


Nijo Castle Outer Moat 9210
1359 x 900 (415 KB)

These show both sides from the Higashi Otemon bridge.


Nijo Castle Higashi Otemon Guardhouse 9168
1359 x 900 (345 KB)

Just inside the Higashi Otemon is the guardhouse,
whose guards controlled the entrance to Nijo castle.
It is still in use by employees who control the entrance,
assisted by mannequins dressed as samurai guards.


Nijo Karamon Gate 9169
1500 x 1065 (456 KB)

The Karamon (Chinese arched gable gate) is the
entrance to the Ninomaru Palace. It was transferred to
Nijo from Fushimi Castle by the third Shogun in 1626.


Nijo Karamon Gate detail 9170 M
1500 x 1290 (658 KB)

Detail of the highly ornamented gold leaf fixtures and carvings on the Karamon Gate.
Decorations include butterflies, cranes, a dragon, and the Imperial Chrysanthemum crest.


Nijo Karamon Gate 9178
1500 x 994 (567 KB)

The Karamon and its surrounding landscaping from the courtyard of the Ninomaru Palace.


Ninomaru Palace 9171
1500 x 1065 (345 KB)

Built almost exclusively from Hinoki (high grade Cypress),
Ninomaru Palace has ‘nightingale floors’ in the corridors
to protect inhabitants from sneak attacks or assassins
(the floors squeak like birds when walked upon).


Ninomaru Palace 9180
1500 x 844 (378 KB)

The Ninomaru Palace is comprised of five buildings designed to operate as a social control mechanism. The lower ranking visitors were shown only the outer rooms in the two buildings shown above, and never approached the Shogun. Higher ranking visitors were allowed to enter the subtly beautiful inner rooms in the third and fourth buildings, the Ohiroma (four Grand Chambers) and Kuroshoin (Inner Audience Chamber).


Ninomaru Palace 9173
1500 x 1065 (357 KB)

The entrance, leading to Yanagi-no-ma (Willow Room) and Wakamatsu-no-ma (Young Pine Room).
The Ninomaru Palace (a National Treasure) is still in original (restored) condition, and is a premiere example
of late Momoyama-period castle architecture. The result of a mass construction project by the third Shogun (Iemitsu),
the Ninomaru Palace was constructed in lavish style in preparation for a scheduled appearance by Emperor Go-Yozei
in September 1626, where he would affirm and acknowledge the power and authority of the Tokugawa Shogunate,
an important event which required that Iemitsu surpass the presentation put on by Toyotomi Hideyoshi for the visit
he received for a similar reason at Jurakudai from the same Emperor in 1588. Construction took two years, and
not only built new buildings, but reconstructed existing buildings as well as importing the Karamon and tower
from Fushimi Castle nearby (moving the existing Ninomaru Tower to Yodo Castle) to give Nijo a new look.


Ninomaru Palace detail 9173
1500 x 1200 (469 KB)

Detail of the wood carvings and gold leaf decorations over the entrance to Toh Samurai.
Note the use of both Kara-Hafu (arched gable) and Chidori-Hafu (dormer gable) roof elements.

Photographs inside the Palace were not allowed. Inside, the sliding doors and walls are
decorated with paintings by the Kano School of nature scenes with gold leaf backgrounds,
e.g.: Chikuringunkozu (Bamboo and Tiger) and Oukakijizu (Pheasant under Cherry Blossoms).
One special masterpiece is the Matsukujyakuzu (Pine and Peacock), painted by Kano Tanyuu in
the 1st and 2nd chambers of Ohiroma (the Great Hall the Shogun used for meetings with daimyo).

I was able to track down a few images of Fusuma-e from Ninomaru Palace, shown below.


Rouchu Fusuma
1614 x 900 (302 KB)


Yonnoma Fusuma
2195 x 750 (367 KB)


Kuroshoin Fusuma
1500 x 750 (285 KB)


Shirosoin Fusuma
2250 x 750 (760 KB)


Ninomaru Palace 9174
1500 x 1065 (379 KB)

Ninomaru Palace entrance to Toh Samurai and Shikidai reception rooms.

The entrance (leading to the Yanagi-no-ma and Wakamatsu-no-Ma as well as ten support rooms. Far left is
the roof of the building housing the Shikidai-no-ma (Reception room) and Rochu-no-ma (minister’s offices).
These buildings are the ones which lower-ranking visitors were allowed into... beyond these are the Ohiroma
(Grand Chambers), the Kuroshoin (Inner Audience Chambers) and the Shiroshoin (Shogun’s living quarters).


Ninomaru Palace 9181
1386 x 900 (483 KB)

Ohiroma, housing the four Grand Chambers which
surrounded Musha-kakushi-no-ma (the bodyguard
chamber) and Sotetsu-no-ma (fern-palm chamber).


Ninomaru Palace 9190
1343 x 900 (260 KB)

The rear of the Kuroshoin (Black Study room, the
Shogun’s inner audience chamber). This is where
the daimyo (feudal lords) met with the Shogun.


Ninomaru Palace Gable Detail 9181c
1500 x 1092 (569 KB)

This detail crop of the end of the Chidori Hafu (dormer gable) of the Ohiroma shows
an intriguing detail: the Chrysanthemum symbol, seen on every structure at Nijo Castle,
is the kamon (crest) of the Imperial Family. Tokugawa Hollyhock kamon were replaced
with Imperial Crysanthemum crests in 1867 when Emperor Meiji took over the palace.
Note that the Tokugawa Hollyhock is still present on the end tile at the gable peak.

The Chidori Hafu dormer gable was only used on shrines, castles and palaces.
This gable has no windows or ventilation, and is solely used for decorative purposes.


Ninomaru Palace 9182
1500 x 1065 (372 KB)

Ninomaru Palace Ohiroma from the entry to the Ninomaru Garden.

This image shows the staggered design of the structures on the Ninomaru Palace, which were
staggered diagonally to the northeast to allow the entry of the most light from the south and west.

The long corridors had the floors suspended slightly above the floor joists so that the weight of
a person walking would depress the floor and cause the bracket clamps to rub against the wood.
A nightingale floor (Uguisu bari) would make the floor squeak when anyone walked on it, even if they
 had padded feet, reducing the possibility of assassins sneaking in (an occupational hazard for Shoguns).

The use of uguisu bari came about when it was noticed that as floors aged, they warped away from
the joists and the brackets rubbed against the wood, making the floor squeak. It was decided
that this would be a good thing for defense, so it was designed as an intentional feature.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Castles are in the following Gallery (Direct Link) —

Photoshelter Castles of Japan Collection


Ninomaru Garden 9183
1359 x 900 (515 KB)

The Ninomaru Garden was designed by the
famous landscape architect and tea master
Kobori Enshu, and contains a large number
of very carefully-placed ornamental stones.


Ninomaru Garden 9186
1359 x 900 (651 KB)

The garden was originally designed so as to not
show changes with the seasons, thus no trees were
planted. It has since been changed by the addition
of topiary pines and a number of seasonal plants.


Ninomaru Garden 9184
1500 x 994 (637 KB)

In the center is a large pond with three islands, connected by four bridges. The three islands are:
Horai (the Island of Eternal Happiness), flanked by Turtle (Kame-jima) and Crane (Tsuru-jima) Islands
(turtle and crane are symbols of longevity). The Ninomaru Garden is one of many Kobori Enshu masterpieces.


Ninomaru Garden 9188
1500 x 994 (602 KB)

A slight change in position or direction of view
completely changes the character of the garden.


Ninomaru Garden 9189
1359 x 900 (521 KB)

The multi-layered texture of the garden and
the artistic placement of stones is mesmerizing.


Ninomaru Garden 9187
1500 x 994 (671 KB)

An example of a chisen-kaiyu-shiki (hill and pond strolling garden) and a shoin-zukuri
(a residential garden of the samurai class), Ninomaru is considered one of the premier
examples of this type of landscape garden, and is a National Place of Special Beauty.

Ninomaru Garden was constructed in 1626 behind the Ninomaru Palace, where it could be
viewed from the places where the Shogun sat in the Ohiroma (grand chambers) and in the
Kuroshoin (inner audience hall), but the garden is more than a kansho garden designed to
be viewed from one or two locations... it changes from every viewing angle and is designed
to be viewed while on foot (thus the designation as a chisen-kaiyu-shiki strolling garden).

An absolutely spectacular example of a Japanese Garden.


Nijo Castle Moat 9192
1359 x 900 (514 KB)

Part of the inner moat surrounding the Honmaru.


Nijo Castle Storage Building Moat 9201
1358 x 900 (423 KB)

The lower side of the moat, with a storage building.


Honmaru Palace 9193
1500 x 1065 (370 KB)

The Honmaru Palace grounds originally contained a
five story tenshu (main castle tower), which was moved
during the renovations that created the Ninomaru Palace.
It was replaced with the tenshu from Fushimi Castle. The
tenshu burned in 1750, and many of the other buildings
 either burned, were damaged in earthquakes, or were
moved to other locations, leaving the Honmaru empty.


Honmaru Palace 9196
1500 x 1092 (350 KB)

In 1893, the Imperial Family moved the palace of
Prince Katsura from the grounds of the Imperial Palace
to Nijo Castle to occupy the Honmaru Palace grounds.
Katsura Palace had 55 buildings, only a few of which
 were moved. The present Honmaru Palace was built in
1847, and is considered a perfect example of its type
of architecture and construction (late Edo period).


Honmaru Palace 9195
1500 x 1065 (599 KB)


Nijo Castle Moat 9202
1500 x 994 (624 KB)

Uchibori (inner moat) and part of the foundation wall of the original Honmaru tenshu (castle tower).


Nijo Castle Moat 9203
1359 x 900 (418 KB)

View of the tenshu (main tower) foundation from the west bridge across the Uchibori (inner moat).


Nijo Castle Moat 9204
1500 x 1065 (498 KB)

This view from the end of the west section of the Uchibori (inner moat) shows
the west bridge, which crosses onto a gate platform which extends out into the moat.


Nijo Seiryu-en Tea House 9206
1380 x 980 (561 KB)

Koun-tei (Koun Teahouse) is located in Seiryu-en Garden. Seiryu-en Garden is
where the Honmaru tenshu was originally located before it burned in the 1750 fire,
later used as the location of quarters for Shogunate officials. It was the site used for
banquet facilities for the Coronation of Emperor Taisho in 1912. The current form was
created by Ogawa Jihei (1860-1933), who was the pioneer of modern Japanese gardens.
It was redesigned in 1965 and opened as a reception area for official guests of Kyoto.


Nijo Seiryu-en Tea House 9208
1380 x 980 (606 KB)

Koun-tei and 800 of the Seiryu-en stones were part of the residence of the
prominent Edo-era merchant and canal-builder Suminokura Ryoi. It was built
c. 1600, and was dismantled and moved from his former residence to Seiryu-en.


Nijo Castle Seiryu-en Garden 9209
1318 x 990 (604 KB)

The Seiryu-en Garden combines Western-style and Japanese styles, but they placed the
Japanese section on the west side, and the Western-style section with grass on the east side.


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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Castles are in the following Gallery (Direct Link) —

Photoshelter Castles of Japan Collection


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