Nagaharajō was originally built as the fortified residence of the Nagahara Clan in the Muromachi period after their previous residence, Kaminagaharajō (Kaminagahara Castle), was destroyed by a flood. The Nagahara Clan were vassals of the Mabuchi Clan, then the Rokkaku Clan, then Sakuma Nobumori, a vassal of Oda Nobunaga, who became castellan of Nagaharajō after the defeat of the Rokkaku in 1568. It seems the Nagahara had been in secret communiqué with Oda Nobunaga before his invasion of Ōmi and betrayed the Rokkaku. Nagaharajō was expanded into a large hirajiro (flatland castle) during the Momoyama period with four baileys surrounded by earthworks, and a jōkamura (castle village) spread around it, housing retainers.
In the Edo period the old castle found new life as a goten (palace) of the Tokugawa shoguns used by them for lodging when travelling between Edo and Kyōto. Nagahara-goten, built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, was made up of three large baileys. There was a yaguramon (gatehouse) guarding the entrance to the honmaru (main bailey) on its southern side. The Shōgun would typically stay at Nagahara-goten the night before arriving at Fushimijō in Kyōto, and the palace hosted the Shōgun ten times between 1601 and 1634, after which Tokugawa Iemitsu dispensed with visits to the Imperial Court. Nagahara-goten was abolished in 1686 as the old network of goten (palaces) and ochaya (inn used exlusively by the Shōgun and his entourage) had became a burdensome and needless cost.
Nagaharajō was extensively surveyed and excavated between 2017 and 2018. Several structures from the palace survive but have long been relocated off-site. The main gate of the temple of Jōsenji in the neighbouring village of Ebe is said to be a relocated structure from the castle. The shoin (drawing hall) at Ashiura-Kannonji is a relocated part of the palatial hall from Nagahara-goten. It is a rare example of surviving architecture from an ochaya-goten, and has been declared a national treasure. Nagahara-goten is also interesting in its capacity as a large scale earthworks castle (without stone masonry) in the early Edo period. For other goten sites in Ōmi see Iba-goten (Iba Palace) and Kashiwabara-goten (Kashiwabara Palace) (Minakuchijō (Minakuchi Castle) was another goten site but was subsequently used as a castle (id est, the centre of a domain)).
The ruins of Nagaharajō include mizubori (water moats) and tall dorui (earthen ramparts). Access to the site is now mostly restricted but there are monument stones and an explanation board. The main bailey is ensconced by dorui and a mizubori on three sides, but there were two other baileys besides and I suspect i found the remnants of more earthworks at a shrine in the surrounding village.
|English Name||Nagahara Castle|
|Founder||Nagahara Clan; Tokugawa Ieyasu|
|Year Founded||Muromachi Period; 1601|
|Castle Condition||No main keep but other buildings|
|Designations||has National Treasures, National Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Artifacts||Mizubori, Dorui, Kuruwa, Relocated Buildings (Shoin, Gate)|
|Features||water moats, trenches|
|Access||Yasu Station on the Biwako Line; 42 minute walk|
|Visitor Information||Access Limited|
|Time Required||40 minutes|
|Location||Yasu, Shiga Prefecture|
|Coordinates||35° 5' 28.75" N, 136° 2' 5.35" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2022|
|Admin Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|
|Friends of JCastle|
|Oshiro Tabi Nikki|