Nijo Jinya

One of Kyoto's many interesting and unique sites of attraction is Nijo Jinya.

An inn which was built in the early days of the Edo period for the feudal lords (daimyo) who would stay there, Nijo Jinya is considered to be an important cultural asset. Contruction of the building is estimated to have been between 1661 and 1672. The inn can be a little difficult to find, but it is also worthwhile - and one that is often overlooked by visitors to Kyoto.

This inn was constucted by a descendant of a man who worked at Kasuga Shrine in Nara. A descendant of this first Ogawa was a retainer to Nobinaga Obu and Hideyoshi Toyotomi (two of the most famous historical figures in Japan) during the Momoyama period (A.D. 1573 - 1600). Under them he had a castle at Imabari, but after Hideyoshi's death (AD 1598) Ogawa decided to quit his post and become a merchant . At that time he moved into a house in Kyoto. He then decided to convert this house into an inn for daimyo coming to Kyoto to see Nijo Castle or the Imperial Palace.

The most interesting and unique feature of Nijo Jinya is its cleverly hidden trap doors, secret pathways and hidden storage places, designed to protect those staying there. And--they're all the real thing! Not only are the traps in the inn itself cleverly planned out, but the rooms themselves are all very beautiful, as well. One would never suspect that an inn of this quality could have so many extraordinary surprises!

The building itself, which appears to be only one storey high from the outside, actually has three levels. The result is that the ceiling on every floor is very low. The reason for this is to prevent the wielding of swords inside the building.

The rooms are riddled with secret hiding places and tricks -- and even the garden is no exception. The largest room among the total 24 rooms in the inn, called "O-zashiki" ('Great parlor'), is the size of 15 tatami mats and was used for receiving and entertaining. There are some beautiful items to be seen in this room, and why is there a hole in the ceiling...?

"Kainyo-an", a small tearoom, also has a few surprises. The closet at the south end has a back door into the hallway, for anyone needing to escape. In the hallway outside of this room, there is a shelf which, when unhooked, forms a stairway to the hidden upper levels of the building!

The "Tomabune-no-ma", or 'Thatched Boat Room', is exactly what its name implies - it is a room made to resemble the inside of a boat. People entering this room must do so as if they were boarding a boat, as well. The room hangs out over the wall over the grounds, and provided a means of emergency escape from the grounds.

There are many other interesting secrets to be found in Nijo Jinya, but why spoil them here? The building is still under ownership of the Ogawa family. It can be seen by appointment only. Tours are run between 10 AM and 3 PM daily, and general admission costs 1000 yen.
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