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
A Pair of Stones
Two chunks of gray-green stone,
their shapes grotesque and unsightly,
wholly unfit for practical uses --
ordinary people despise them, leave them untouched.
Formed in the time of primal chaos,
they took their place at the mouth of Lake Taihu,
ten thousand ages resting by the lakeshore,
in one morning coming into my hands!
Pole-bearers have brought them to my prefectural office
where I wash and scrub away mud and stains.
The hollows are black, deeply scarred in mist,
crevices green with the rich hue of moss.
Aged dragons coiled to form their feet,
old swords stuck in for the crown,
I suddenly wonder if they didn't plummet from Heaven,
so different from anything in this human realm!
One will do to prop up my lute,
one to be a reservoir for my wine.
The tip of one shoots up several yards,
the other has a hollow, will hold a gallon of liquid!
My five-stringed instrument leaning on the left one,
my single wine cup set on the right,
I'll dip from the hollowed cask and it will never go dry,
though drunkenness long since has toppled me over.
Every person has something he loves,
and things all yearn for a companion.
More and more I fear that gatherings of the young
no longer will welcome a white-haired gentleman.
I turn my head, ask this pair of stones
if they'd consent to keep an old man company.
And though the stones are powerless to speak,
they agree that we three should be friends.