Kannonji Castle

From Jcastle.info

Kannonji14.jpg

History

It's not known exactly when this castle was built but the oldest records show it existed as early as 1335 and was probably built by the Sasaki. At one point during the Onin War the castle was turned over to the Ashikaga for a short term.

The Rokkaku rebuilt much of the castle during the Sengoku Period, but they gradually lost power and the castle was abandoned. In 1560, Rokkaku Yoshikata lost an important battle to the Asai Clan. The execution of Goto Katatoyo in 1563 created much dissention among the Rokkaku retainers. When Nobunaga took control of the region in 1568, the Rokkaku were simply swept aside and they fled the castle. After Nobunaga built Azuchi Castle just a few kilometers away, Kannonji Castle was most likely abandoned but some stories say it was still used in a minor capacity.

The original castle nearly covered the mountain with baileys, stone walls and earthen walls. It was one of the most extensive mountaintop castles built.


Visit Notes

From Azuchi Sta. rent a bicycle and get a map that will show you how to get to the Kuwanomi Temple (桑實寺), itself an important cultural property. From there it's a beautiful walk up a stone paved mountain path to the main part of the castle. It's almost a 60 min walk straight up so wear good shoes and be prepared.

This was one of the most fun castle sites that I've visited. I like castles and hiking so this was perfect. There are ruins scattered all over the mountaintop in varying states and some of the trails are not well marked. Even though it was a fairly busy day with many people visiting the temples and enjoying some autumn hiking in the good weather, there were trails that had no people on them too. I will definitely go back sometime, with a better map and take my time exploring all the ruins. Despite the long time I spent there, I think I still missed some things even in the areas I did visit.


安土駅前で自転車を借りると観音寺城への地図がもらえます。桑実寺から歩き始めるのが一番良さそうです。桑実寺も重要分解材です。お寺から等城跡までは徒歩役60分です。道は石段の多いちょと険しい道ですが、歩きやすい靴を履いていきましょう。

観音寺城は今まで最も楽しいお城の一つでした。ハイキングも好きだし、お城も好きなので最適です。山中の所々に石垣がいろいろな状態で残っていて、一部の道もわかりにくいです。この秋晴れの日に登山と紅葉を楽しんでいる人も多かったけれど、誰もいない道もありました。面白くてまた行きたいと思います。今度はもっと詳しい地図を持って、ゆっくり回りたいです。


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Gallery
  • Hirai Bailey Entrance
  • Trail to Kuwanomi Temple
  • Trail to Kuwanomi Temple
  • Stone walls of Kuwanomi Temple
  • Trail from the temple to the castle
  • Horikiri type dry moat
  • stone walls near the well
  • Honmaru entrance stone walls
  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Honmaru entrance stone walls
  • Hirai Bailey stone walls
  • Hirai Bailey stone walls
  • Hirai Bailey stone walls
  • Hirai Bailey stone walls
  • Path to the Ikeda Bailey
  • Ikeda Bailey stone walls
  • Ikeda Bailey stone walls
  • Ikeda Bailey
  • Ikeda Bailey stone walls
  • Ikeda Bailey entrance stone walls
  • Path outside the Ikeda Bailey
  • Path outside the Ikeda Bailey
  • Stone stairs to the Sannomaru Bailey
  • Stone walls
  • Stone walls
  • Path on the mountain
  • horikiri
  • Stone walls
  • Awaji Bailey stone walls
  • Awaji Bailey
  • Awaji Bailey stone walls
  • Mt. Kinugasa
  • Uzumimon ruin, Hirai Bailey
  • Stone walls (大石垣)
  • Stone walls (大石垣)
  • View from "Big Ishigaki" bailey
  • Stone walls
  • Stone walls
  • Stone walls
  • Stone walls next to a path ruin
  • Stone walls, one of the smaller baileys
  • Stone walls
  • stone walls, site of a gate ruin
  • Two-tiered stone walls


Castle Profile
English Name Kannonji Castle
Japanese Name 観音寺城
Founder Sasaki clan
Year Founded 1335 (?)
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Top 100 Castles, Top 100 Mountaintop Castles, National Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features trenches, stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Azuchi Sta. (JR Tokaido Line)
Visitor Information If you enter or exit through Kuwanomi Temple you'll need to pay the admission fee of 300 yen. Hours are 900-1630.
Time Required 4 hrs
Website http://www.town.azuchi.shiga.jp/tourist/01.html
Location Azuchi, Shiga Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 8' 43.58" N, 136° 9' 46.55" E
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Admin
Added to Jcastle 2007
Admin Year Visited 2011
Admin Visits November 26, 2011


2.64
(14 votes)
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RaymondWHatamoto

5 months ago
Score 1++
@ART. Shiga is my “castling backyard”. I’ve been exploring castles here for over 17 years. I’ve been to scores of castles in Shiga, many of them multiple times. Ones like Azuchi, Hikone, Kannonji, and Omi-Hachiman, I have been a dozen times or more. A lot of the castles that I have sussed out in Shiga are not up on JCastle (yet). I know Eric will start filling in that void soon. I might help out (add some profiles) when I have time and after I finish writing up my second set of Okinawan gusuku profiles. Good on you for hitting Omi-Hachiman Castle again and appreciating Hidetsugu’s Palace ruins at the base of the mountain. There are 3 or 4 major layers of stone-lined terraces with more smaller stone-lined terraces lower down the slope, all hidden in the dense bamboo forest there. Like Kannonji Castle, there are multiple trails up the mountain. Actually, there are four trails up to Omi-Hachiman Castle from six trailheads that I’ve started from or finished at. I’ve been to Hyakusaiji Castle once back in 2015, but I should re-visit it as I know I haven’t seen all of this castle ruin yet. Top photos that you’ve added to the Hyakusaiji Castle profile. Back to Kannonji Castle, it’s a little-known and much under-appreciated gem of a yamajiro that outshines most of the mountaintop castles that I have visited. It’s great that you’ve become (hopefully) an admirer of this fantastic yamajiro.
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ARTShogun

5 months ago
Score 0++
Yes, it's an incredible site. I'd love to see some more of the sites in your backyard!
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ARTShogun

6 months ago
Score 1++

@RaymondW

Yes! I believe you know the place I'm referring to. You really know the site well. That creek area was beautiful and peaceful. I also returned to Omi-Hachiman on the same trip (another day), and found the amazing tiered ishigaki segments of the Kyokan area for the first time. Azuchi Castle I am yet to revisit but would like to. Eric was telling me how they've found even more parts of it, including more ishigaki. By the way, although I've only been once - albeit more recently - I'd also recommend Hyakusaiji Castle, which seems uncommonly vast. I still have not made a full reconnaissance of the site.
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RaymondWHatamoto

6 months ago
Score 1++

@ART. Everyone, including me, is usually not worthy in properly appreciating the immense scale of Kannonji Castle on their first visit. Good on you for re-visiting Kannonji Castle. Welcome to the small club of dedicated castle fans who have been to this castle at least twice and can (start to) appreciate how great this yamajiro ruin is. It’s way more impressive than many other yamajiros that I have visited. The tatebori you mentioned, sounds like the one that runs down to the Otemon route, the “remnants” of which can be found along a creek now. It is located between the trail up to the “Big Ishigaki” Bailey and the well-maintained path to Kannonshoji Temple from the Ishidera side of the Mt. Kinugasa.

I have been to Kannonji Castle over a dozen times, and I know I still haven’t seen everything yet. You can ditto that for its neighbour, Azuchi Castle. Omi-Hachiman Castle, which is a few kilometres away, also requires multiple visits.
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ARTShogun

6 months ago
Score 0++

I see I am referred to in a comment below. Well, it just so happens that I visited Kannonjijou last month, and I wrote a brief description at that time which will serve as rectification here, so I reproduce it below ^^"

'Counting from Kuwaminodera I spent over six hours at Kannonjijō, a goliath castle ruin. This was my second visit, but the first time I came I basically only visited the honmaru! I wasn't worthy at that time (2016). But now! The ruins of Kannonjijō are immense. The main feature is its incredible ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) which can be found throughout the whole site. It seems that there has been an effort recently to provide access to more areas of the castle, but even so many ruins remain hidden in dense overgrowth. Going off the trail I came across many segments of ishigaki, including portions of nobori-ishigaki (climbing ramparts), in the series of terraced baileys beneath Kannonshōji. I climbed via a tatebori (climbing moat) through a dense thicket of bamboo. Who knows how many more secrets these ruins have! Even though there is a highly visible segment of ishigaki called the 'Big Ishigaki', this scenic bailey's ramparts are not so much taller from many other ramparts I came across throughout the site. Highlights include the cyclopean ramparts of the Hiraimaru, the Dai-ishigaki of one of the lower sub-baileys of the Ikedamaru, and the dorui (earthen ramparts) formed from the mountain peak and its ridges which act like a sort of spine for the castle.'
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RaymondWHatamoto

8 months ago
Score 0++

After posting my long comment about Kannonji Castle, I thought I would back it with some photographic evidence. I've added a dozen photos to this castle profile to show how much there is actually to see at this massive mountaintop castle ruin.

Eric, when you re-visit this yamajiro and get to some of the lesser-known and visited baileys shown in my photos, please replace my photos with yours. It is your website, so all the photos for a castle that you have visited should be your photos. I have only uploaded these photos because I feel Kannonji Castle deserves to be better appreciated by castle fans.
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RaymondWHatamoto

8 months ago
Score 0++

Kannonji Castle is an impressive Sengoku Period yamajiro that is seriously underrated by many Japanese castle fans. One castle fan posted below that if it wasn’t for the fact that it was close to Azuchi Castle, he probably would not have visited this castle ruin. Another castle fan just mentioned Kannonshoji and Kuwanomidera without saying much about his experience at this yamajiro. This is one of those yamajiros which can seem underwhelming for a castle-hunter based on their first or even subsequent visits if one does not properly research this castle and spend multiple visits delving into its many overgrown and hidden baileys.

I’ve been visiting this castle almost every year since 2008. There are multiple trails up to this castle: three from the Azuchi Castle side including the one up from Kuwanomi Temple, one trail from Sasou Castle, and at least four trails from the Ishidera side of mountain. There are also two asphalt roads for cars going up the mountain, too. Going up and down the different trails will take the castle fan to different sections of the castle. Also, one needs a very detailed map of the castle if you really want to suss out this castle properly and visit its scores of baileys. Unfortunately, even with a detailed map, most of the baileys are still unlabelled with no name assigned to them.

There have been some changes at this castle ruin over the years. Kannonshoji started charging 500yen in 2015, but it used to be free. The uzumimon at the Hirai Bailey collapsed after the massive typhoon that struck Kansai in 2018. Lucky for castle fans, there is still one more uzumimon intact at Kannonji Castle. A section of long continuous ishigaki (大石垣), supporting one of the bigger baileys and visible from Shinkansen trains, was cleared in recent years. Since 2017, this bailey has tall metal flag poles planted there flying large banners with 観音寺城 (Kannonji Castle) written on them. Up until 2016, you wouldn't have noticed the big ishigaki because it was hidden by lots of trees. Most of the trees around the ishigaki (stone walls) were not cleared until 2017 and later. There are also Japanese maple saplings planted in the last couple of years at this bailey to improve the aesthetic appeal of the site in future years. In the meantime, some baileys have become more overgrown while others have been cleared. In my most recent visit in autumn last year, one bailey near the “Big Ishigaki” bailey with the flagpoles, has had all its undergrowth cleared and a section of ishigaki stretching around 15m x 2m is now clearly visible. On previous visits, this bailey was fairly overgrown. While Takatori Castle is the most impressive Edo Period yamajiro that I have visited, Kannonji Castle takes the prize for a Sengoku Period mountaintop castle, particularly when compared with other Pre-Edo Period castles that has stone walls. It has lots of stone walls scattered all over Mt. Kinugasa including some long continuous sections spanning more than 20 metres, gate ruins, earthworks, and an unusual two-tiered stone wall in one spot with a longer base jutting out an inch or two from the rest of the stone wall. Eric, the website owner and administrator, has uploaded a good selection of photos for this castle from his 2011 visit, but there are even more baileys with ishigaki to be discovered for castle fans willing to visit this castle multiple times with a detailed map.
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FurinkazanHatamoto

67 months ago
Score 0++

I saw a model of the kuruwa of this castle in the Shiga Prefectural Archeological museum. This was a very impressive castle. But today it isn't. I went through the Kuwanomidera grounds(fee still 300¥). But after the temple, the trail likes abandoned. There are fallen trees across it. From recent rainfall some sections of the stones are washed away. In some places i was literally walking in a small creek. Then i arrived at the hon no shiro and made a tour around it. I saw the signposts with the names of 4 baileys, including the hon no shiro. There were several other kuruwa, but without names. Since i got a map at the bicycle rental, with only the names of the 4 signposted kuruwa, i couldn't make out which was what.

I saw nobody on this site. It was a very big contrast with Azuchijô. If this site wasn't in the proximity of Azuchijô, i would probably not have gone.
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ARTShogun

72 months ago
Score 0++
I did it backwards it seems: i went first through kannonshoji and then exited via kuwanomidera, costing 800yen in total. Going via kuwanomidera and retracing your tracks is best.
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Anonymous user #1

85 months ago
Score 0++
Since September 1st 2015, entering the Kannonshoji Temple costs 500 Yen. If you come from the Kuwanomiji Temple, visit the castle and then arrive at the Kannonshoji Temple, you can visit it for free but you will have to pay the 500 Yen if you decide to go out the temple (cross the reception desk) and takes the stairs. If you turn back to the castle after visiting the temple you won't have to pay the 500 Yen.
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Anonymous user #1

112 months ago
Score 0++

I appriciate That It is known by foreigners!

It's not known so much in Japan.
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Anonymous user #1

132 months ago
Score 0++
I absolutely loved visiting this castle. I went in february and I didn't encounter a single soul during the hours I was there, which was pretty magical in itself. I took the route up the mountain via Kuwanomi dera, but I had no idea of the entire layout of the castle so I only really saw the honmaru. However, on the path from the honmaru to the Kannonshoji temple, there was a small overgrown trail on the left that went to the very top of the Kinugasa mountain, which offerend one of the best views of lake Biwa, mount Azuchi and a whole lot more. I plan to go back as soon as I get back to Japan. A highly recommended castle site!
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RaymondWHatamoto

136 months ago
Score 0++
There are some proper trails linking the major baileys. The bigger baileys on the southwestern side like Ikedamaru (signposted) and Hiraimaru (signposted) plus the Honmaru (signposted) are easy to get to, but the ones on the northern side, with the exception of Sangokumaru and Awajimaru, are not signposted. On the trail (parts of it a bit overgrown in summer and with lots of spiders) running along the northeastern ridgeline of the castle site, it is fairly easy to make out a number of baileys from the trail. For those thinking of hitting this yamashiro ruin, I recommend doing it in late autumn to early spring when all the undergrowth has died back a bit, and the spiders are not out in force. This is not a popular castle ruin (probably hasn't featured in a NHK drama yet.) In the four hours that I was there with my GF, we only came across five other people visiting the castle ruin and none of them on the northeastern trail.
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Jcastle.oldHatamoto

136 months ago
Score 0++
Thanks Raymond. Are there proper trails through all those baileys? Are they at least well mapped and marked?
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RaymondWHatamoto

136 months ago
Score 0++
Went back to this castle ruin again today. I have now visited all the major baileys at this site, but there are still scores of overgrown minor baileys that I may have missed. This castle ruin has the potential to at least rival if not better than Odani Castle Ruin as it has lots of ishigaki (stone walls) around the major baileys built by the Rokkaku Clan after they took over the castle from the Sasaki Clan. This castle site is definitely worth a visit for the yamashiro fans, but you need to give yourself at least 3 hours to enjoy this vast castle ruin. I spent over 4 hours there today. It is a little overgrown in parts and not very well signposted.
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RaymondWHatamoto

139 months ago
Score 0++
No worries, mate. I have benefited from other people's experience and insights at some castle sites here on Jcastle. It's cool that people are sharing their experiences of visiting castle sites here. There are plenty of Japanese blogs about castles in Japan, but this is one of the few websites in English for those of us who like Japanese castles but aren't so proficient in the language and thus find it hard to get info about castles sites.
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A22cricketAshigaru

139 months ago
Score 0++
For RaymondW, thanks for the info. about the map. Also thanks for the great details you put up about the area. They were really helpful.
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RaymondWHatamoto

139 months ago
Score 0++
a22cricket, glad you like Kannonji Castle Ruin and found my description helpful. You can also get the Meijo 100 stamp at Kuwanomi Temple. I'll probably go again in autumn as I know that I have missed some of the baileys at this massive castle complex on my earlier visits.
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A22cricketAshigaru

139 months ago
Score 0++
Kannosho-Ji is North of the Honmaru. My mistake, banish me to the dungeon.
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A22cricketAshigaru

139 months ago
Score 0++
Went to Kannonji on June 7th with the intention of visiting Omi Hachiman later in the day. Big mistake. Kannonji definitley deserves a full day. You could sneak in some of the museums in town or Azuchi castle the same day if you have a bike, but I was walking and checking out parts of the town I haven't been to. The route I took was from Kuwanomi-Ji which is built on the stone walls and staircases of the old castle. At the top of the stairs is the temple (300 yen admission) and the path to the immediate right leads to the old main gate and location where the tower used to be. The complete path from the bottom to the top down the other side is much longer than I expected, about three hours or more ( I wasn't keeping a watch on time). Just outside the main gate is a staircase with the well located nearby, per Raymond W.'s description which is what I was using for a guide. Continuing south is Kannosho-Ji which has the 100 best castles of Japan stamp inside the main hall. Also nearby are restrooms and vending machines. This temple is also built on the old walls and stairs. There is also a great view of the plains and mountains from here. I would definitely recommend a full day.
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RaymondWHatamoto

143 months ago
Score 0++
I went to this castle ruin on the last weekend of February. It’s my second visit, but this time armed with a better map found on a Japanese website, I was able to suss out most of the castle site. As mentioned above by the site administrator, it is quite a sprawling complex. However, a lot of is overgrown and hard to find. Unlike Odani Castle Ruin in northern Shiga, the baileys at Kannonji are poorly signposted. Only the Honmaru (本丸) and Hiraimaru (平井丸) have any signs. I was able to identify the following baileys with certainty based on the map that I had: Honmaru, Itoumaru (伊藤丸), Hiraimaru, and Ikedamaru (池田丸). These are all located in the northern part of the castle ruin. I think I also found the Sawadamaru (澤田丸), but I could not be 100% sure. The other baileys like Sangokumaru (三国丸), Shindomaru (新藤丸), and Sanimaru (三井丸) in the central and southern parts of the castle ruin were really hard to identify. I did come across some other baileys, but I could not reconcile them with what I saw on my map. If you want to see ishigaki (stone walls), there are ample remains in the baileys that I found on the northern side. To get to the Itoumaru (Itou Bailey), you need to get off the regular trail and trample through the bush above the Honmaru to get there. The two times that I have been to this castle, I have gone there by bicycle from JR Azuchi Station. I brought my own foldable bike, but you can easily rent one at a shop in front of the station. I accessed this castle from the Kuwanomi Temple (桑實寺) trailhead. Entry into the temple is 300yen. If you go to Kuwanomi Temple, the path that leads up to it about a third of the way up the mountain can be found about 500-600m from the museum which houses the reconstructed top two floors of Azuchi Castle. This certainly beats cycling 5km+ to the trailheads on the other side of the mountain. The path from Kuwanomi Temple will eventually take you to the gate ruin that leads into the Honmaru. Just before you go into the honmaru, you will find some steps leading down the hill on your right. Go down these steps, and you will find the remains of a well and more ishigaki. I did not notice this the first time that I went to Kannonji Castle. This castle ruin is not for everyone, but if you like your castle ruins, are happy with just seeing some ishigaki, stone stairs and some earthen banks, and like going bushwalking, then this is a great place to spend three or four hours. BTW, there is a lot more ishigaki left here than at Odani Castle Ruin, but Odani is much better signposted with each major bailey clearly marked and explained.
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Anonymous user #1

146 months ago
Score 0++
I got really very lost cycling to Kannonji from Azuchi – the man at the bicycle rental had given me about 7 different maps but they were all quite small for the area covered and the sign-posting wasn't so great. In any case, I walked my bike up a long, tortuous road and when I got to a toll gate the two women inside told me it would take probably another hour if I went this way. (At least the way back down was easy). If you are going by bicycle probably the easiest way is to go via Ishi-dera Raku-ichi, a site commemorating the free market system started there in the 15th century, (where the 100Meijo stamp is; they also sell local produce and food souvenirs). Quite near here there is a giant sign on the hillside with an arrow pointing to the ruins.