Castles of Koka - 28 New Castle Profiles from Shiga Prefecture

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Castles of Koka - 28 New Profiles from Shiga Prefecture

2022/12/27


Please read the article Koka Castles for much more detailed information about the unique history and castles in this region of often unexplored castles. Visitors tend to skip the castles and go right to the ninja related history, but I think it's important to understand more of where the Koka ninja originated and this brief article should help pull it together. If you're not interested in the castles, at least skip down to the section about "Koka Samurai in History"

This was one massive update covering most of my castle travels from winter & spring of 2022. I did the research and writing over the summer to release this article in August. Much of the information is not readily available on the web. I made multiple trips to the Kyoto Prefectural library for some additional research in hard to find books. I'm not sure why I did not post this earlier while I did post it on Facebook.

I'm trying to clean up some outstanding updates and profiles from 2022 so expect to see some more updates soon!


 

Hattori Castle (Koka) / 服部城 

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This castle is unmarked and you can easily pass by it from the road if you're not looking for it. As you climb the hill behind the Shingu Shrine, a small trail goes into the woods right before the houses begin. This will take you into the trench surrounding the main bailey. Despite the historical interest in the site, it is not well developed. You'll need to wade through weeds and thick bamboo to see anything. The Shingu Shrine itself is worth visiting. The main gate, a bit farther back down the road, is registered as Important Cultural Property.
 
Higashi Maruoka Castle (Koka) / 東丸岡城

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The castle is directly parallel to Maruoka Castle across the road but there is also a small ravine that makes it difficult to cross. The best way is to go along side the cemetery and climb up and to the left to reach the castle from behind. The embankments at this castle are quite impressive and larger than Maruoka Castle, but the castle itself does not seem to be as well developed with just one main bailey and a small trench and entrance towards the downslope side of the castle only.
 
Jizen Castle (Koka) / 寺前城

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The main Bailey is 20m x 40m
     
Kuraji Castle (Koka) / 倉治城

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A few ruins of the castle embankments are mixed along the borders of several private houses and yards.
 
Maruoka Castle (Koka) / 丸岡城

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At the top of the road just to the right side before the cemetery is a sign for Maruoka Castle. There are no trails but just climb the small embankment behind the sign and you'll soon find the trench of the main bailey. The site is a typical yakatajiro design. It's mostly overgrown but the embankments and trenches are well preserved. Across the road and parallel to Maruoka Castle is Higashi Maruoka Castle. This dual castle type design is also common among Koka Castles.
 
Mikumo Castle (Koka) / 三雲城

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The castle is quite far from the station and a long road up the mountain, but with a car you can get to one of two parking lots very close to the castle entrance. Each of the baileys around the castle seem to be designed to provide great views of a different angle of the plain, Yasu River and Tokaido Highway.
 
Mochizuki Castle (Koka) / 望月城

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The main bailey is 65m x 62m with embankments measuring 8.75m wide at the base and up to 9m in high in some places. It's companion castle Mochizukishi Castle is only 50m away across a small valley but is a distinct castle in the yakatajiro design. Mochizukishi Castle is just across a small valley and it should be considered that the two worked together as one fortification. Today it is somewhat difficult to get from one to the other since there is no good path and with thick vegetation to wade through so you might as well go around. One of my materials from the Koka City has a note glued inside that said that Mochizuki Castle and Mochizukishi Castle are on private property and the owner does not permit strangers on their property. This is probably why there are no signs or trails, unlike most of the other famous Koka castles, and the entrance to each is hard to find. I did not see this before I visited and there are no "no trespassing" signs, but other castle go'ers visit both sites too, so use your best judgment and be respectful.
 
Mochizukishi Castle (Koka) / 望月支城

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Mochizukishi Castle is a little smaller and a little less complex design indicating that Mochizuki Castle is likely to be the main one of the pair. See Mochizuki Castle for more details Mochizukishi Castle was my 400th different castle visited.
 
Murasame Castle (Koka) / 村雨城

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The main Bailey is 30m x 40m with 4m high embankments. Approximately 50m north of the castle is Jizen Castle. Between the two you will find two horikiri trenches and small embankments making it hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
 
Oki Castle (Koka) / 隠岐城

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The Oki group of castles is situated in Northern Koka about a 30 minute walk from Terasho Station to the nearest castle, Oki Castle. I did not have time to visit them all last season but I included their information here to be comprehensive. They will be easy updates when I visit them next season.
 
Okishi Castle III (Koka) / 隠岐支城III

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See Oki Castle for details
 
Shimoyama Castle (Koka) / 下山城

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Shimoyama Castle is a great site with large embankments (approx 3m high) and surrounding trenches that have been very nicely preserved. It looks like they have been working to clean up the area recently because the center is much cleaner than many photos I have seen online.
 
Shimoyama Kita Castle (Koka) / 下山北城

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It was tricky to find the entrance to this one since it was completely overgrown with weeds. Once inside, the structure is obvious but the bamboo is so thick it can be very difficult to navigate. The photos here are of comparatively good spaces. The castle itself is dug from the end of a hill. The embankments are quite high as they just follow the steep hillside. This provides quite a height difference between the highest corner of the embankment and the bottom of the castle. In fact, I started to wonder if I had wandered off the castle site and was just hiking up the hillside. On both sides of the en trance are areas that may have been watchtower foundation (yaguradai).
 
Shingu Castle (Koka) / 新宮城

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Shingu Castle is paired with nearby Shingushi Castle and is one of the largest and best of the Koka Castles. It was designated a National Historic Site in 2008 as part of the "National Historic Sites of the Kokagunchuso".
 
Shingushi Castle (Koka) / 新宮支城

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Shingu Castle is one of the largest and best of the Koka Castles and was designated "National Historic Sites of the Kokagunchuso" in 2008.
 
Takenaka Castle (Koka) / 竹中城

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This is a fun castle to visit and highly recommended. The castle itself is a great example of a Koka yakatajiro. Inside the main bailey of this castle you may notice there are 2 levels. The slightly higher level is difficult to notice because it is mostly piled up with brush in the photos, but it is there. This is actually common in the Koka castles and nicely preserved here. Across the trench there is another bailey that the owner seems to be working on now. In maps from the Meiji Period there may have been two other baileys but they have been developed over since. The grounds are private property, but the owner has expended a tremendous amount of effort to cut back the bamboo and then use the bamboo to make stairs and rails around the castle. It is an impressive feat for us castle fans. He has also had a little fun with it creating little bulls and tigers - probably for the year of bull and tiger from the last two years.
 
Tonoyama Castle (Koka) / 殿山城

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see Wada Castle (Koka) for details. Photos of the lower level baileys are contributed by RaymondW.
 
Tsuyama Castle (Koka) / 津山城

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The only entrance I can find of this castle on any website is through the farmer's field facing the main road. On this day the farmer was planting a freshly plowed field and I could see no way to get to the mountain without going through so I took a pass this time. I tried to circle around the mountain and look for another way in but the only potential path led me to some dead end. A bit of getting lost on the way back out landed me in the middle of someone's flower garden and about 50m or some from where I entered. oops. The photo is of the mountain taken from near the Shimoyama Kita Castle. It looks like there may be some interesting ruins here so I may try it again.
 
Uchikoshi Castle (Koka) / 打越城

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See Oki Castle for details
 
Ue Castle (Koka) / 植城

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Since this if a flat agricultural area most of the site has been developed over. See nearby Yamanaka Yashiki for the Yamanaka's main residence.
 
Ueno Castle (Koka) / 上野城

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This is certainly one of the larger Koka castles. The main bailey is a typical 50m x 50m square, with 6 other large baileys built around outside the main bailey area. Ueno Castle has a particularly interesting feature where the Second Bailey is a leveled ridge that becomes a very long narrow bailey essentially hiding or shielding the castle from the main thoroughfare on the southwest side. Part of the north eastern Bailey was cut away for a highway but the castle is largely in it's original form. For this visit it was rapidly getting dark under the trees in January and I had to considerably lighten the shadows and dark areas of these photos to bring out the details. It is a site I would like to revisit and spend more time at someday.
 
Wada Castle (Koka) / 和田城

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Of the Koka castles that I have visited the Wata Valley seems to be one of the most ideal locations. The Wata valley is fairly deep into the Koka territory but still a practical distance to the more central areas like Lake Biwa, Kannonji Castle, and Kyoto but not as far as Kurokawashi Castle or Ogawa Castle. The Wata Valley is also geographically mostly enclosed making it more easily defensible than some others. The seven castles were each built at the end of a ridge that extends into the valley. Each is a distinct castle built and managed by a different family and not connected to the others.
       
Yamanaka Yashiki (Koka) / 山中氏屋敷

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The castle is about 60m x 70m making it a fairly large Koka style yakatajiro but only a few bits of embankments remain today.
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ARTShogun

23 days ago
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(You haven't linked this page on FB, right? I didn't see it.)
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EricShogun

18 days ago
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no, I posted the original article direct on FB, but not this update. This is mostly as a record and for anyone not following the FB page. I made some minor updates after re-reading it recently but nothing major since I first posted to FB.