15 New Castles from ART

From Jcastle.info

15 New Castles from ART


ART has contributed a new set of profiles focused around Yamaguchi Prefecture, added a great set of photos for Konomine Castle and one new profile in Shiga Prefecture. See below for details.

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 shortly.


Aoyama Castle (Nagato) / 長門青山城


Aoyamajō is located to the south of Katsuyamajō and to the southwest of the Katsuyama-goten, and no doubt commanded excellent views in its day (now there are many trees). A path leads from both the Goten and Katsuyamajō. I was surprised to see how much ishigaki remains here, but I ran out of daylight trying to find each segment, and my camera battery also ran dead (luckily, even though it was getting on, there is an old road (no longer open to vehicular traffic) which winds its way up the mountain here to an old broadcasting station, and I took this down without hazard). Aoyamajō is an interesting site and the layout is broadly described as concentric.
Dannoura Battery / 壇ノ浦台場


Dannoura is of course a well-known name in Japanese history, and this history is told here with various monuments, statues and explanation boards. Later the site was also that of a daiba (platforms for cannons built in the dying days of the Shogunate). A row of large, replica cannons and one smaller cannon in a gazebo stand here now. I came here as part of my walking tour of historic sites in Shimonoseki.
Dohiyama Castle (Nagato) / 長門土肥山城


Dohiyamajō is a medieval site, but is not related to the later Edo Period sites clustered around it, and nothing remains. It is now a small park with a stone marker for the castle. I came here incidentally as it is between several historical sites related to the Mōri Clan in the Chōfu area of Shimonoseki Municipality.
Kameyama Battery / 亀山台場


The Kameyama-daiba is a Bakumatsu Period battery emplacement site, constructed by the Mōri Clan so that they could raise some hell with the foreign powers. This got them a thorough hiding but introduced an irresistible principle to Japan: modernisation is inevitable. Now the site is that of a shrine, Kameyama-hachimangū, and it still has great views of the straight. The shrine sits atop a mass of ishigaki which looks quite impressive, though I don’t know if it wasn’t built specifically for the shrine after the daiba was already defunct. Nevertheless it was nice to see. There was an explanation board about the daiba at the top of the stone retaining walls. I came here as part of my walking tour of historic sites in Shimonoseki.
Katsuyama Castle (Nagato) / 長門且山城


The Katsuyama-goten is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains, except being open to the south. Yamajiro (mountaintop castles) surround the palatial complex, and directly to the north is Katsuyamajō. It is not such a long climb. The site has such usual features as baileys and trenches, and there are many sub-baileys in various directions, and I saw most of them trying to find the path to Aoyamajō. A segment of ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) remains.
Katsuyama Palace / 勝山御殿


This is a unique site where one can explore impressive Bakumatsu Period ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts), the remains of a fortified palatial complex built by Mōri Tadachika in 1863. The site consists of three baileys, the honmaru (main bailey), ninomaru (second bailey), and sannomaru (third bailey). The honmaru can further be divided between the outer (本丸表) and interior (本丸奥) enclosures, which were divided by a mizubori (wet moat) and ishigaki (with only the latter remaining). Ishigaki can be found throughout, especially around the front of the honmaru, and a large ramp rises from the ninomaru to the honmaru. Some very large stones were used in constructing the great ramparts. Tellingly, we can see that the fortification does away with such older defensive features as masugata gate complexes, which was also the case at Yamaguchijō, also built in Chōshū Domain at around the same time.
Kounomine Castle / 髙嶺城


This is a mountaintop castle behind Yamaguchijō. There were taxies queued outside of the Yamaguchijō gate, so I took the opportunity to hop in one and command it up the narrow mountain road which goes most of the way to Kōnominejō. The journey was about ten minutes and only cost me 1,410 yen, so it was a good call. The driver was quite interested in my adventures, and he hadn’t taken his cab up such a mountain road before, though he knew it existed and insisted that his colleagues wouldn’t’ve. So after some pleasant conversation with my cabbie there was only a short trail to the top. The site has lots of extant ishigaki around both the north and south sides of the main bailey area, and the north side ishigaki is particularly tall. Other ruins include wells, baileys, climbing trenches, and terracing. I’d declined the cabman’s offer to wait for me with the meter running and descended the mountain by myself. On the lower side of the small carpark there is a spur of castle ruins. These are well formed terraces and are also an enjoyable feature of Kōnominejō. A path led from here, and I was hopeful it would go all the way down. Instead it went to some masts or pylons and quickly stopped, so I had to descend the ridge without a path, but this was lots of fun and great exercise, and happily I met with no accidents. From the base of the mountain a trail proceeds from Yamaguchi Daijinguu. A nearby history museum has some limited information on the castle and its history too. The tombs of the Mouri clan lords are also in the vicinity.
Kouyama Castle (Nagato) / 長門甲山城


Kōyamajō is a hilltop castle site overlooking the Kanmon Strait. No ruins remain. I walked past the foot of the hill and took photos from the bottom. I didn’t climb up as the site is on private property. It is right next to the large Kanmon Bridge.
Kushizaki Castle / 櫛崎城


Kushizakijō is a Edo Period hirayamajiro (hill-and-plains castle) site with extant ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts), including a well preserved tenshudai (platform for a donjon).
Maeda Battery / 前田台場


There are several daiba (artillery battery emplacement) sites along the shore of Shimonoseki along the Kanmon Straits. Of those, Maeda-daiba has the best preserved remains of the old fortifications, including berms and trenches. The daiba can be split into two platforms, the upper (Taka-daiba) and lower (Hiku-daiba, or Ochaya-daiba) terraces. Here the British made their landing and seized the fort. A photograph taken of the navy men with the captured cannons is shown prominently on display boards here.
Nabeyama Castle (Nagato) / 長門南部山城


Nabeyamajō is now the site of Shimonoseki City Hall. No ruins remain. It was the first stop on my Shimonoseki Walking Tour. I woke up at 4am that day and when I set out it was still dark. It wasn't fully light yet so I stopped here to have a look, stalling for time.
Nagayama Castle (Suo) / 周防長山城


I saw this hilltop site from Kōnominejō (Kounomine Castle); Nagayamajō is now a park. No ruins remain, other than the general shape of the castle mount itself perhaps. There is an explanation board about the castle.
Oh'uchi Yakata / 大内館


Ôuchi-yakata was the fortified manor house of the Ôuchi Clan. It is a nationally designated historical site. It has both extant and restored dorui (earthen ramparts). There is lots of information presented on site and the presence of various buildings and ruins is indicated on its grounds. There are also restored gardens. There is a small reconstructed gate in the west. The most impressive part of the site for me was the tall dorui at the rear of the site (north). An old sign had said this was covered in bamboo but thankfully it has now been cleared of vegetation. This dorui would’ve had also a moat in front in its day, and though this is filled in now it is indicated; and the site is park-like with a temple in the center. The temple, Ryūfukuji, is the clan’s bodaiji (clan funerary temple). Much of the site is now a necropolis.
Ohtsu Castle / 大津城


Very little remains of Ôtsujō, a once mighty castle. On what was once the edge of the castle's main bailey on the lake front is a park with a marker for the castle. There is actually an underground carpark here, next to the Ôtsu Marina, with some modern ishigaki (stone walls) built around it as part of the park above. However, there are no castle ruins here. Fortunately, some small trace of the Ôtsujō's structure does remain, and this can be found at a place which was once part of the castle's sotobori (outer moat). On eitherside of the Hikiyama Parade Float Museum there are parking areas. Here we can glimpse a segment of original ishigaki which runs for about 50m behind the buildings here.

-Visit notes by ART 2021

This flatland lakeside castle has been completely developed over. I suppose how long you spend on this site also depends how desperately you want to find something to see. The main stone monument for the castle is on the edge of the Honmaru near the station. Most of the land you see between here and the lakeshore was actually filled in. In the nearby shopping arcade (10 mins way) a segment of stone wall runs behind a few buildings and glimpses of it may be seen in one of the parking lots. Unfortunately, the day I visited there was actually a truck parked there blocking part of the view. It looks like the building next to it has some stonework too, but it's not really visible. Along the way, you may also find a bit of mock stonework on one of the street corners and there are various maps on signs around town telling you what part of the once castle was there. It's only worth the effort if you're maybe passing through, visiting Miidera or other attractions nearby.

-Visit notes by Eric 2022, also updated photos and history
Tsukiyama Yakata / 築山館


Immediately behind the Ôuchi-yakata is another site called Tsukiyama-yakata. This was also a residence surrounded by dorui. An expansive corner segment to the northwest remains and is taller than the dorui at the Ôuchi-yakata. The site is now that of a shrine.
Yamaguchi Castle / 山口城


Yamaguchijō is a very interesting site. There are extant mizubori (water moats) lined with ishigaki (stone walls). The moats form a jagged angled barrier to hem the site in beneath mountains. An extant gate structure remains as the main entrance. This yakuimon type gate survives as it was used for successive institutions – and now the offices of prefectural government are located amidst historical buildings from the industrial era. The gate is really formidable but we can see that it was not built as a large main gate in the masugata style as with the castles of old, for Yamaguchijō was built in 1864! Yamaguchijō was a progressive castle, and was built with 19th century cannon in mind. It seems that in place of towers it had batteries! This would’ve been incredible to see in its day.
Loading map...

Add your comment
Jcastle.info welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.