This castle was built as a "tsume-no-shiro" to Kunaishoyu Castle to protect Kyoto from any force that might try to sneak over Mt. Hiei and attack the city. It is a large castle built alongside the "Shiratori-goe" road that crossed the top of Mt. Hiei as a shortcut between Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture (modern day Sakamoto). Several other castles also lay along this route including Shogunyama Castle, Ipponsuginishi Castle and Tsubokasayama Castle. The exact route is not known today but can be guessed from historical records and the position of these castles.
The castle was expanded by the Asakura / Azai forces for exactly the same purpose it was built to prevent, their combined threats on Kyoto in 1570. The castle area itself has some relatively even ground around it compared to other parts of the mountain range nearby and could hold many troops for attacks. It is likely that the Asakura forces based at Ichijojiyama Castle launched attacks on Northern Kyoto, burning parts of modern day Ichijoji, Matsugasaki and Shugakuin, from here. The Shiratori-goe highway eventually gave way to a new highway developed by Nobunaga called the Shiga-goe road after he removed the threat of the Asakura/Azai alliance.
The castle can be approached by several of the hiking routes around Mt. Hiei as part of the "Kyoto Trail" that circumnavigates Kyoto. Unfortunately, it is not near the entrance of any of them so expect a long mountainous walk. The route I took started from Shugakuin Station and went up the Kirarazaka Hiking trail, which is the famous Mt. Hiei climbing trail that starts from the Kyoto side of the mountain. Along the way up the mountain, you will run into Kirarazaka Castle, which is actually a satellite fortification of Ichijoji Castle, protecting the northern side and roughly parallel across the valley from Matsugasaki Castle. From just beyond Kirarazaka Castle, you need to take a small path off the Mt. Hiei climbing trail that goes south along the Kyoto Trail (see photos at the end). It is well marked if you watch for it. Another 20-30 minutes hiking will bring you to Ichijoji Castle, but it is completely unmarked so you really need a good map and some guesswork to find out where the castle ruins are. The trail actually runs along side the castle maybe 10m-20m above the trail at the top of the ridge so you need to find a good spot to climb up. My first guess was probably too early and ended in nothing but heavy undergrowth and no discernible castle remains. Eventually I found a good path up and when I double back I realized I was just a few meters from the beginning of the castle in my first attempt anyway! I explored around here for awhile until it was starting to get dangerously late in the afternoon for a long walk back to civilization. There are some trenches and embankments along the ridge but some of the tatebori and vertical trenches on the map I had (近畿の城郭 IV) were unrecognizable today.
On the way back, I first tried to take the shorter side trail down to the Manshuin Temple, but about 1/3 of the way down it was too washed out and slippery that I deemed it too dangerous to go on and walked the long way back around Kirarazaka and Kirarazaka Castle back to Shugakuin Station. By this time it was dark.
This castle should not be confused with Ichijoji Enryakujiyama-jo (Ipponsuginishi-jo), which is a mistake I have seen a few websites/bloggers make and caused me some grief figuring out the different castles and their relationships/histories. Ichijoji Enryakujiyama-jo is another castle along the Mt. Hiei mountain range that I will try to find this spring.
|15th C. (?)
|Pre Edo Period
|Shugakuin Station (Eizan Railway); 90 mins walk
|mountain trails, open any time
|35° 3' 8.82" N, 135° 48' 49.50" E
|Added to Jcastle
|Admin Year Visited
|October 24, 2021
|Friends of JCastle