Nijo Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site near downtown Kyoto. Shoguns who ruled areas of Japan lived here, and samurai and guards protected them. Its claim to fame, and the reason we visited it, are the nightingale floors. These floors were designed to creak and sound like chirping birds, so that the shoguns that lived there were warned of intruders. It was completed in 1626 and was the home of the Tokugawa shoguns. The castle had two layers of fortifications, with a moat and a high stone wall, followed by another moat and stone wall around the main palace where the shoguns lived.
When we arrived in Kyoto in the afternoon, we decided to visit here first, and so we were among the last few people to be allowed into the main palace with the squeaky floors. Tickets were 600 yen for adults, 200 yen for children, and the entrance was located very close to the Nijo-jo-mae station of the Tozai subway line. The hours for the ticket office are 8:45am-4:00pm, and the entire complex closes at 5:00 pm. We bought our tickets just before 4:00 pm, and we were urged to go immediately to the Ninomaru palace because the doors were closing soon.
At the Ninomaru palace entrance, we took off our shoes and proceeded through the castle in socks. The route through the castle was clearly marked, and no photography was allowed within the castle to protect the delicate wall paintings and coverings. The nightingale floors really sounded like birds chirping! It was so weird to realize that the chirping sound was actually the floor, and not birds
chirping outside. The route through the palace showcased many different rooms that the shoguns used including entertainment spaces, living quarters, and meeting rooms. The walls were decorated with beautiful paintings of natural scenery, and cherry trees in bloom. It was a shame that no photographs were allowed. There were a few signs in English explaining the main rooms of the castle, which were appreciated..
I could not get enough of the elaborate roof and gate decorations at this castle! In the soft afternoon light, it was just incredible. The level of craftsmanship to create these pieces, and paint them the way they did is unreal!
The best part about traveling with friends is more family pictures! Three cheers for the Baileys- friends, co-workers, and traveling companions! This was the entrance gate into the main Ninomaru palace compound. After going relatively quickly through the palace, we took our time meandering around the beautiful and expansive gardens. We found old copper bells, ponds surrounded with trees and rocks, moats full of koi- so peaceful and idyllic. I love Asian gardens! Please enjoy a zillion pictures of the gardens and surroundings:
All too soon, it seemed, “Auld Lang Syne” started playing over loud speakers, and the announcement was made that the castle was closing. We were way on the other side of the compound from the exit, so we walked back through the side gardens on the way out.
Here’s the conundrum with Kyoto- I decided we could spend a month in this beautiful place and still not see everything that I wanted to see. Nijo Castle was on the “maybe” list, and we went because I thought Landon would really enjoy the story about the ninjas and the nightingale floors. Just judging by the number of families with little boys that were there, I think other parents thought along those same lines. Well, Landon was tired, and although he enjoyed it, it wasn’t as much of a fun place for him as I thought it was going to be. I would include this on a three-day or longer itinerary. There are so many iconic sites that are must-sees before this castle, but this place offers something different in terms of architecture and history vs. the many temples and shrines that dot the city. I think the castle could be toured in two hours or less-we felt a bit rushed, and we had a little over an hour to see everything.