Following his decisive victory over Mori Terumoto and the Western Army at Sekigahara, Tokugawa Ieyasu was eager to consolidate his power. As part of his plan to do this, he ordered the construction of Nijo Castle in Kyoto, not far from the Imperial Palace. Although Tokugawa operated out of Edo (present day Tokyo), the position of Nijo Castle in what was then the seat of the Imperial court was symbolic of his unification of the west and east of Japan. Tokugawa wouldn’t be officially recognized as shogun until 1603, however the construction of Nijo Castle from 1601 until its completion in 1626 is largely considered to be the starting point of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Nijo castle remained the central location of Tokugawa power in Kyoto until November 9, 1867 when the 15th Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu officially resigned and returned governing power to the Emperor, following a period of civil unrest in the Kansai region. Ironically, this makes Nijo Castle both the start and end points of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Today, Nijo Castle sits on 275,00 square meters of Kyoto’s Nakagyo Ward. Having survived fire, flood, and lightning strike, as well as modernizing updates and building additions from other historic locations, Nijo Castle nonetheless retains much of its historic, picturesque beauty from its days as the palace of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Comprised of two concentric rings of fortifications, the castle boasts moats, gardens, towering parapets, opulent reception halls, and the famous chirping nightingale hallways designed to alert residents of potential intruders. Yearly cultural events are staged at Nijo Castle, including dazzling light ups of both sakura and momiji. Steeped in history, Niji Castle is a visually stunning destination for those looking for a quiet return to the days when shoguns ruled Japan.
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