32 Kansai Castle Profiles by ART

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32 Kansai Castle Profiles by ART


ART's next contribution is 32 new profiles from around Kansai.

If you haven't seen his Japanese Castles Facebook page, check it out as well. All these photos and more have been posted there at some point or will be soon.


Echi Aoyama Castle / 愛知青山城


Aoyamajō is a forested earthworks castle ruin in Higashi-Ōmi. It is a hirayamajiro type, gakejiro subtype castle, meaning that the castle was built overlooking a steep change in elevation – a cliff – on one side, and on its three other sides where the terrain was flat earthen ramparts were heaped up and dry moats dug. These earthworks have lasted well, with the dorui (berms) going all around the shukuruwa (main bailey) except where it borders the cliff side, and deep karabori (dry moats) making the castle ruins quite clear. The karabori become tatebori (climbing moats) where they meet the cliff line and fall. The shukuruwa is now rather over-grown. I found many tanuki (raccoon-dog) burrows dug into the ramparts, and, sure enough, a tanuki appeared nearby.
Echi Hatada Castle / 愛知畑田城


Ahead of the Ten’ichi-jinja was a signboard about Hatadajō which promised actual remains of the castle such as dorui (earthen ramparts). My finely hewn castle senses immediately directed me to the rear of the shrine where I found my quarry, all three foot or so of piled earth. It seems strange but these lumps in the earth represent a medieval fortification! The site is now a shrine.
Echi Hirai Castle / 愛知平居城


A marker designates the site as the ruins of Hiraijō but not much remains. Some local castle bloggers say that dorui (earthen rampart) remains exist(ed) on private property. It was not possible for me to get a good look. Apparently more ruins could be seen until recently, but those have now been destroyed. It just goes to show that small flatland sites like this, even in relatively rural areas, may be destroyed at any time.
Echi Imoto Castle / 愛知井本城


Imotojō is a clifftop earthworks castle ruin featuring dorui (earthen ramparts), karabori (dry moats), tatebori (climbing moats), and other earthworks. I believe I identified an umadashi (barbican) structure too. The shukuruwa (main bailey) is prominent because of the dorui surrounding it. The karabori further surrounds it on three sides, excepting the cliff side, and the ends of the moat terminate there and become tatebori. The site is forested but decently maintained. It seems that the main hall of Kasuga Shrine has been built into the adjacent cliff side.
Echi Kamigishimoto Castle / 愛知上岸本城


Some sites are so minor that one really doesn’t know what one will find until one goes there oneself! Although we had failures that day, Kamigishimotojō was definitely a success. Kamigishimotojō has dorui surrounding a small kuruwa with a karabori (dry moat) to the rear. Possibly more kuruwa extend beyond here but it is now densely thicketed bamboo there.
Echi Katsushima Castle / 愛知勝島城


It seems that there are some dorui (earthen rampart) remains at the site of Katsushimajō, identified by castle bloggers who accomplished a much more thorough inspection than I did. Albeit the marker indicated on Google Maps did not indicate neither these tangible ruins nor a small signboard which has been erected to indicate the castle, and misled me somewhat. I should know better really than to rely on that service though. My picture shows the castle site from a distance. As we can see, it’s mostly fields today! The apparent dorui is to be found in a tangle of trees near a red and white power pylon. Other ruins indicated by explorers are 'moat traces', 'stone walls' and 'baileys', but these remnants are such that one would have to know what one was looking for to even suspect them. I must confess that I feel somewhat neglectful for not making a more complete investigation of this site. Possibly I will go back someday though as I would like to make a complete tour of the ruins of the Hyakusaiji Temple-Castle environs, as well as to better check out Ogurajō, of which Katsushimajō is a branch fort of. Besides, despite visiting over twenty sites in Echi District, there’s still many more sites in the area, including several minor fortification sites in the foothills of Hyakusaiji Castle.
Echi Kitabodaiji Castle / 愛知北菩提寺城


Kitabodaijijō is a castle ruin situated in a small village. The entire thing is now a bamboo grove with some shrines adjacent. I identified koguchi (gate) ruins and dorui (2m-3m high). Luckily there was a path into the bamboo grove. Tall bamboo can be impassable at times. Local children watched my movements with great interest.
Echi Nakato Castle / 愛知中戸城


This is a minor site. It seems there may be earthworks remaining, but these are on private property or otherwise buried beneath a tangle of bamboo. I felt there was little for me to accomplish here and moved on.
Echi Ogura Castle / 愛知小倉城


Echi-Ogurajō has some earthworks ruins but they are not all easy to make-out, or at least to distinguish from natural terrain. Features at this site include dorui (earthen ramparts), kuruwa (baileys) and karabori (dry moats). The most prominent feature is a segment of dorui with karabori, but the latter is now a road with modern ishigaki lining the sides. The site has a stone marker at the foot of the cliff which the ruins sit on. There are also explanation boards but some are quite old and manky.
Echi Shimozato Castle / 愛知下里城


All I could see was a bamboo thicket which appeared to be on private property so I moved swiftly on from Shimozatojō, but local castle bloggers describe dorui (earthen rampart) remains located behind various homes. The site is now a village, temple and fields.
Echi Sone Castle / 愛知曽根城


Sonejō is a clifftop fortification site overlooking the Echi River valley. There is a comely thatched roof temple directly below. Whilst I was looking in the fields for some evidence of a fortification having existed – and finding none – I did come across a deceased mole. Because their mounds are big, their small size always surprises me when I see them. I’ve not seen a living one though. I wonder that they surface when dying? Anyway, some pictures online show a row of ishigaki here, but it’s not related to the castle and looks fairly recent in its construction.
Echi Takano Castle / 愛知高野城


There seems to be a degree of conflation between two separate but adjacent sites here. The site of Takanojō, the castle, is now that of a temple called Yōanji. My supposition at the time was the main bailey was the site of the temple hall, and the terracing beneath, which can be seen all along the lower mountain slopes, was originally carved for the castle, perhaps similar to the layout of Hyakusaijijō, though likely it found other, agricultural uses in subsequent centuries. Ishigaki can be found at the site of the fortified manor house below, though the ishigaki I found up at the yamajiro (mountain castle) may have not been related to either the site of the manor house or the castle, and may have been built for the temple or even just for a terraced field. Others may make their judgements by looking at the appearance of the stonework, though I would not feel confident in ascribing its origins. The stonework appears to be different from that found at the site of Oda Nobukichi's manor house, the Takano-yakata, which is nearby. Although the ishigaki shown is in the exact spot where the yamajiro was located, the enclosure it supports does not strike me as immediately "castle-like".
Echi Touendou Castle / 愛知東円堂城


Not much remains of Tōendōjō, but there is a stone marker to confirm its existence at what was a southern corner of the fort. An angled embankment with a hedgerow and modern ishigaki lining it covers this corner segment, and this represents the site's most tangible remains, dorui (earthen ramparts). The site is now a village and temples.
Echi Yamori Castle / 愛知屋守城


This castle site was featured at the museum of Kongōrinji so we came to check it out. Documents pertaining to the fort were kept at the temple. The ruins consist of dorui (earthen ramparts) and karabori (dry moats). Interestingly there are two sets of these, indicating that the castle complex was made up of two compounds. A small river, the Yasutsubo River, runs between them, but the course of the river has been altered since the time of the castle. The compounds encompass an area of about 200m². The site is now a temple and private residences. One house boasts a very old gate. The small gate featured prominently in displays and literature about the castle at the temple but I wasn't able to determine when it was built. It is supported by concrete brackets and seems ready to collapse.
Gamou Isshiki Castle / 蒲生一式城


I came here to Isshikijō as part of a tour of minor sites in Higashi-Ōmi, Shiga. I thought there might be more to see but there’s not a lot. The site is now a shrine. There are a few markers designating castle features, such as a moat trace and a yaguradai (platform for turret), the latter now used for a shrine structure. Isshiki is a small village in Higashi-Ōmi Municipality. We went west of here through Ichihara village. North of Ichihara was a hamlet we passed through which was curiously peopled by scarecrows or dummies engaged in various tasks, from tending fields to waiting for a bus. These completely clothed and realistic proportioned kakashi (scarecrows) are indistinguishable from behind, and one can only tell them apart from real people by gazing into their lifeless faces or observing their unnatural stillness. This was a rather apocalyptic and unsettling thing to come upon by chance. The site is apparently called Eiganji Kakashi World (永源寺案山子ワールド). Since there’s not much at Isshikijō itself I’ll recommend stopping by here too for the bizarre and uncanny.
Ikenoshiri Yakata / 池尻館


It is reported that there are the remains of dorui (earthen ramparts) in a corner of Ikenoshiri Village, the only vestiges of Ikenoshiri Castle, a fortified manor hall. However, these are now hidden in a bamboo grove, and I couldn't find them. This was one of several sites that day that heavy bamboo growth prevented further exploration of, Oumi Nakato Castle and Oumi Shimozato Castle sites being similar. Bamboo is still a useful for people in these parts I suppose! Given that the village is situated below Ebisu Pond - beneath a berm - I figured that the castle and village were named for this.
Itoi Jin'ya / 糸井陣屋


Itoi-jin'ya is a jin'ya in fairly decent condition all things considered, though it does appear dubious in places. It has a long segment of ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) with very strange mock dobei (walls) with silly yasama (loopholes) positioned at amusingly wide distances apart. There is an original gate on site, which is small but looks genuine. Itoi-jin'ya is now the site of a local museum.
Kashiwabara Palace / 柏原御殿


The site of Kashiwabara-goten is located in the historic town of Kashiwabara-juku. There is a small park with an information display about the site.
Mekada Castle / 目加田城


Mekadajō is now a small history park which looks like it was developed only recently. There is tallish dorui (earthen ramparts), of about 3m in height, to appreciate here. Formerly the whole thing was covered in bamboo so it's good they cut that back and now maintain the ruins. Some parts are still bamboo though. That day I encountered a lot of bamboo trying to investigate smaller sites. Afterall the super grass is still a useful resource in some parts. The layout of the castle was a simple square surrounded by dorui and mizubori (water moats), though the dorui was embossed on one corner adjacent to the fort's single gateway, perhaps for the placement of a yagura(turret)-like structure. In this way Mekadajō served as basically as a fortified residence. To the immediate south of the fort flows the Iwakura River, which shortly thereafter flows into the Uso River. An irrigation channel connected the moat of Mekadajō with the river, and in the north of the fort a pool of water projected into the main enclosure. Although I didn't have time to visit, the sites of Hacchōjō and Ōmi-Yoshidajō are very nearby.
Namazue Castle / 鯰江城


Namazuejō, "Catfish Bay Castle", probably never possessed access to water, but the name is nice. Here I can proudly proclaim the confirmed existence of dorui (earthen ramparts) and of a detailed explanation board about the castle. I had previously just been to Nakatojō, one of the small forts used to pressure and attack Namazuejō by Oda Nobunaga and Shibata Katsuie, and other such forts, finding nothing, so the find of actual remains at Namazuejō was satisfying. The site is now homes, a temple, a playground and a municipal hall. Though Namazuejō once possessed a large footprint, the site was subsequently developed over as a residential area.
Ogurayamagami Castle / 小倉山上城


Ogurayamagamijō is a castle site in East Ōmi, though very little remains of the castle structure. The castle was built on uneven elevation, making it a sort of clifftop fort (hirayamajiro / gakejiro). A ravine runs to one side which was likely used or augmented as a fortfication / trench. On the otherside of the temple which currently occupies the site is a road which climbs the hill side and so no ruins remains here. The temple's main entrance is at the bottom of the hill. There is a small marker for the castle at the temple entrance.
Sakata Kashiwabara Castle / 坂田柏原城

OumiKashiwabara (5).JPG

Kashiwabarajō is now the site of Tokugen'in. Tokugen'in has unfortunately now closed its doors to visitors, citing pandemic concerns, so we couldn't enter the temple precincts to see the historic architecture. But then a miracle occured. A troupe of monkeys appeared and guided us (I chased them) to around the side of the temple. From here we could see the majestic pagoda behind an aging earthen wall which one of the monkeys ran the whole length along. As for the castle, however, nothing significant remains. A marker for the castle stands besides ishigaki (stone-stacked walls), but this was built for the temple. The temple site had formerly been the fortified residence of the Kyōgoku Clan in 1283, the hegemonic rulers of Ōmi, and their graves are all that remain, the residence only having served as their headquarters briefly, until 1286. A fort also existed on the mount behind the temple, presumably where the monkeys now live, but we hadn't time to visit.
Shimoyama Yakata / 下山館


Shimoyama-yakata is a medieval yakata site not far below Hyakusaijiō. Now part of a quaint village, I found no ruins or marker here (dangling participle).
Takano Yakata / 高野館


Takano-yakata is an interesting site. Dropping beneath a series of terraced fields, one will suddenly come across a long stretch of ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts), including the foundations of a gate complex. This latter day Sengoku Period fortified residence is a rare example of this type of fortification where significant ruins remain.
Tanba Hachiman'yama Castle / 丹波八幡山城


Hachiman'yamajō was an incidental castle visit for me. The site, which some intrepid castle explorers have identified possible earthworks of, is now a shrine. We came here to see the historic pagoda which sits above the shrine's honden. That is not a configuration one often sees, especially not at shrines, and so this was an impressive sight. The pagoda is decorated with water fowl, with a different bird shown on each face: cranes, geese, ducks and herons. There is some nice ishigaki, but this dates to after the castle, of course, though maybe back to when the shrine was a temple... At the foot of the castle-shrine-temple-mount is a large tree which has grown horizontally over a river like a bridge, a kind of natural wonder.
Tanba Katakari Castle / 丹波鹿集城


The site of Katakarijō is now a school, and it's hard to tell what was originally the castle's foot print as some of the grass embankments look like they were sculpted for the school rather than by medieval hands, altering the form of the hill. That said, there is an obvious segment of dorui (earthen ramparts) by the school's entrance. Very nearby is the site of ancient temple complex, a national historic site, with the remains of the foundations of temple halls, including a pagoda.
Tanba Kokuryou Castle / 丹波国領城


Kokuryōjō, now a temple, retains some tall, thick dorui. There is modern ishigaki but that is for the temple, though the effect is complimentary. I had a decent look around here, and even followed a trench down the side of the hill. One can see that this is a clifftop castle which overlooked a fertile plain. These "Gakejiro" are technically hirayamajiro because one portion is built like a hirajiro (flatland castle), and the rest, the cliff-facing side, is built like a yamajiro (mountain castle).
Tanba Nomura Castle / 丹波野村城


The ruins of Tanba-Nomurajō consist chiefly of earthworks in a square layout. Dorui (earthen ramparts) surround the castle on three sides, with the portion in the west having been levelled for farmland. North to south this dorui runs for about 70m. Remains of an inner moat about 5m wide can also be found here. Further traces some 50m out attest to the existence also of an outer moat. Most of the moats were filled in for farming. The site is now farmland. There is no obvious gate ruin, but there is a road called “Great Gate Road” running between the villages of Okuno and Shimono, which suggests the Ôtemon (main gate) was located here on the now demolished western perimeter
Tanba Tonbori Castle / 溜堀城


The ruins of Tonborijō, which consist of some earthworks and augmented natural terrain, is now dominated by a complex of modern structures, including an Italian restaurant, overlooking the surrounding countryside. There is a large stone marker proclaiming the site, and I spied some dorui (earthen ramparts) and what looked like a karabori - though not advisable to descend. The road cuts through the dorui. The shape of the terrain has been altered in modern times, obscuring the castle's footprint.
Tanba Yaga Castle / 丹波屋賀城


Yagajō was an incidental castle visit for me, as it may be for most who go. I stopped by here, now the site of a temple, en route to Sasayama Castle, to see the relocated Taiko-yagura (drum tower) from Sonobe Castle. The yagura (turret) is very comely. It happens that the temple, built with a structure from Sonobejō, was built upon the site of Yagajō, though the drum tower has nothing to do with Yagajō otherwise.
Tonomura Yakata / 殿村館


Nothing to see. The site is now private residences. We were passing by on the way to Tokugen'in and the site of Oumi Kashiwabara Castle when we noticed it appear searching for nearby historical sites. I have confirmed the co-ordinates on "Iseki Walker".
Yamakami Jin'ya / 山上陣屋


Nothing remains of Yamakami-jin'ya, which is not unusual for jin'ya, since most of them were lightly fortified. There is a signboard at the site explaining about the domain and the jin'ya. Put simply, a jin'ya is a small pseudo-castle used when a large castle would be inappropriate, such as for a small domain - as in the case of Yamakami-jin'ya.
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