Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Nijo Castle -Place of diplomacy with Imperial Household-

Nijo Castle

-Place of diplomacy with Imperial Household-



Name: Nijo castle / Nijyo castle (Nijo-jo / Nijyo-jo)

Place: Nijo-Hori-Tori Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto city, Kyoto
Type: Flat castle
Built: 1603
Remaining remnants: Secondary area palace, turrets, gates, storehouses, stone walls and moats
Title: World heritage (Collectively), 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Nijyo castle (二条城) is located along with Nijo Dori (Second Avenue) of Kyoto, southwest ward of Imperial Palace. Since moved from Nara in 794, Kyoto had been the capital of Japan continuously over 1,000 years, until Meiji government decided Tokyo as a new capital in 1867.

Originally Kyoto had been an open capital with no castle and fort. But this did not mean there was no violence in Kyoto. Emperors were not harmed because of its authority and inviolability, but sometimes taken away from the capital. Yoshiteru Ashikaga (1536-1565), 13th shogun of Muromachi shogunate, was assaulted and killed at his palace in Kyoto by opponent armies.

Castles of rulers at Capital

Three lords seized Kyoto city in Sengoku and Edo era individually built their own castle in Kyoto, for the purpose of 1) secure place for lodging, 2) their government office at capital, and 3) place of diplomacy with Imperial Household and other nobility.
These castles at Kyoto were small castles, due to limitation of land inside the city, and necessity of avoiding excessive suppressing impression for Imperial Household and people in Kyoto. And they were quickly broken when it became not necessary any more.

Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), who captured Kyoto in 1568, had no castle in Kyoto at first. But when Yoshiaki Ashikaga (1537-1597), the 15th shogun supported by Nobunaga, was assaulted by the opponent army in 1569, he decided to build a castle for Yoshiaki. As a result of rushing construction, a castle with stone wall and two layer moats were built at the site of former Yoshiteru’s palace in the same year, at just west of Kyoto palace.

But Nobunaga demolished this castle when he expelled Yoshiaki from Kyoto at 1573.
At the time of the accident of Honnoji, a coup d’etat to Nobunaga by his general Mitsuhide Akechi in 1582, Nobunaga stayed at Honnoji temple, a small temple without secure defense facilities with small guards, and was easily killed.

Three castles of Hideyoshi at Kinki region

Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), next ruler of Nobunaga, at first built Yamazaki castle at on the top of Tennozan mountain,  at the entrance of Kyoto in 1583, to protect Kyoto city. Later Hideyoshi built a castle named Jurakudai about 1 kilometer north of current Nijo castle in 1588. Hideyoshi invited Emperor to this castle, and later placed Hidetsugu Toyotomi (1568-1595), the nephew and planned successor of Hideyoshi, on this castle. 

Hideyoshi used three castles in Kinki region for his government, it means 1) Osaka castle at Osaka city, to protect Osaka city, sauce of his economic power, 2) Jurakudai palace in Kyoto, to communicate with the Imperial Household, sauce of his authority and 3) Fushimi castle at the middle of Osaka and Kyoto, the residence of him and large lords and connected Kyoto and Osaka. But after the purge of Hidetsugu at 1595, Hideyoshi completely broke Jurakudai, to erase the memory of Hidetsugu.

Place of start and end of Edo Shogunate

Final ruler Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) built current Nijo castle from 1601 to 1603. This Nijo castle is not so large but surrounded by stone walls and two layers of moats, and had certain ability of defense. A five story main tower and splendid palaces also were built inside the castle.

Ieyasu held an inaugural ceremony as first Shogun of Edo shogunate at this castle in 1603 with the Emperor, and wedding ceremony between the daughter of second shogun Hidetada Tokugawa (1579-1632) and current Emperor were also held at here. But on the other hand, Edo shogunate placed Kyoto Shosidai, a chief administrator of Kyoto, to watch the movement of Imperial Household and other nobles.

This castle had not been used in the middle period of Edo era, and main tower and central area palace were lost during 17th century due to lightning. But in 1867, the last shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa (1837-1913) decided to return his government to the Imperial Household at this castle and communicated to them. As shogunate needed to be authorized from the Imperial Household, the start and end of Edo shogunate was placed on Nijo castle.

Afterward of Nijo castle

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, as Nijo castle was used by Imperial Household, remaining buildings were basically kept unlike other castles. Being not included in bombing in WW2, complete set of secondary area palace and several turrets, gates and storehouses remain now. Now Nijo castle is nominated as World Heritage, collectively with other cultural properties in Kyoto.


10 minutes walk from Kyoto City Subway Tozai-line Nijojo-mae station. 20 minutes drive from Meishin Expressway Kyoto-Minami interchange.

Related Castles


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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