Azai Nishi Castle

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History

Azai-nishijō, constructed in the early 16th century, was originally the residence of Kuroyanagi Masaie, but it is said he was compelled to relocated his residence to outside of the castle when his new master, Matsudaira Yasutaka, the brother of Matsudaira Kiyoyasu, the leader of the Matsudaira Clan, became castellan in 1521. Matsudaira Nobutaka, another brother, would then take control of the castle, and use it in his rebellion against Matsudaira Hirotada, the new clan leader, in 1535. Along with Matsudaira Nobusada, Nobutaka would attack Okazaki Castle but ultimately be defeated. When Matsudaira Yasutaka died in 1542, Azai-nishijō was converted into a clan temple, but was later taken over by Ôtsu Kichiaki. In the latter half of the 16th century, the Ôtsu Clan abandoned Azai-nishijō, having gone into exile, and the castle was taken over by Sakai Tadanao.


Visit Notes

Azai-nishijō, also called Dogō-yashiki ('Dogō' is a local landowner or strongman), is an earthworks fortification and medieval residence ruin in Nishi-Azai Township, Nishio Municipality. This site was surprisingly impressive, considering its small size, as it is ringed by tall, thick dorui (earthen ramparts). The compound is now the site of a rural homestead though, so access is limited. I didn't go on the ramparts or find the koguchi ('tiger maw') gate site as a result.

Even though this site is designated as a local historic site, the mizubori (moat) which used to surround the residence beneath the ramparts not long ago, has, within the past couple of decades, been filled in. There is now a marker post saying 'former moat site', which I found to be a bit like saying 'look what we destroyed!'. It's clear that the site is being developed for housing. Was the designation of the historical site only after the moat was conveniently destroyed, or did the destruction of the castle remains go ahead despite the designation?

There is a company in front of the reasidence called 'Kuroyanagi ("Black Willow")', which is the same name as the family which used to lord the castle (the appelation 'Dogō' probably referred to them), and so I assumed that the Kuroyanagi still own the land. Have they been selling bits of it off for development? How can we have any confidence that the ramparts will still be here in another decade or so? This area is fairly rural, and surrounded by patches of forest and rice paddies, but neighbouring the yashiki site a residential tower has been built, and suburbanisation continues apace in the satoyama area. I'm not an eco-fanatical death cultist who would lament economic development, industry, and the continued betterment of the human condition, especially vis-a-vis our conquest of nature (wouldn't it be nice to control the weather and still earthquakes?), but the uglification of the countryside and the destruction of historical and cultural sites, even minor ones, is a barbarism. Barbarism, I say!

I visited the Hachiman shrine, Nishi-Azai Kojō ('Old Castle') Hachimangū, on the hillside north of the yashiki to check for ruins but there's none there (Google Maps indicates that the yashiki ruins are by the shrine but this is a mistake). I encountered a very long snake, but I don't think of any venomous variety. It was quite big so I suppose the snake had a productive summer. How very good for the snake. I almost stepped on it!

Even though the residence is below, the hill here is referred to as a castle-mount, so I wondered if it was ever fortified. The area is quite expansive and wooded, however, so I wasn't prepared to explore every inch, and just checked out the shrine area. The locale names (koaza) covering the hill are Kojiro ('Old Castle'), which covers the satoyama area (the area between mountain and fields), and Shiroko. 'Shiroko (城子)' can refer to a castle bailey, especially the main bailey, and it covers the top of the hill. It wasn't clear to me initially whether the Dogō-yashiki and Azai-nishijō weren't separate sites, with Azai-nishijō referring to a fortified hilltop. However, they appear to be the same site. There is also a site called Azai-higashijō on the opposite side of the hill. Ultimately I cannot say to what extent the hill was fortified.

Also within the Kojiro neighbourhood is a temple called Shukuenji where it just so happens that there is an original gatehouse relocated from Okazaki Castle. This yakuimon-type gate dates to the early Edo period and was actually my main goal in coming out here. It and 'Azai West Castle' are worth checking out together.




Gallery


Castle Profile
English Name Azai Nishi Castle
Japanese Name 浅井西城
Alternate Names Dogō-yashiki (土豪屋敷)
Founder Kuroyanagi Masaie; Matsudaira Yasutaka
Year Founded Early 16th Century; 1521
Castle Type Fortified Manor
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations Local Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Artifacts Dorui, Koguchi
Features gates
Visitor Information
Access Nearest station is Sakuramachimae Station on the Meitetsu-Nishio Line
Visitor Information Access Limited
Time Required 20 minutes
Location Nishio, Aichi Prefecture
Coordinates 34° 53' 16.80" N, 137° 6' 4.39" E
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Admin
Added to Jcastle 2023
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Jōkaku Shashin Kiroku
Umoreta Kojō
Jōkaku Hōrōki
Jōshi Meguri Bibōroku
Aichi Shiro


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