Autumn 2021 Castle Travels

From Jcastle.info

Autumn 2021 Castle Travels

2022/02/19


My next update is a mix of castle visits from Autumn 2021 that don't fit anywhere else and don't tell any story other than the fact that the main castle each day is an Akechi Mitsuhide castle. No it wasn't actually planned, but that's how it turned out. Shuzan Castle was far and away the best mountaintop castle I've been to since maybe Takatori Castle. I was certainly lucky to be able to visit Sakamoto Castle when the lake level was low enough to see the typically underwater stonework, and finally Fukuchiyama Castle is one of the great modern reconstructed castles that I have wanted to visited for a long time. Finding out about some relocated gates and then visiting Izaki Castle across the river rounded out a great first day of castle'ing this season.


 

Fukuchiyama Castle / 福知山城

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Fukuchiyama Castle is a bit out of the way from Kyoto but it can also be a fantastic day trip for castle fans. The castle itself is well worth the trip, but you can also cycle around the town to visit several temples with gates repurposed from the original castle or cross the river to visit Izaki Castle. Rent a bicycle at the Tourist Information Center just outside the train station.

The fascinating stone walls have many stones that were repurposed from graves and temples. Try to see how many you can identify in the walls and use the photos below to practice!

There is an art museum at the entrance to the castle that is made to roughly look like a Yagura, but it actually has nothing to do with the castle and is not a faithful mock structure of any kind. But, it is photogenic and provides some additional atmosphere for the castle.

Original Profile by RaymondW (2009) updated by Eric (2022)
 
Izaki Castle / 猪崎城

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Just across the river from Fukuchiyama Castle you'll find Izaki Castle atop a small hill with great views of the surrounding area. This castle is often considered an afterthought for people in Fukuchiyama with some extra time, but after visiting myself I think it strongly deserves more attention. This is a marvelous site with concentric baileys going up the hillside, commanding views of the river plain and well preserved trenches and embankments. They've cleared enough trees and preserve it as both a park and an historical site.
 
Sakamoto Castle / 坂本城

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There is essentially nothing left of the castle to see today. There is a small castle park with a statue of Akechi Mitsuhide and some fake stone walls that were put up when the park was built but they are not remnants of the original stone walls and in fact the park is not even on the castle grounds.

In the fall of 2021, low rainfalls and few typhoons in 2021 caused the water level of Lake Biwa to drop, revealing some remnants of the honmaru stone walls that have been underwater for years. Those are the main photos you see below. This article from Shirobito shows the location of these stone walls on an illustration of the castle. There is also some stonework along one side of the Ryosha Shrine that is thought to be the edge of the Outer Bailey.

While Sakamoto Castle Ruin isn’t really worth a visit by itself, combined with a visit to see the Anou-shu Zumi stone walls in Sakamoto and a trip up Mt. Hiei to visit the Enryakuji Temple, it makes for a great day trip from Kyoto. If you ever wondered where Nobunaga and Hideyoshi’s castle builders came from, go to Sakamoto and see the stonemasons’ legacy. There are Many original stone walls here and more than at many castle ruins in Japan. They are mainly located between the Keihan Sakamoto Station and the cable car station up to Mt. Hie.

Original profile by RaymondW (2012), updated by Eric (2022), photos of gates by ART and RonS.
 
Sasayama Shuzan Daikansho / 篠山藩周山代官所

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Located next to the Jiganji Temple, which contains a famous wooden statue of Akechi Mitsuhide. The temple was not open when I visited.
 
Shuzan Castle / 周山城

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This is one of those castles where all the accounts and books and webpages do not do it justice and it actually exceeded my expectations. There is stonework scattered everywhere around the castle. It is mostly in crumbled conditions but there are a few fantastic stretches of stonework that are a must-see for serious castle fans. The best parts are actually not well marked and easy to overlook so take a good map or just pay attention and follow all the little trails around the honmaru until you find them! Apart from the major stone walls, if you look around the embankments you will see small remains of stonework all around the site. In the Honmaru there are remnants of large stone walls and earthen embankments in a square that indicate Akechi Mitsuhide probably intended to build a main keep here, but there is no evidence that one was ever constructed.

Another 15-20 min hike along the western ridge is a satellite fortification, simply called the "western castle." This earthworks castle was just discovered in the 1990's. I've seen it listed both as part of Shuzan Castle and as an entirely separate satellite castle. This castle is a much simpler construction and has no stonework. There are several well defined baileys with earthen embankments and koguchi entrances. Some accounts make it sound like this is a difficult trail from Shuzan Castle, but if you've made it to Shuzan Castle anyway, the rest of the trail to the Western Castle is no more difficult. It's worth visiting if you have the time. It's not even depicted on most maps so try to find one with the West Castle (西城) if you intend to go. I happened to run into another castle fan at the site and between the two of us we figured out how to get there. It is not obvious but there is a small side trail back at the entrance to the Kosho Bailey (小姓曲輪), also called the West Bailey on some maps, that leads you around this bailey and out to the West Castle.

This castle had been on my to-do list for a long time. Several reports about fallen trees, washed out trails and off limits areas put me off for awhile but it seems that much of the damage and obstacles have been cleared recently making the main compounds more accessible again as of November 2021. A couple of the extended baileys along ridges were still off limits, but as far as I can tell they are simple ridgeline baileys without much to see. The highlights are all open. I would still recommend good shoes and possibly a trekking pole to visit this castle. Some of the trails are very narrow and slippery.

You can also get off the bus a stop or two earlier at the Woody Keihoku Service Area to get a map of the castle. It's only an extra 5-10 mins walk to the castle entrance. I had extra time before the next bus after I finished the castle and returned to this service area for a nice lunch while waiting for the bus.
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Kiddus i2003Gunshi

3 months ago
Score 1++
My last trip I made it to Sasayama castle site and Fukuchiyama.The next trip I planned but have made yet was to make a line through central Honshu from Sasayama down to Yamaguchi then onto Kyushu. I hope to do it sometime soon.