4 new castles, 2 updates and new videos

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4 new castles, 2 updates and new videos

2023/01/14


This brings together several updates I made over the New Year's break. Unfortunately, there's no single theme to bring them all together, just an eclectic mix of new content.

4 New Castles: Shuuchi Castle, Nakao Castle, Ohyama Dejiro, and Takeda Yakata.

2 updates are updates to profiles made by ART: Yamazaki Castle and Amidagamine Castle

Videos: This is an experimental new feature. I started filming video at some recent caastle visits when I had some extra time. For now, the new videos are linked in the Visit Notes section of each castle profile or you can find them all on my new YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/@Jcastleinfo

I'm not sure where I will take this just yet. It is a lot of work to shoot usable video and edit it. Feedback, suggestions or requests are more than welcome. Videos have been added to Shuuchi Castle, Takeda Yakata, and Himeji Castle


 

Nakao Castle (Yamashiro) / 中尾城

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Nakao castle is comprised of several narrow baileys running along the top ridge of a mountain overlooking Kyoto. When you are walking along the ridge the various baileys seemed to make sense, but looking back at the photos it's a bit hard to see/remember the difference between which is which. There are also a couple horikiri trenches and some slight embankments which helped separate some of the baileys. Naturally this should be visited along with Ohyama Dejiro.

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.
 
Ohyama Dejiro / 大山出城

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Refer to Nakao Castle for details on the routes into the castle. Taking the trail from behind the Kyoto Korean School, you will first reach Oyama Mejiro on the way to Nakao Castle. You will find a few small flattened areas or baileys while ascending the slope but much of the castle has been heavily eroded over time. The main bailey has a good section of an earthen embankment around it. To the Northwest of the main bailey behind the embankment is a steep drop into another large bailey with some large stones and another huge embankment (kirigishi/dorui). This section in particular has some good views of the area (if they cut a few more trees) and lends evidence to the theory that it was used to watch over and defend from attack via the Yamanaka-goe pass. This area was the highlight for me but seems to be missed by many other castle visitors.
 
Shuuchi Castle / 須知城

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The castle itself is fairly compact for a mountain castle following along one ridge line. The West side also had an extended fortification atop the smaller mountain next to it. This West side, from which I hiked, is a good steep climb, but the trail up from the Kototaki Waterfall and Gyokuunji Temple sounds comparatively easier. It's just a little farther and longer. It's also interesting to note that the big stone walls face this East side as well, possible assuming a major attack would come from that side up the easier climb and away from the extended fort.
Videos
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Takeda Yakata (Ibaraki) / 武田氏館

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The Takeda Yakata in Hitachinaka Ibaraki was reconstructed in 1991. The original location of the fortified home was about 500m southeast of the present day location but it oculd not be built on the land which is part of the self defense forces and has train tracks through it. However, the layout of the residence and foundations for the buildings were faithfully restored at this site. Since there is no record of what the actual buildings looked like, they were rebuilt based on other records of typical samurai residences of the time.

The inside of the house has a small collection of armor donated by the Takeishi family which were likely a retainer or branch of the Takeda. Apparently the residence is frequented by many Takeda Shingen and Kai Domain fans who come to seek out the origins of Takeda clan.

Videos
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Yamashiro Amidagamine Castle / 山城阿弥陀ヶ峰城

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Amidaǵaminejō ('Castle of Amida Peak') is now the site of a mausoleum for Toyotomi Hideyoshi centred around a large gorintō (five-tier stone stupa). The castle ruins are easily accessed by a long stone stairway which climbs in a straight line up the mountainside. Features of this castle include chiefly dorui (earthen ramparts) and some bailey spaces. There are remnants of dorui around the gorintō, and a large segment of rammed earth beneath the peak, to the right of the gatehouse to the mausoleum when ascending. By the way, from the peak one can see beautiful views of Kyōto, especially of Gion and Kiyomizudera. (ART 2022)

One of the 36 Peaks of Higashiyama, Amidagamine Castle originally held a small castle that controlled one of the routes between Kyoto and Yamashina. Today the castle is mainly known as a mausoleum for Toyotomi Hideyoshi and some fantastic views of Kiyomizudera and the Kyoto basin. As you climb the steep stairs to the castle, your first respite will be a flat area with a large gate. This corresponds to the Second Bailey of the castle with the first bailey at the top. There are some large earthen embankments around this bailey, but is it unknown how much is original to the castle versus what was levelled for this gate. On the right side of this area, just over the embankment is actually the third bailey. At the top of the mountain where you find the first bailey there are some slight remains of more embankments too. Just to the right of the stairs at the top is actually a hiking trail that will take you down the side of the mountain to the third bailey bypassing the stairs. Actually, a normal hiking trail is easier on the legs than all those stairs too! From the back of the third bailey there is another trail that supposedly goes around the mountain to a fourth bailey but for me at least the trail seemed to fade away into thick brush so I gave up. I was originally hoping to get some nice photos of the valley in full autumn colors from the top, but it was a hazy misty day and so after waiting about an hour I gave up and spent the rest of the day walking around Kyoto enjoying the red leaves at Shinnyodo, Kodaiji, Tofokuji and more. (Eric 2022)

Photos mostly updated with Eric's Nov2022 visit
 
Yamazaki Castle / 山崎城

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A short trip from Kyōto, Ōyamazaki is a very pretty little town packed full of tradition and history, famous for oil production. The castle ruin is an ideal destination for hiking fans if they visit here. Ascending the mountain one passes by many murals erected by the municipality showing the history of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Battle of Yamazaki. (ART 2017)

For such a well known site, I was a little disappointed in this one because there were not as many clear ruins as I had expected to see. Around the honmaru you can find a few stones remaining from the original stonework and a few more if you pick around in the wooded sides of the bailey. There is also a bailey with a well and some slight earthen embankments and several side baileys. The most clear embankments are those of the honmaru and the bailey with the well. Looking at the map there should have been a tatedorui (vertical running earthen embankment) from the honmaru but with a lot of similar looking ground it was a bit difficult to make it out. The highlight of this castle is definitely the giant trench around the Northeast side that is not often covered in other materials about the castle. If you visit Yamazaki Castle, it would could be good to plan in some of the other attractions related to the battle with Akechi Mitsuhide like his encampment at the Igenoyama Kofun and Shoryuji Castle. I got a late start due to a long train stoppage and then some unexpected rain dumped on me on the way back to the station so I called it quits after the castle. (Eric 2022)

Photos updated from Eric's trip in 2022.
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