The castle was founded in 1583 by Hideyoshi; the enclosed palace, probably the finest building in Japan, survived the capture of the castle by Iyeyasu (1615), and in 1867 and 1868 witnessed the reception of the foreign legations by the Tokugawa shoguns; but in the latter year it was fired by the Tokugawa party.
The chief power then passed to the Ashikaga dynasty of Shoguns, who retained it for about 200 years and were distinguished for their patronage of the arts.
The palace of the Ashikaga shoguns then replaced the Imperial court as the centre of patronage of art and literature and established a new era in art history.
Even during the 300 years of its conspicuous prosperity as the administrative capital of the Tokugawa shoguns, it had no noted factories, doubtless owing to the absence of any suitable potters clay in the immediate vicinity.
Iyeyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa dynasty of shoguns, directed that his body should be interred at NikkO, a place of exceptional beauty, consecrated eight hundred years previously.