Nijo-jo Castle Garden

  • AddressNijojo-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City
  • Style

    Pond garden and Others

  • Outline of garden

    Address : Nijojo-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City

    Telephone : +81-(0)75-841-0096 (Kyoto City Office)

    Period of garden construction : Ninomaru garden - The early Edo period

    Honmaru garden - 1895

    Seiryu-en garden - 1965

    Garden designer : Ninomaru garden - KOBORI Enshu

    Seiryu-en garden - Kyoto city (implemented by the leading landscape gardeners such as NAKANE Kinsaku, SANO Toemon, KOMIYAMA Hiroyasu, INOUE Ryoichi, KAKIGUCHI Totaro and others)

    Garden style : Pond garden and Others

    Designations and registrations : Ninomaru garden - National Special Place of Scenic Beauty

    Nijo-jo castle - National Historic Site, World Cultural Heritage

    Site area : Ninomaru garden - About 16,000 m2

    Honmaru garden - About 7,200 m2

    Seiryu-en garden - About 16,500 m2

    Public openness : Open


    * * * * * * * * * *


    Nijo-jo Castle was built on flat land in Kyoto, Japan. It was completed in 1603 and was then extended up to 1626 under the orders of TOKUGAWA Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate in the Edo period. The castle was used for ceremonies related to the Imperial Court and as the residence of the shogun when staying in Kyoto during the Edo period. It is also famous as the place where TOKUGAWA Yoshinobu, the 15th and last shogun, enacted the Restoration of Imperial Rule in 1867.


    After that, the old castle was transformed into a detached palace of the imperial family. In 1939, the government awarded the palace to Kyoto city, from which point it began opening to the public. Nijo-jo Castle was designated a National Historic Site in 1939 and inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1994. Ninomaru-goten palace and other buildings in the castle grounds have also been listed as National Treasure, and Ninomaru garden as a National Special Place of Scenic Beauty.


    Nijo-jo Castle, including the Ninomaru garden, was renovated on a large scale and expanded to its current size in preparation for the 1626 imperial visit by KOBORI Enshu (1579-1647), who was a feudal lord in the early Edo period and excelled in the arts of painting, poetry, flower arrangement, and tea ceremony, in addition to architecture and landscape design.


    The Ninomaru garden applies a typical Shoin-zukuri style and contains the Ninomaru-goten palace (a Shoin-style residence). The garden has a large pond in its center with a rugged shoreline and waterfall at the northwest corner constructed using large and various types of stones. Horai-jima island, along with the crane and turtle islands, has been set out to reflect a Chinese idea of immortality.


    Photo-1. Ninomaru garden with Ninomaru-goten palace.JPG

    Photo-1. Ninomaru garden with Ninomaru-goten palace


    Photo-2. Large pond with a rugged shoreline using large and various types of stones.JPG

    Photo-2. Large pond with a rugged shoreline using large and various types of stones


    Photo-3. Horai-jima island to reflect a Chinese idea of immortality.JPG

    Photo-3. Horai-jima island to reflect a Chinese idea of immortality


    On the other hand, the stone arrangement in the Ninomaru garden seems to be a colorful forest of standing stones with a dynamic and open impression, rather than a crowded and narrow picture. This style differs from that of the previous Muromachi period, when stones were typically arranged in a lying position.


    Photo-4. A colorful forest of standing stones.JPG

    Photo-4. A colorful forest of standing stones


    Photo-5. Dynamic and open impression of stone arrangement.JPG

    Photo-5. Dynamic and open impression of stone arrangement


    In addition, the Ninomaru garden was created with the clear intention of being viewed from two rooms, the Kuro-shoin room and Ohiroma large room of the Ninomaru-goten palace. The latter was used by the emperor to meet all the feudal lords of Japan. There was a splendid view to look out on at that time as the castle tower stood behind the garden before it was lost due to lightning fire in 1750. It is also reported that the garden could be appreciated from the old Gyoko-goten palace at the south of the garden, which was constructed for the imperial visit in 1626. After that, the palace was dismantled over the course of a few decades, with only some foundation stones remaining on the ground.


    Photo-6. Ninomaru garden viewed from Kuro-shoin room.JPG

    Photo-6. Ninomaru garden viewed from Kuro-shoin room


    The present buildings of the Honmaru-goten palace, surrounded by the inner moat of the Nijo-jo Castle, were once part of the old Katsura-no-miya palace in Kyoto Gyoen National Garden before they were moved and re-erected in the grounds of Nijo-jo Castle in 1893 and 1894.


    The Honmaru garden at the south of the palace was firstly constructed as dry landscape garden based on the Jonan-gu shrine garden by garden plant dealer INOUE Seibe in 1894. In the following year, it was recreated under the instructions of Emperor Meiji after his visit using lawns to cover the garden and with the addition of an artificial hill. At present, a curved path runs across the lawn area, while the hill in the southeast corner provides a pleasant background to show the seasonal changes.


    Photo-7. Honmaru garden at the south of the palace.JPG

    Photo-7. Honmaru garden at the south of the palace


    Photo-8. Lawn area with artificial hill seen at distance.JPG

    Photo-8. Lawn area with artificial hill seen at distance


    The most recent addition to Nijo-jo Castle is Seiryu-en garden, located at the northern part of the castle and completed in 1965. It consists of a Japanese stream garden at the west side and a Western-style lawn garden at the east side, constructed by NAKANE Kinsaku, a famous garden artist during the Showa period, and other leading landscape gardeners at that time. Over 800 stones were moved from the garden in the old residence of SUMINOKURA Ryoi, who was a wealthy and active merchant in the early Edo period. Along with part of his house, they were reused in the construction of the Seiryu-en garden. Two teahouses, Koun-tei and Waraku-an, were newly laid out in the garden at that time.


    Photo-9. Japanese stream garden at the west side in Seiryu-en garden.JPG

    Photo-9. Japanese stream garden at the west side in Seiryu-en garden


    Photo-10. A front view of Waraku-an teahouse.JPG

    Photo-10. A front view of Waraku-an teahouse


    About 160 camellia trees, over 50 different varieties, line the paths, and the flowers bloom in red, white, and mixed colors during the mid-winter and spring. Great varieties of trees were planted in the grounds of Nijo-jo Castle, including plum, cherry, and rare Japanese pagoda trees (Sophora japonica). While azaleas flower in the spring, the leaves of ginkgo and Japanese maple trees change color in the fall. These are all unified with historical landscape features such as moats, walls, and elaborate gates, along with the buildings and gardens.



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