In 1601, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, ordered all the feudal lords in Western Japan to contribute to the construction of Nijō Castle, which was completed during the reign of Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1626. Parts of Fushimi Castle, such as the main tower and the karamon, were moved here in 1625-26. It was built as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns. The Tokugawa Shogunate used Edo as the capital city, but Kyoto continued to be the home of the Imperial Court. Kyoto Imperial Palace is located north-east of Nijo Castle.
In 1867, the Ninomaru Palace was the stage for the declaration by Tokugawa Yoshinobu, returning the authority to the Imperial Court. Next year the Imperial Cabinet was installed in the castle. The palace became imperial property and was declared a detached palace. During this time, the Tokugawa hollyhock crest was removed wherever possible and replaced with the imperial chrysanthemum. In 1939, the palace was donated to the city of Kyoto and opened to the public the following year.
Nijō Castle has two concentric rings of fortifications, each consisting of a wall and a wide moat. The outer wall has three gates while the inner wall has two. In the southwest corner of the inner wall, there are foundations of a five-story keep, destroyed by a fire in 1750. The inner walls contain Honmaru Palace with its garden. Ninomaru Palace, the kitchens, guard house and several gardens are located between the two main rings of fortifications.
The 3300 square meter Ninomaru Palace (,Ninomaru Gōten) consists of five connected separate buildings and is built almost entirely of Hinoki cypress. The decoration includes lavish quantities of gold leaf and elaborate wood carvings, intended to impress visitors with the power and wealth of the shoguns. The sliding doors and walls of each room are decorated with wall paintings by artists of the Kanō school.
The Ōhiroma (Great Hall) is the central core of the Ninomaru Palace and consists of four chambers:
- Ichi-no-ma (First Grand Chamber)
- Ni-no-ma (Second Grand Chamber)
- San-no-ma (Third Grand Chamber)
- Yon-no-ma (Fourth Grand Chamber)
as well as the Musha-kakushi-no-ma (Bodyguards' Chamber) and the Sotetsu-no-ma (Japanese fern-palm chamber).
The rear sections are the Kuroshoin (Inner Audience Chamber) and Shiroshoin (Shogun's living quarters).
The main access to the Ninomaru is through the karamon, a court and the mi-kurumayose or "honourable carriages approach".
Honmaru Palace (,Honmaru Goten) has a surface area of 1600 square meters. The complex has four parts: living quarters, reception and entertainment rooms, entrance halls and kitchen area. The different areas are connected by corridors and courtyards. The architectural style is late Edo period. The palace displays paintings by several famous masters, such as Kanō Eigaku.
Honmaru Palace was originally similar to Ninomaru Palace. The current structure was known as Katsura Palace before being relocated to the present site in 1893 when it was renamed. Originally the palace had 55 buildings, but only a small part was relocated. In 1928 the enthronement banquet of the Showa Emperor (Emperor Hirohito) was held here.
The Seiryū-en garden is the most recent part of Nijō Castle. It was constructed in 1965 in the northern part of the complex, as a facility for the reception of official guests of the city of Kyoto and as a venue for cultural events. Seiryū-en has two tea houses and more than 1,000 carefully arranged stones.
Source, Images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nijo_Castle