Nijō Castle (二条城 Nijō-jō?) is a flatland castle located in Kyoto, Japan. The castle consists of two concentric rings (Kuruwa) of fortifications, the Ninomaru Palace, the ruins of the Honmaru Palace, various support buildings and several gardens. The surface area of the castle is 275,000 square meters, of which 8000 square meters is occupied by buildings. It is one of the seventeen assets of Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
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 (二の丸御殿 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 castle is an excellent example of social control manifested in architectural space. Low-ranking visitors were received in the outer regions of the Ninomaru, whereas high-ranking visitors were shown the more subtle inner chambers. Rather than attempt to conceal the entrances to the rooms for bodyguards (as was done in many castles), the Tokugawas chose to display them prominently. Thus, the construction lent itself to expressing intimidation and power to Edo-period visitors.
Honmaru Palace (本丸御殿 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 castle area has several gardens and groves of cherry and Japanese plum trees. The Ninomaru garden was designed by the landscape architect and tea master Kobori Enshu. It is located between the two main rings of fortifications, next to the palace of the same name. The garden has a large pond with three islands and features numerous carefully placed stones and topiary pine trees.
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 1000 carefully arranged stones.