Nagahara Castle

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Nagaharajou (4).JPG


Nagaharajō was originally built as the fortified residence of the Nagahara Clan in the Muromachi period after their previous residence, Kaminagaharajō (Kaminagahara Castle), was destroyed by a flood. The Nagahara Clan were vassals of the Mabuchi Clan, then the Rokkaku Clan, then Sakuma Nobumori, a vassal of Oda Nobunaga, who became castellan of Nagaharajō after the defeat of the Rokkaku in 1568. It seems the Nagahara had been in secret communiqué with Oda Nobunaga before his invasion of Ōmi and betrayed the Rokkaku. Nagaharajō was expanded into a large hirajiro (flatland castle) during the Momoyama period with four baileys surrounded by earthworks, and a jōkamura (castle village) spread around it, housing retainers.

In the Edo period the old castle found new life as a goten (palace) of the Tokugawa shoguns used by them for lodging when travelling between Edo and Kyōto. Nagahara-goten, built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, was made up of three large baileys. There was a yaguramon (gatehouse) guarding the entrance to the honmaru (main bailey) on its southern side. The Shōgun would typically stay at Nagahara-goten the night before arriving at Fushimijō in Kyōto, and the palace hosted the Shōgun ten times between 1601 and 1634, after which Tokugawa Iemitsu dispensed with visits to the Imperial Court. Nagahara-goten was abolished in 1686 as the old network of goten (palaces) and ochaya (inn used exlusively by the Shōgun and his entourage) had became a burdensome and needless cost.

Nagaharajō was extensively surveyed and excavated between 2017 and 2018. Several structures from the palace survive but have long been relocated off-site. The main gate of the temple of Jōsenji in the neighbouring village of Ebe is said to be a relocated structure from the castle. The shoin (drawing hall) at Ashiura-Kannonji is a relocated part of the palatial hall from Nagahara-goten. It is a rare example of surviving architecture from an ochaya-goten, and has been declared a national treasure. Nagahara-goten is also interesting in its capacity as a large scale earthworks castle (without stone masonry) in the early Edo period. For other goten sites in Ōmi see Iba-goten (Iba Palace) and Kashiwabara-goten (Kashiwabara Palace) (Minakuchijō (Minakuchi Castle) was another goten site but was subsequently used as a castle (id est, the centre of a domain)).

Visit Notes

The ruins of Nagaharajō include mizubori (water moats) and tall dorui (earthen ramparts). The main bailey is ensconced by dorui and a mizubori on three sides, but there were two other baileys besides and I suspect i found the remnants of more earthworks at a shrine in the surrounding village.

For entry into the main bailey please refer to RaymondW's comment below.

  • Glimpse of large dorui

Castle Profile
English Name Nagahara Castle
Japanese Name 永原城
Alternate Names Nagahara-goten
Founder Nagahara Clan; Tokugawa Ieyasu
Year Founded Muromachi Period; 1601
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations has National Treasures, National Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Artifacts Mizubori, Dorui, Kuruwa, Relocated Buildings (Shoin, Gate)
Features gates, palace, water moats, trenches
Visitor Information
Access Yasu Station on the Biwako Line; 42 minute walk
Visitor Information 24/7 free; fields
Time Required 50 minutes
Location Yasu, Shiga Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 5' 28.75" N, 136° 2' 5.35" E
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Added to Jcastle 2022
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Jōkaku Tanbō
Oshiro Tabi Nikki
Jōkaku Hōrōki
Shiro Meguri
Masaki Shibata

(2 votes)
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14 months ago
Score 1++
ART, I have uploaded five photos showing the interior of Nagahara Goten ruin. Thanks for letting me add photos to your profile.


14 months ago
Score 1++
No, thank you!


14 months ago
Score 1++
ART, if you are going to re-visit Nagahara Goten this year, you should upload your photos from your upcoming second visit as this your castle profile. However, if you aren’t planning to re-visit Nagahara Goten, I can upload a few of my photos of the interior of this site.


14 months ago
Score 0++
I have no plans to revisit anytime soon.


15 months ago
Score 1++

Glad to see this fortified palace profile up on JCastle. Thanks for creating the profile, ART. As you have mentioned, the Nagahara Goten Shoin is at Ashiura-Kannonji, a fortified temple with some nice ishigaki and a wooden gate. However, it is rarely open to the public, so I haven’t been able to get in and see the relocated building from Nagahara Goten yet.

ART, if you have any photos of the inside of Nagahara Goten ruin, you should upload them here. You can easily see three of the four sides of the dorui (earthen ramparts) that protected this palace. The water moat can still be clearly seen in places on the western side. There are also some foundation stones for the palace that have been unearthed, and parts of the palace ruin are signposted, identifying the features such as the site of Hitsujisaru Sumi Yagura (one of the corner turrets) within the earthen ramparts. I have been to this palace ruin a couple of times, the most recent was in April 2021. The design of this palace ruin surrounded by earthen ramparts with a couple of stone-walled gates (no longer visible) reminds me of fortified Roman camps.

Access to the site is not restricted as you have mentioned. There is certainly a chain (not shown in your photo) across the path into the ruin, but I reckon that’s more to stop people driving a vehicle in. A warning sign is emplaced near the chain which only states that the site is monitored for illegal dumping of rubbish and penalties for doing so. It doesn’t say “No Trespassing.” I had mistakenly assumed the Japanese had said that it was completely off-limits on my first visit to the site, so I didn’t go inside. However, upon checking with my wife later, I was told that was only a warning about illegally dumping rubbish. That’s why I went back in 2021 to suss out this palace ruin properly.


15 months ago
Score 1++
It looked like there might some work going on, or that the site was being used for something like a lumber yard within, and there were some workies around, so, given the barriers, I did not go into the interior. But thank you for clarifying that the site is open to the public. Feel free, by all means, to add to the gallery for this profile.