Nijo Castle & Ninamaru Gardens
Kyoto’s Nijō Castle was built as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns and was completed in 1625. Nijō Castle has two concentric rings of fortifications, each consisting of a wall and a wide moat. Between the two main rings of fortifications lies the enchanting Ninomaru Garden, designed by the famous landscape architect and tea master Kobori Enshu in Japan’s Edo Period.
The large viewing garden consists of a reflecting pond with three islands and an intricate shoreline. The design features numerous carefully placed stones and topiary pine trees designed to create variable and complex views in to the garden. These views change with the vantage point. The garden and buildings are arranged in such a way as to create a variety of viewing points and vision lines into the garden. Each view was carefully designed.
In addition to Ninomaru, the castle area has several gardens and groves of cherry and ume (plum) trees. Seiryū-en garden is the newest garden of the Nijō Castle complex, built in 1965. Built as a location to receive official guests of the city of Kyoto and as a venue for cultural events, Seiryū-en has two tea houses and more than 1000 carefully arranged stones.
Nijo Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a beautiful example of Momoyama architecture. The building is well preserved, built almost entirely of Japanese cypress with delicately carved details. Original paintings by the Kano School adorn the sliding paper doors. One of the castle's most intriguing features is the “nightingale floors”. These special floorboards creak softly when walked upon, sounding almost as a whisper. The floor was designed as such to alert shoguns to the presence of enemies. Visitors are permitted to walk on the floors and listen to their gentle warning call.