Kyoto Castles Update
I've been sitting on this one for awhile trying to finish updating my stock of Kyoto castles before posting an update but then I visit some more castles and it keeps getting put off. Now that we're into the rainy season, it's a good time to clean out the updates from the previous castle season. That being said, I still have one big piece about the stone walls of Nijo Castle to do someday but I'm still working on some research for that one. Stay tuned... :)
The castles in this update are mostly new, but I've also added some photos to Nijo Castle for a limited exhibition of the Nishimon Gate and evening event and a couple other photos. There is also a new album of photos for the Odoi part of Kitano Tenmangu which was also open for a special autumn exhibit. It's too bad because this is one the best Odoi parts.
Most people think of Kyoto as a real life Disneyland full of tranquil temples and idyllic gardens, where cute little jizo statues play among the moss or stoic rock gardens make you contemplate the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. In a sense, Kyoto is all that, but as the political center for hundreds of years, it was also the focus of many conflicts. From the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) when the Ashikaga established their Shogunate in Kyoto until Tokugawa Ieyasu moved the capital to Tokyo, was an especially conflict heavy time around Kyoto. The Onin War wrought terrible destruction on Kyoto. The weakness of the Ashikaga at this point triggered the Sengoku Period and controlling Kyoto became a key objective as Oda Nobunaga set his eyes on higher ambitions too. By the time Hideyoshi had stabilized the country the area directly outside of central Kyoto was largely abandoned.
All these conflicts gave rise to (you guessed it!) lots of castles. After all, that's why you're here, right? According to a recent Kyoto Newspaper¹ article 159 castle sites from this period have been identified just inside the current city limits. This includes 55 mountaintop castles scattered around the ring of mountains encircling Kyoto.
With the exception of Yagi Castle (Tanba) the new castles I've added are along the Higashiyama mountain area, also known as the "36 Peaks of Higashiyama" (東山三十六連峰). This string of mountains divides Kyoto from Shiga and Lake Biwa. One of the interesting topics that came up along this research was that there were three main passes over these mountains that were used for both commerce and for the movement of military troops. As such there were also castles and outposts built along these trails at different times. These passes are outlined below with some of the key castles along the routes. Those not linked to a castle profile will be my next targets once the weeds die back in the autumn.
Shiratori-goe Pass (Ichijojiyama Castle, Enryakuji Ichijoji Castle, Tsubokasayama Castle (Shiga)) is the northernmost of the main passes and connects the Ichijoji area of Kyoto to Anou on the Shiga side. It was also used as a staging area for the Asakura/Asai attacks on Kyoto.
Yamanaka-goe Pass (aka Shiga-goe) (Shogunyama Castle, Yamanaka Castle, Usayama Castle (Shiga)) is the next and probably easiest of the three main passes to cross. From the Kyoto side the Hieizan Driveway follows the Yamanaka-goe to the Hieidaira Plain.
Nyoi-goe Pass (Nyoigatake Castle, Haiyama Castle) is the southernmost and connects Otsu to Kitashirakawa as well. It has a nice full hiking trail from Miidera on the Shiga side to Ginkakuji on the Kyoto side.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the castles of Kyoto City, it is just the beginning of what is sure to be many more updates as my research leads me into new thematic topics. In the future these will be organized on a new page the Castles of Kyoto
Haiyama Castle / 灰山城
Ichijojiyama Castle / 一乗寺山城
On the way back, I first tried to take the shorter side trail down to the Manshuin Temple, but about 1/3 of the way down it was too washed out and slippery that I deemed it too dangerous to go on and walked the long way back around Kirarazaka and Kirarazaka Castle back to Shugakuin Station. By this time it was dark.This castle should not be confused with Ichijoji Enryakujiyama-jo (Ipponsuginishi-jo), which is a mistake I have seen a few websites/bloggers make and caused me some grief figuring out the different castles and their relationships/histories. Ichijoji Enryakujiyama-jo is another castle along the Mt. Hiei mountain range that I will try to find this spring.
Kirarazaka Castle / 雲母坂城
Kunaishoyu Castle / 宮内少輔城
Nakao Castle (Yamashiro) / 中尾城
It seems there may be just as many ways into this castle as there are bloggers looking for it. Unfortunately, these trails are mostly unmarked even on the most detailed maps, so go with caution. Refer to the Nakao Castle profile (link below) for more details of these routes.
There are trails all over this section of the Higashiyama area of Nyoigatake and Daimonji but the trails are mostly unmarked on maps or on the mountainside. I took what seems to be the most common and direct route into the castle. The (unmarked) trail branches off shortly after you start the hiking trail for Daimonjiyama going behind the Kyoto Korean School. It's a bit steep but (at least in winter) it is a much clearer and easier trail than I was expecting from reading some other accounts. I did tempt this one last summer too but backed out due to high weeds and intense mosquito bombardment. Going this route will first take you to Ohyama Dejiro on the way to Nakao Castle. If you follow this trail to Nakao Castle you end up around the middle of the castle. Visit the left part, double back and visit the right part and at the end you'll find the trail down to the dam on the lower end of the Daimonjiyama hiking course and an easy walk back to Ginkakuji.
A second common route is to use the unmarked trail a bit farther up the path to Daimonji that goes to either the left or right of the dam. This is the trail I took coming down. The way down was unplanned. It just seemed that at the end of the castle, a trail going down this side of the mountain made sense. I did not know where it would end up. A third common route is to go almost to the top of the Daimonji trail to a point of higher elevation than Nakao-jo and break off on another unmarked trail to go back down into Nakao-jo. I have not conclusively identified where this trail is after 2 climbs of daimonji either so probably the one going behind the Korean School is the best. Around the castle area I identified at least 2 other likely trails coming up from the other side of these mountains into the castle too (one of which may have come from Daimonji) but I suspect the route described above would be the best. That being said, I did run into some people coming down (perhaps from Daimonji) but did not see anyone else going up the route I took so take any advice with a grain of salt!In the photos below you will see the "Sennin-zuka". This is a popular resting point along the way up Daimonjiyama. This stone marker is a memorial to soldiers who died in the Battle of Nakao Castle. During WWII the Japanese army was digging in around here and found countless bones. They were thought to have been from the Battle of Nakao Castle so this stone memorial was placed here to honor them.
Nyoigatake Castle / 如意ヶ嶽城
Shogunyama Castle / 将軍山城
Yagi Castle (Tanba) / 八木城
The route up to the honmaru is well maintained and sign posted but you need to work a little harder to find some of the farther reaches of the castle. From the bottom of the mountain, at the entrance to the hiking trail, you'll find many terraced areas that were the homes of retainers. Thanks to many switchbacks, the trail takes you to the top of the mountain without being too steep or challenging. The trail ends right at the honmaru/ninomaru entrance and the first major stone wall ruins. The honmaru has some stunning views of the surrounding plains and you can easily see why a giant castle was built here. Take the small narrow trail around the back of the honmaru to find another stone wall segment. If you look around the sides of the honmaru you will see a great many stones strewn about. At one point the whole honmaru was fortified with stone walls.From the Ninomaru there are trails going north and west that will take you along ridges literally covered in stepped flat areas that were baileys of the original castle. From this point there are no maps and few useful signs. A couple of the farthest reaches have horikiri and stone wall segments as well. There are a number of trails that link up to other trails and go down different areas of the mountain but there are few signs. In fact, I was stopped twice by groups of hikers who wanted to ask ME about the trails. At one point along the western ridge coming back from the stone wall and horikiri I became unsure of the trail because it looked steeper than I remembered. After turning around and looking for signs of a trail I found a pink ribbon tied to a tree (signs of a trail on this mountain!). I felt reassured and started following the pink ribbons... until I found myself back at the same horikiri and stone wall again! Well, I did find the right trail back, but it does show how someone with a poor sense of direction (yes, me) can lose the trail.
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¹ 戦国時代の京都は城と要害だらけだった 京都市内に城館跡159ヵ所 "Sengoku Period Kyoto was littered with castles, 159 in the city limits" Feb 7, 2022
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