Kitanosho Castle (Omi)
This history of Kitanoshōjō is near non-existent. That is to say that even though a lot of stuff may have gone down here, history does not know of it, and we are left only with theories. It is, for example, a theory that the castle was built in the 1570s, and that, based on its structure, it was built to garrison thousands of soldiers, but that, due to rough working of some of the ramparts, the castle was not fully completed and was instead abandoned after a short time period. Further, the scale of the earthworks suggests this later date, and that it may have been the intention of the castle's builders to incorporate stone walls into it if they had the time. One theory is that the castle was built by Rokkaku Sadayori as a branch castle of Kannonjijō. Another theory is that Mano Yukinori, sixth son of Sasaki Tsunekata, built Kitanoshōjō as his new headquarters after establishing the Inui Clan, but this would mean a much earlier origin (Heian period or just after). It is also speculated that Oda Nobunaga may have made use of the site after his conquest of the province but there are no historical documents to verify this. Generally speaking theories put the castle's time period, at least the structure we see today, in the late Sengoku period due to its advanced structure. Another mysterious feature of the castle are its six ponds, thought to have been built as a reservoir system. It's amazing that such a large (and possibly relatively recent) site is so obscure to us.
Kitanoshōjō is as mysterious as it is vast, and this sense of size and mystery is compounded by the site's general inaccessibility owing to it being incredibly overgrown. Only the hiking trail that runs through the site and along the length of its western ramparts is maintained, and much of the rest of its ruins are obscurred by flora and foliage. Yet, perservering, I was able to identify some key features. Unfortunately it is not possible to follow the large ramparts which ensconce this site all the way around, but if one could, one would find them encompassing a modest upper bailey, and a sprawling lower bailey. The latter lower bailey is very large and is terraced and segmented into various sub-baileys. Some of these smaller baileys are themselves surrounded by dorui (earthen ramparts). In the middle of the lower bailey are six circular ponds which used to be wells - I suppose they're pig wallows now.
Kitanoshōjō is one of those rare types of yamajiro (mountaintop castles) in which the ridges of the mountain themselves have been moulded into towering ramparts. Both upper and lower bailey complexes are accessed via masugata koguchi (box-shaped gate complexes). There are two peaks along the ridge in the north, one to the west and one to the east, and these would've made ideal platforms for towers. Parts of the ridge are bisected by deep horikiri (trenches).
The history of the castle is not well understood, and it is on the same mountain as Ōmi-Hachimanjō with its impressive stone walls, and so this poor neglected site goes unloved, but it is fascinating and really ought to be better maintained (to that end some clear sign posts from Ōmi-Hachimanjō would be a good idea). Kitanoshōjō can be accessed via the trail which runs from the northern bailey of Ōmi-Hachimanjō and right through to the opposite side of the mountain, or from a trail which climbs up from Kitanoshō Shrine, Kitanoshō Village, which is where I descended.
|English Name||Omi Kitanosho Castle|
|Year Founded||Muromachi Period; Sengoku Period|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Artifacts||Dorui, Kuruwa, Dobashi, Karabori, Masugata-Koguchi, &c.|
|Access||Hike down from Ōmi-Hachimanjō or up from Kitanoshō Shrine|
|Visitor Information||24/7 free; mountain|
|Time Required||60 minutes|
|Location||Omi-Hachiman, Shiga Prefecture|
|Coordinates||35° 8' 59.17" N, 136° 5' 9.56" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2022|
|Admin Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|
|Friends of JCastle|
|Oshiro Tabi Nikki|