Biwako Valley Cherry Blossoms Festival – See Sakura at Ski Resort in Shiga
Osaka, Kyoto and Kansai
Nijo Castle Sakura Festival provides you with an excellent opportunity to know more about Japanese history and feel the arrival of spring in Kyoto. There is a Chinese kanji character “shiro (城)” in the name of Nijo-jo (二条城). The shiro was originally a fortress. Its purpose was to defend strategically important sites – ports, river crossings, or crossroads from enemies’ attacks.
Typically, it was a gigantic building, made of quarried rocks incorporated into beautiful landscapes. Nijo-jo wasn’t actually built as a fortress, but as a gigantic and beautiful “residence.” Who were the residents? They were members of the Tokugawa clan, who ruled Japan as shogun for about 260 years before 1867. At that year, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, returned government to the Imperial Family. And Nijo-jo, which translates literally to Nijo Castle, was where the last shogun declared his resignation and ended the Tokugawa era known as the Edo Period.
The construction of Nijo Castle started in 1601 at the behest of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867). He ordered all the feudal lords to send for construction workers from all over their domains and make them go to Kyoto. The castle was originally for the Kyoto residence of Ieyasu and then all the Tokugawa shoguns after completed during the reign of Tokugawa Iemitsu, the grandson of Ieyasu, in 1626. Iemitsu expanded the castle area by adding a five-story donjon.
Even if you aren’t particularly interested in Tokugawa’s history, Tokugawa Yoshinobu may be unavoidable. Japan’s modern history can be traced back to the fact that Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, decided to return power to the Emperor and then stepped down from the shogun position. This great change in the political system came to be known as “Taisei-hokan (大政奉還).” And Nijo Castle reminds many Japanese that it was the very place of this historical event that features Yoshinobu.
After the Taisei-hokan, Nijo Castle became an imperial palace for a while before the Imperial Family donated it to Kyoto city and opened it to the public. In 1994, Nijo Castle appeared in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
The Ninomaru Palace is one of the main buildings in Nijo Castle complex. It served as the residence and office of the shogun during his courtesy visits to the Imperial Family. The Ninomaru Palace is also a complex of multiple separate buildings that connect with each other by “uguisu-bari (鶯張り)” or nightingale floor corridors. The designers and engineers of old times created uguisu-bari to make creaking sounds when someone walks on them. So, those who were in the castle could quickly eliminate the danger of enemies sneaking into the palace.
The Honmaru Palace consists of a second palace complex and a five-story castle keep. Unfortunately, fires burned both structures in the 18th century. Unfortunately, people haven’t restored those buildings after the fire. After the end of the Tokugawa era, the Imperial residence moved from the Katsura Imperial Villa in Nishi-kyo, the western suburbs of Kyoto, to the Nijo Castle Honmaru site as you see it today.
The Honmaru and Ninomaru Palaces feature a large green space and walking paths with accurate trees. Especially, four hundred cherry trees of about 50 varieties grow throughout the castle grounds, including late blooming varieties. Because of this, the blooming season from the late March to mid-April attracts nearly 300,000 flower-viewing fans and makes them aah and wow.
Projection mapping technology is magic. It invites people to the world of beautiful illuminations. Last year, computer graphic images of a flying dragon cast on the “Kara-mon (唐門)” gate, a national important cultural property in the castle, was a thrilling part of Nijo Castle Sakura Festival. This year, the image of a beautiful butterfly soaring up into heaven will catch your eye. This illumination event, which started in 2017, takes place at the end of March, the peak season of cherry blossoms in full bloom.
• Dates: March 21st – April 14th, 2019
• Place: Former Imperial Villa Nijo Castle
• Address: 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto
• Time: Refer to the following brief schedule
8:45 – 16:00 (for daytime view)
18:00 – 21:00 (for nighttime view)
¥600 (Admission free for visitors in kimono)
¥400 surcharged to visit the Ninomaru Palace
¥600 (Daytime admission costs extra ¥600.)
• Official website: http://nijo-jocastle.city.kyoto.lg.jp/
• Access (railroad):
A short walk from Nijo-jo-mae Station on the Tozai Subway Line
English audio guides are available for rent (¥500) at a kiosk just inside the “Higashi-otemon (東大手門)” gate.
In the very last scene from the 2003 film, The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise, a young Japanese emperor was sitting on the throne surrounded by his court in an immense tatami-floored hall, the main audience room of the Ninomaru Palace in Nijo Castle. Visiting the castle and seeing gorgeous Sakura there will blow you to a different time and place. The one when powerful Tokugawa shoguns and revered emperors ruled Japan in opulence.
If you would like to see this outstandingly beautiful Sakura in Nijo castle and explore Kyoto with a friendly local guide, please check the banner below!
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If you are planning to visit Japan this spring and want to discover more cherry blossoms spots in Kyoto area, please check the following article. It’s covering the best Hanami spots in the old capital and provides you with the essential information, so you can get the most from your Sakura trip!
Here`s the link. URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/2566/
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