Koka Castles Update: 8 new castles and 3 samurai homes
Koka Castles Update: 8 new castles and 3 samurai homes
Over several more day trips this spring I visited 8 Koka Castles and 3 samurai homes to flesh out the Koka Castles article I started last year. The castles of the Ayukawa Valley (see Kurokawashi Castle) and Tsuchiyama Castle are ones that I really wanted to visit last year but ran out of time. The Ogawa Castle set were recommended by RaymondW and were an unexpected nice surprise. I knew about the castles but they are fairly remote and I didn't prioritize them highly. After all they were a fantastic day out and are great additions to the lore of the Koka Samurai.
Finally I visited the Koka Ninja Village to check out the relocated samurai homes of three Koka samurai. There is unfortunately little information about these homes despite the set being registered as a Japan Cultural Heritage. I had discounted the site as another silly ninja theme park until ART brought it to my attention.
From these travels I made some updates to my Koka Castles feature article by adding new photos, videos of Tsuchiyama Castle and Ogawa Castle and some more details to the text of that page. I'm really pleased how these new additions round out the finished article and expand the area covered by the map. With this update I'm going to shelve the Castles of Koka project for awhile as I work on other projects. There are still some pockets of castles around Koka that I would like to visit in the future, but I'm satisfied with how the story of this region has been told. It seems that Koka City is updating their city history book on the castles of Koka so once it has been published it may spark my interest to visit and document new locations too.
In addition to the castle mapped below, also see these samurai homes:
Ayukawa Castle (Koka) / 鮎河城
Kurokawashi Castle (Koka) / 黒川氏城
Ogawa Castle (Koka) / 小川城
Just before the main sign and entrance to the castle there is a small trail that cuts down steeply and narrowly from the castle. This trail actually takes you down to a side bailey and continuing down the ridge from here you will find a subsidiary castle called Ogawa Nakanojo Castle. See Ogawa Nakanojo Castle for more details.
Walking up the main road and fire trail to get to Ogawa Castle is fairly easy, but there was one area where there was a lot of noise in the trees above me and a branch fell near me, then another, and another. Looking up, there was some crazed cackling monkey throwing branches down at me. So, if you go, be careful of crazy monkeys too!
Ogawa Nakanojo Castle (Koka) / 小川中ノ城
Just before the main sign and entrance to Ogawa Castle, there is a small trail down to the side bailey of Ogawa Castle. Out the back of this bailey (on the downslope) you may see a small sign that points to Nakanojo Castle. I have read other accounts that say this "trail" is not recommended because it is steep, slippery, overgrown and somewhat dangerous to follow because it is not clearly marked. Actually, I have seen much worse and did not think it was overly difficult, but if you are unsure, don't take your chances. The trail is not really marked and even in winter you have to make some educated guesses at a couple spots to make sure you follow the correct part of the ridge. I used a topographic map app on my phone to make sure that I was heading where I wanted to. There are also maybe two spots where it was very narrow and a bit slippery.
I finally knew I was on the right trail when I found a horikiri trench along the way which was a huge relief. After this relatively small but well preserved horikiri are two more horikiri followed by a huge horikiri. This last one is very steep, slippery and overgrown making it a bit difficult to scale down and back up again, but once you do, you're now at the top of the huge embankment behind the main bailey of Ogawa Nakanojo Castle.This castle is probably much easier to reach if you start from the town. Just follow the signs from the road side and you can't miss it. On the other hand you will likely miss the horikiri farther up the ridge and miss out out on the castle adventuring enjoyment of having followed the trail that ancient samurai likely used to cross from Ogawa Nishinojo Castle through this castle and up to the mountaintop fort of Ogawa Castle .
Ogawa Nishinojo Castle (Koka) / 小川西ノ城
I thought this was going to be a quick stop at the castle ruins behind the Seikoji temple on the way to catch the bus, but the castle goes on and on with trenches and earthen embankments marking off layers of baileys around the castle. The baileys are often quite overgrown (even in winter) and hard to see but the trenches certainly make up for it. I missed my bus and would have had to wait over 2 hours for the next one so I called a taxi which was fortunately not as expensive as I anticipated and saved me walking a few km back to the station on weary legs.
Behind the Seikoji Temple, the first bailey you will find looks astonishingly like a typical yakatajiro found in Koka. High earthen embankments and a trench surround a roughly 50m square bailey on the end of the ridge. On the eastern side, is a side bailey with similar embankments and trenches just like other Koka yakatajiro. It is likely that this portion was built by the Tsurumi, the predecessors of the Tarao clan. The Tarao then built out successive layers of baileys along with fortifying Ogawa Nakanojo Castle and Ogawa Castle.
On a side note, while I was at the site a group of workmen came and were clearing bamboo and putting stakes in the ground like they were possibly surveying the site. They kept looking at me funny so I walked up and said hi and asked if they were preserving the site. They kind of laughed and showed me where they were going to build a fence through part of the main bailey and cutting off the second bailey. The purpose was to keep wild boars from running into town from this area. So, be warned, you might not be able to see everything in the future!Shigaraki is also famous for pottery and particularly those little tanuki statues you see around Japan. Just walking/riding through town you will see them everywhere. Just outside the station is probably the biggest tanuki of them all and the platform inside the station is lined with dozen of the ceramic critters too. Given more time, it might have been a fun town to walk around, not just visiting castles.
Ohkawarashi Castle (Koka) / 大河原氏城
Takao Castle (Koka) / 高尾城
Tsuchiyama Castle (Koka) / 土山城
Of particular interest are 2 well defined and preserved square umadashi entrances marked as baileys II and V on the map. No other Koka castles have umadashi and it would have been ahead of its time to have these in Omi in the middle of the Sengoku Period. It seems likely that Hideyoshi forces may have fortified the castle and camped here around the time of the Battle of Komaki and Nagakute.
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