Built by Tokogawa Ieyasu, the first of the Tokugawa shoguns, it was intended as a residence but quickly abandoned when the family relocated to Edo (Tokyo). After the Meiji restoration in 1868, Nijo became an imperial villa but it was given to the City of Kyoto in 1939.
Iemitsu (3rd Tokugawa shogun) was responsible for hiring Kobori Enshu to renovate the garden and expand the buildings in 1624 in preparation for a visit by Emperor Gomizuno(1596-1680). This renovation was not the last, however, and Ninomaru Teien has undergone several alterations since then. At times the large, central lake has been a 'dry garden' though it is not known if this was the original design. The garden is about one acre in size and lies southwest of the castle, itself.
It is possible to stroll in the garden, but the best views were designed to be seen from the buildings.
There is an older section, called Honmaru-jo, on the western half of the site; only the foundation of the remains after it burned in the 1800's
With the south wind a gentle goddess came.
She soaked the bronze, she soaked the fountain,
She soaked the swallow's belly and its feathers of gold.
She hugged the tide, lapped the sand, drank the fish.
Secretly she soaked the temple, the bath-house, the theatre,
The confusion of her platinum lyre --
the tongue of the goddess -- secretly.
Soaked my tongue.
Nishiwaki Junzaburô trans. by Bownas and Thwaite 20th century