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Trenches / 空堀

This is a subtype of Features

The term karabori Trenches in general covers a wide range of trench like fortifications around castles and may also be called trenches, ditches, empty moats, or dry moats in English. Karabori are dug to prevent attackers from easily entering or moving around a castle. There are also various subtypes depending on the location in the castle and orientation such as horizontal, vertical or across a mountain ridge. There are also subtypes depending on structure like unebori and shouji-bori. In flatland castles they are often similar in structure to water moats but without the water. Both water moats or dry trenches have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. For example, it can be harder for intruders to hide in a dry moat and there no natural water sounds that might disguise entry. The slick clay sides of many castles in the Kanto region were especially slippery and difficult to climb. I have had a difficult time even in hiking boots getting up only slight slope where there is no grass for traction. On the other hand, water moats, where feasible, can be a good psychological deterrent. Attackers don't know how deep they are or what is underneath. A wet intruder will likely leave a trail and they will need to expend more energy to get across.

When you see photos or visit these locations yourself you may think that these trenches are shallow and would not be much of a deterrent but keep in mind that they have filled with leaves and dirt and have been eroded significantly over the last 400 years. What is now a meter or less deep may have been two or three times that deep at one time.

Some terms related to trenches that you may see include:

Horikiri (堀切)

This is a deep trench cut across a mountain ridge to impede attackers from easily climbing the ridge. You see a lot of these on the path to mountaintop castles and it's usually the first sign that you've entered a castle. Unless there are signs to point them out or you are familiar with seeing horikiri you might not notice them at all. But, if you think about it, such a sudden steep dip in a ridge is very unnatural.

Kuma4.jpg Washio26.jpg

Yokobori (横堀)

A horizontal trench across a slope or mountain. It can also provide an easier route for defenders to cross a slope.

Koshigoe9.jpg Iwabitsu33.jpg

Tatebori (竪堀)

A vertical trench running down a slope. It can be used to impede attackers from easily crossing a slope and can force them into a kill zone.

Iwabitsu34.jpg Haibara16.jpg

Unejotatebori (畝状竪堀)

Several parallel tatebori across one slope on a mountaintop castle. They may be difficult to see if the are on a steep side of the castle that you cannot get to.

Jofukuji26.jpg Kuma23.jpg

Shojibori (障子堀)

A wider trench with square depressions carved out. It forces attackers to either walk the narrow ridges and be easily fired upon or scale up and down the slick clay walls putting them in vulnerable positions and using a lot of physical energy. These are often attributed to the Hojo but the Hideyoshi's Osaka Castle had great shojibori too. Unfortunately you can not longer see them. The only really good shojibori you can see today are at Yamanaka Castle in Shizuoka but many more have been excavated and reburied over the years.

Yamanaka7.jpg Yamanaka8.jpg

Unebori (畝堀)

A trench with ridges across them. This is similar in design to the shojibori but instead of a "waffle" like design it is only a single row of dugout depressions.

Kawamura3.jpg Kawamura9.jpg

Empty Moats (空堀)

These are the moats you are more likely to see at flatland castles. They are similar in size and shape to water moats but without the water.

150px Sakura2.jpg Osaka22.jpg

Castles with Trenches

  1. Aizu Odayama Castle
  2. Akagi Kita Castle
  3. Akagi Minami Castle
  4. Akizuki Castle
  5. Akutagawasan Castle
  6. Ansho Castle
  7. Aoyagi Castle
  8. Aoyama Castle
  9. Arikoyama Castle
  10. Asaba Castle
  11. Asahi Castle
  12. Ashigara Castle
  13. Asonuma Castle
  14. Asuke Castle
  15. Azuchi Castle
  16. Azumi Kameyama Castle
  17. Azumi Nishiyama Castle
  18. Baba Yashiki
  19. Bitchu Matsuyama Castle
  20. Bitchu Takamatsu Castle
  21. Chigasaki Castle
  22. Chihaya Castle
  23. Chikuma Awaji Castle
  24. Chikuma Kushiki Castle
  25. Chikuma Osaka Castle
  26. Chikuma Takeda Castle
  27. Chikuzen Sakata Castle
  28. Dainenji Yakata
  29. Echizen Ohno Castle
  30. Ema Yakata
  31. Fujihashi Castle (Tokyo)
  32. Fujita Castle
  33. Fukazawa Castle
  34. Funaoka Castle
  35. Funaokayama Castle
  36. Funayama Castle
  37. Futamata Castle
  38. Futoge Castle
  39. Ganjaku Castle
  40. Gassan Toda Castle
  41. Gifu Castle
  42. Gion Castle
  43. Gobara Castle
  44. Gokan Castle
  45. Hachigata Castle
  46. Hachikenchōja Castle
  47. Hachioji Castle
  48. Hagi Castle
  49. Hagikura Fort
  50. Haibara Castle
  51. Hakusan Castle
  52. Hakusan Castle (Harima)
  53. Hamada Castle
  54. Hanamaki Castle
  55. Hanawa Castle
  56. Hanazono Castle
  57. Hanazono Mitake Castle
  58. Hasedo Castle
  59. Hatayama Castle
  60. Hayaotoshi Castle
  61. Hayashikojo Castle
  62. Hayashiohjo Castle
  63. Hekirichi Jinya
  64. Hida Kojima Castle
  65. Hirai Castle
  66. Hirai Kanayama Castle
  67. Hirase Castle
  68. Hisawa Castle
  69. Hyakusaiji Castle
  70. Ibuka Castle
  71. Ichinomiya Castle
  72. Igawa Castle
  73. Iida Castle
  74. Imai Castle
  75. Inukai Castle
  76. Ishigakiyama Ichiya Castle
  77. Ishigami Castle
  78. Isobe Castle
  79. Itazuke Moated Settlement
  80. Iwabitsu Castle
  81. Iwamura Castle
  82. Izu Nagahama Castle
  83. Jindaiji Castle
  84. Jofukuji Castle
  85. Kanaiyama Castle
  86. Kanao Yogaisan Castle
  87. Kanayama Castle
  88. Kanazawa Castle
  89. Kanegasaki Castle (Iwate)
  90. Kannonji Castle
  91. Karakai Castle
  92. Karasawayama Castle
  93. Karasuyama Castle
  94. Kasama Castle
  95. Kasane Castle
  96. Kaseyama Castle
  97. Kashiwara Castle
  98. Kasugayama Castle
  99. Kasumi Castle
  100. Katsunuma Castle
  101. Katsunumashi Yakata
  102. Kawahara Castle
  103. Kawamura Castle
  104. Kazurayama Castle
  105. Kirihara Castle
  106. Kita Kumai Castle
  107. Kogane Castle
  108. Koike Fort
  109. Kokokuji Castle
  110. Komaki Castle
  111. Komoro Castle
  112. Konomine Castle
  113. Konosumiyama Castle
  114. Koriyama Castle (Hiroshima)
  115. Koshigoe Castle
  116. Koyama Castle
  117. Kozukue Castle
  118. Kubota Castle
  119. Kuma Castle
  120. Kumamoto Castle
  121. Kunohe Castle
  122. Kurobane Castle
  123. Kururi Castle
  124. Kuwabara Castle
  125. Mariko Castle
  126. Masugatayama Castle
  127. Masuo Castle
  128. Matsuida Castle
  129. Matsukura Castle
  130. Matsuo Castle
  131. Matsuyama Castle (Gunma)
  132. Matsuyama Castle (Saitama)
  133. Minagawa Castle
  134. Minami Kumai Castle
  135. Minokubi Castle
  136. Minowa Castle
  137. Mito Castle
  138. Miyahara Castle
  139. Mizuban Castle
  140. Mizuki
  141. Morioka Castle
  142. Moriya Castle
  143. Moriyama Castle
  144. Moroto Castle
  145. Motosakura Castle
  146. Motosu Castle
  147. Mukaihaguroyama Castle
  148. Mumo Castle
  149. Musashi Masugatayama Castle
  150. Mutsu Iwasaki Castle
  151. Myogi Castle
  152. Nabekura Castle
  153. Naegi Castle
  154. Nagabayashi Fort
  155. Nagashino Castle
  156. Nagoya Castle
  157. Nagurumi Castle
  158. Najima Castle
  159. Naka Castle
  160. Nakahara Yakata
  161. Narisawa Castle
  162. Nasu Kanda Castle
  163. Nata Castle
  164. Niitakayama Castle
  165. Nirayama Castle
  166. Nishikata Castle
  167. Nishina Castle
  168. Nochiseyama Castle
  169. Numata Castle
  170. Oba Castle
  171. Obata Castle
  172. Obata Jin'ya
  173. Obiki Castle
  174. Oda Castle
  175. Odaka Castle
  176. Odani Castle
  177. Odano Castle
  178. Odawara Castle
  179. Odoi
  180. Oeda Castle
  181. Ogawa Castle
  182. Ogimachi Castle
  183. Ogoe Castle
  184. Oguchi Castle
  185. Ogura Castle
  186. Ohikemurayama Castle
  187. Ohkusa Castle
  188. Oike Fort
  189. Okami Castle
  190. Okkoshi Castle
  191. Oko Castle
  192. Omori Castle
  193. Oniba Castle
  194. Oogo Castle
  195. Oohara Castle
  196. Oomizo Castle
  197. Ori Castle
  198. Osaka Castle (Ibaraki)
  199. Otawara Castle
  200. Owari Ohno Castle
  201. Rikan Castle
  202. Ryusenji Castle
  203. Saimyoji Castle
  204. Sakasai Castle
  205. Sakata Castle
  206. Sakura Castle
  207. Sanada Palace
  208. Sanadahonjo Castle
  209. Sano Castle
  210. Sasao Castle
  211. Sasayama Castle
  212. Sashiki Castle
  213. Seiryuin
  214. Seiryuji Yakata
  215. Sekinomori Castle
  216. Senpuku Castle
  217. Setagaya Castle
  218. Shakujii Castle
  219. Shigiyama Castle
  220. Shimizu Castle
  221. Shinano Chausuyama Castle
  222. Shinpu Castle
  223. Shishiku Castle
  224. Shiwa Castle
  225. Soma Nakamura Castle
  226. Sugaya Yakata
  227. Sugiyama Castle
  228. Suwa Kami Castle
  229. Suwa Sakura Castle
  230. Suwa Shimo Castle
  231. Suwa Tezuka Castle
  232. Suwahara Castle
  233. Tage Castle
  234. Takaharasuwa Castle
  235. Takai Castle
  236. Takane Castle
  237. Takatenjin Castle
  238. Takato Castle
  239. Takatome Castle
  240. Takatori Castle
  241. Takatsuki Castle (Tokyo)
  242. Takayama Castle (Gifu)
  243. Takayama Castle (Hiroshima)
  244. Takeda Castle
  245. Takei Castle
  246. Taki Castle
  247. Takiyama Castle
  248. Tamaru Castle
  249. Tanagura Castle
  250. Tateyama Castle (Yamagata)
  251. Tatsuno Castle
  252. Tenjinyama Castle
  253. Tenjinyama Castle (Hiroshima)
  254. Tenpaku Castle
  255. Tobiyama Castle
  256. Toishi Castle
  257. Tokiwa Castle
  258. Tokura Castle
  259. Tonomi-no-saku
  260. Torigoe Castle
  261. Torinji Castle
  262. Tsukui Castle
  263. Tsumagi Castle
  264. Tsumago Castle
  265. Tsutsujigasaki Palace
  266. Tsuwano Castle
  267. Uda Matsuyama Castle
  268. Ueda Castle
  269. Uehara Castle
  270. Ushiku Castle
  271. Usui Castle
  272. Usuida Shukuuchi Fort
  273. Washi Castle
  274. Washio Castle
  275. Yagi Castle
  276. Yamabe Castle
  277. Yamabukiko Castle
  278. Yamabukioh Castle
  279. Yamagami Castle
  280. Yamagata Castle
  281. Yamagata Castle (Hitachi)
  282. Yamanaka Castle
  283. Yamazaki Castle
  284. Yanagawa Castle
  285. Yato Castle
  286. Yogaisan Castle
  287. Yoshida Castle
  288. Yoshida Castle (Ibaraki)
  289. Yoshinogari
  290. Yumurayama Castle
  291. Yunagaya Jin'ya
  292. Yuzawa Castle
  293. Yuzuki Castle
  294. Zen Castle
  295. Zeze Castle
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