Kuniyoshi Castle

From Jcastle.info

Kuniyoshijou (1).JPG


Although an earlier fortification built by the Sagaki Clan had existed on the site, Kuniyoshijō was constructed in 1556 by Awaya Katsuhisa, a vassal of the Wakasa-Takeda Clan. The castle was positioned between the Takeda's main base at Nochiseyamajō (Obama), and acted as an important line of defence against encroachment from the neighbouring province of Echizen. Between 1563 and 1569, the castle withstood attacks and sieges by Asakura Yoshikage of Echizen. In 1570, Kuniyoshijō supported Oda Nobunaga, helping to facilitate his invasion of Echizen. During the Echizen campaign, Awaya Katsuhisa was able to rescue his old lord, Takeda Motoaki, who had been taken as a hostage in 1568 by the Asakura. Oda Nobunaga exterminated the Asakura in 1573, and the Awaya would become his vassals, leaving Wakasa to serve him elsewhere.

From 1583, following the death of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi appointed Kimura Sadamitsu as lord of Kuniyoshijō, and a small jōkamachi (castle town) developed at the foot of the castle mount with a hundred buildings. In 1587, Asano Nagayoshi became the lord of the castle. Eguchi Saburōemon and Asano Heiuemon acted as castellans.

In 1600, Kyōgoku Takatsugu became lord of Wakasa, and his vassal, Tada Koshinaka, was made castellan of Kuniyoshijō. In 1604 a large fire ravaged the castle town. Around 1615, Kuniyoshijō was abolished following the Ikkoku-Ichijōrei, an edict by the Shogunate which saw many smaller castles and forts abandoned and demolished. However, in 1634, when Sakai Tadakatsu became lord of Wakasa, ruling from Obamajō, the Sagakichō-Bugyōsho, an administrative centre, was founded at the base of the castle mount south of where the castle's kyokan (residential area) used to be. This bugyōsho was upgraded in 1803 and became Sagaki-jin'ya. Stone walls and even a relocated gate remain from that facility.

Visit Notes

Kuniyoshijō can refer to a multispatial, multilayered historic site centred on the ruins of the medieval mountaintop castle of Kuniyoshijō. The castle itself is medieval in origins, playing a prominent role locally during the Sengoku period. At the foot of the castle mount was where Awaya Katsuhisa, lord of the castle, had his residence. The castle's kyokan (residential area) was quite vast, but the centre of the yakata (fortified manor hall), Awaya-yakata, appears to have been northwest of the Edo period bugyōsho (magistrate's office) / jin'ya site. Awaya-yakata and Kuniyoshijō formed a typical jōkan complex of a manor hall with a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) defending it and acting as a fortified redoubt in times of conflict. The foot of the castle mount later played host to several proto-modern facilities, and the ruins of these are located nearby and adjacent to those of the medieval ruins.

Kuniyoshijō is on the list of 'Next Top 100 Castles' and 'Top 100 Yamajiro'. I walked there from Mihama Station. The ruins at the foot of the mountain or hill in the case of many yamajiro are often negligible, but Kuniyoshijō is a busy site in terms of history. The lower ruins are at least half of the reason to visit this site. I'll cover each portion of the site separately.

As for Kuniyoshijō itself, it is a yamajiro with many baileys. There is evidence of ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) near the main bailey at the top of the castle mount, though much of the masonry has long since collapsed. Other features include gate complex ruins and dorui (earthen ramparts). One significant portion of dorui is at the rear of the main bailey; it is thought to have been a yaguradai, a base for a tower. Another interesting dorui formation can be found dividing a pair of lower baileys to the southwest. To the northwest there is a long spur made up of consecutive baileys. As I was a bit pressed for time I didn't explore them in detail, though I could see to the very end by going down to the middle bailey. The terracing here is impressive, and I could make out the masugata(square)-shaped depressions in the earth which once served as gate sites.

Related Sites:

Awaya Yakata

Sagaki Jin'ya

Junhanshi Yashiki

Obama Castle

Nochiseyama Castle

Ichijodani Castle

  • Masonry remains around ramparts
  • Horikiri (trench)
  • Bailey spur and deep trench
  • gate ruin
  • Dorui in lower bailey
  • Main bailey
  • Remains of masugata gate

Castle Profile
English Name Kuniyoshi Castle
Japanese Name 国吉城
Founder Awaya Katsuhisa
Year Founded 1556
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Next 100 Castles, Top 100 Mountaintop Castles, Local Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Artifacts Ishigaki, Dorio, Kuruwa
Features stone walls, castle town
Visitor Information
Access Mihama Sation on the Obama Line; 30 minute walk to trailhead
Visitor Information 24/7 free; mountain (museum closed in winter)
Time Required 180 minutes
Location Mihama, Fukui Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 36' 53.17" N, 135° 57' 52.92" E
Loading map...
Added to Jcastle 2023
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Jōkaku Hōrōki

(2 votes)
Add your comment
Jcastle.info welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.



11 months ago
Score 0++

It’s good to see this informative castle profile up on JCastle. Judging from the photos, it looks like not much has changed since this yamajiro made it to the “Next Top 100 Castle” list. This is a good castle to visit in Fukui Prefecture with many features that Japanese castle fans love to see. ART has done a good job of listing them in the profile here. For castle fans who visit this castle, it is worthwhile making sure you have enough time to visit all the parts of this castle properly. I spent over 3 hours on site when I visited in 2015. If you head down those terraced baileys on the northwest side, you can get some nice photos of the layers of the baileys’ dorui and steep slopes of the preceding baileys. As ART has pointed out, there is a masugata gate ruin down there. Actually, there are the earthwork remains of two uchimasugata gates down there at two of those baileys. For the final bailey of the set, you can walk down the dorui to get down there. There are some old bear claw marks on several of the trees, too, so I guess the bears are also fans of this yamajiro ruin.

One thing missing from the nice snowy photos uploaded here is one of the flat foundation stones for the columns of a wooden gate, which had once guarded the way into the Main Bailey. This foundation stone along with some ishigaki remnants have been obscured by the snow in ART’s photos.

The trail up to the Kuniyoshi Castle is very well maintained with park-like stairs for a trail leading up to the castle ruin. There is an outlying bailey which acted as an outpost about two-thirds of the way up the mountain. It protected the way up to the main set of baileys at the top of the mountain. That “outpost” bailey, or Second Bailey according to Saeki Tetsuya in his books, has a kuichigai gate ruin in the middle of bailey. You can see it in one of Adam’s snowy photos labelled “Dorui in lower bailey” on this castle profile. It is likely that this bailey guarded the way up to the mountaintop castle from a different path to the modern one up to the mountaintop castle. This makes sense as the original path would have led up to that bailey, passing through the kuichigai gate, before continuing up to the baileys at the top of the mountain.

This is an enjoyable yamajiro to visit, but it does take some time to get there by JR trains if you’re coming from one of the major metropolises like Kyoto, Nagoya, or Osaka.


11 months ago
Score 0++
Thanks for the comment and clarifications. In hindsight the timing of my trip to Wakasa was a little suspect, and i'd certainly relish coming back here when there's no snow to have a more exhaustive look at all of the ruins. Kuniyoshi was one of the main reasons i wanted to get down here, even though in terms of castle ruins exploration i actually ended up enjoying Nochiseyama more.