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Nijo Castle: A shogun’s past home in Kyoto

It was our last day in Kyoto that day, and R and I were determined to visit as much places as we possibly can before going back to our ryokan to pick up the luggage we left. Nijo Castle was the first place on our list. After getting off at the bus stop, people whom we asked informed us that the castle was about a 10-minute walk from where we were. The funny thing was, R stopped at one point, looked at his watch and exclaimed, “We’ve been walking for 10 minutes already!” and we still weren’t there, haha. It took us another 10 minutes, if I remember correctly. I wonder if Japanese people in general walk very fast, or if we just walk too slowly.

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Quintessential shot of Nijo Castle. A bit stupidly, I learned only then that “castle” meant the entire ground area and that “palace” meant the actual residence. I seriously didn’t know that before! This usual shot of Nijo Castle is actually the Ninomaru Palace.

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These station guards are the first ones you’ll see upon entering the grounds.

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Intricate designs on this panel. *__*

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I noticed this goblin-like statue on the roof.

Visitors are asked to take off their shoes before entering the palace, and taking pictures is strictly not allowed. It was too bad, because the interior was really cool. Everything was wooden and the rooms were mostly divided by paper doors, so the rooms can be easily turned into larger rooms when the paper doors are kept open. Also, there are exquisite paintings on the doors that were just – beautiful. *__* Apparently they are the reason why picture-taking isn’t allowed, because exposure to light/flashes will eventually disintegrate the paper. Take a peek at the paintings here.

There is also an explanation about the arrangement of rooms, like who stays in which room. I can’t remember what it was, exactly, but it was something like the farther your room is from the shogun’s room, the less important you (or your family) are. So there was a bit of politics over that with other lower royals getting butthurt if their room is far away.

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Surrounding the palaces are (very well-kept) gardens. These two bells are situated just before you enter the Ninomaru Garden. I wonder what they’re for.


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Another area of the Ninomaru Palace from the outside. It’s really a big palace, but apparently tourists are allowed only in a certain area.

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I’m inserting these pictures because one of the things Nijo Castle is known for is its nightingale floors. From the moment we stepped inside the Ninomaru Palace, I’ve already wondered what the melodious sounds I kept hearing were coming from, like birds continuously trilling. Well, they were coming from the floor. They were designed to make noise that way when someone walks on the floor, so it would be easy to hear intruders at night. Apparently, this is a safeguard method against ninjas. NINJAS WERE REAL. OMG.

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I wonder if this was the symbol of the shogunate or something. Or just decorations.

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View of the Honmaru Palace. It is currently closed to the public.

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What’s a castle without a moat?

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One of the gates which was closed at the time of our visit. I don’t know if it’s open now, or if this was the gate that led to the Honmaru Palace.

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After that long walk in the gardens, you’ll come upon this area where there are stalls lined up. They sell not only souvenirs but actual food. There was a stall that sold wine. (Again R and I were tempted to buy a bottle of plum wine.) There was also a stall that sold various tea leaves and tea… well, stuff. I bought a small jar of green tea powder for my cousin here. There was even a stall that sold “jewelry” that are hung at the end of katana (samurai sword). I’m proud to say that I knew about it with my very stilted beginner Japanese as I tried to converse with the very patient stall-keeper. I asked her if she made the accessories herself, but she laughed and said no, she only sells them.

The stall-keepers were REALLY nice, by the way. *__* They were ever so patient with my really bad Japanese and tried their hardest to speak English when they can.

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And of course, there are food for immediate consumption. This was our lunch. I have no idea what they’re called, exactly, but they were delicious. (Photo taken by R with his camera)

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And then dessert! Honey-flavored bread (I think) and coffee. We pretty much hoarded the cream because the coffee really tasted strong.

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And then dessert again! Green tea dango. *__* Needless to say, we left Nijo Castle with a full stomach.

To get to Nijo Castle, ride the Kyoto bus numbers 9, 12, 50 or 101 and get off at the Nijojo-mae bus stop. The castle is a 10 (or 20)-minute walk from there. If you’re riding the Karasuma Subway Line, get off at the Karasumaoike Station. If you’re riding the Tozai Subway Line, get off at the Nijojomae Station. Admission fee is 600 yen.

Date visited: November 9, 2012

Visit my Japan page for more of my misadventures (and information, of course)

7 thoughts on “Nijo Castle: A shogun’s past home in Kyoto

  1. /puts on nerdy specs

    Re: shogunate symbol. You’re right. That’s the Tokugawa family crest. It’s composed of the three aoi flowers, commonly known as hollyhocks in English. This type of flower is pretty important in Kyoto and they even have a matsuri named after it. (May 15th!)

    As for ninjas, if you’re interested, look up Hattori Hanzo.🙂

    And omg the matcha dango! My mouth is literally watering at the sight of it. *_____*

    • I knooooow I want matcha dango now hahaha. It was really good.😀

      Thank you for that information!! The designs in the palaces seemed really intricate so I didn’t know if it was actually a symbol. Going to look up Hattori Hanzo now, haha.

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