Nakao Castle (Yamashiro)




Nakao Castle was built by Ashikaga Yoshiharu after he was forced to leave Kyoto by Miyoshi Nagayoshi in an effort to take back his place in Kyoto. Yoshiharu died of illness the following year and his son Yoshiteru and chief vassal Hosokawa Harumoto took control of the castle. The castle was attacked by the overwhelming forces of Miyoshi Nagayoshi in 1550. Yoshiteru set fire to the castle and fled to Sakamoto. Miyoshi forces finished the destruction of this short lived castle.

It is often claimed that Nakao Castle is the first documented castle to have been fortified against gunfire. The walls were built as dual layered walls with a filler of stone inside to prevent gunfire from piercing them. However this comes from the Anouki (穴太記), a military history, written by an anonymous person close to the Ashikaga so this fact may have been embellished. If such walls were built we think there would have been some remnants today on this mountaintop which would have been relatively undisturbed since.

On an adjoining peak to the northwest of Nakao Castle, and at a lower elevation, is Ohyama Dejiro. Ohyama Dejiro was likely built to help fortify against attacks coming from the Yamanaka-goe pass (see Castles of Kyoto). From visiting both castles, Ohyama Dejiro is a little more spacious and not confined to the narrow ridge of the top of the mountain so perhaps it may have also been an encampment for more troops than what would have been possible in Nakao Castle.

Visit Notes

Nakao castle is comprised of several narrow baileys running along the top ridge of a mountain overlooking Kyoto. When you are walking along the ridge the various baileys seemed to make sense, but looking back at the photos it's a bit hard to see/remember the difference between which is which. There are also a couple horikiri trenches and some slight embankments which helped separate some of the baileys. Naturally this should be visited along with Ohyama Dejiro.

It seems there may be just as many ways into this castle as there are bloggers looking for it. Unfortunately, these trails are mostly unmarked even on the most detailed maps, so go with caution.

There are trails all over this section of the Higashiyama area of Nyoigatake and Daimonji but the trails are mostly unmarked on maps or on the mountainside. I took what seems to be the most common and direct route into the castle. The (unmarked) trail branches off shortly after you start the hiking trail for Daimonjiyama going behind the Kyoto Korean School. It's a bit steep but (at least in winter) it is a much clearer and easier trail than I was expecting from reading some other accounts. I did tempt this one last summer too but backed out due to high weeds and intense mosquito bombardment. Going this route will first take you to Ohyama Dejiro on the way to Nakao Castle. If you follow this trail to Nakao Castle you end up around the middle of the castle. Visit the left part, double back and visit the right part and at the end you'll find the trail down to the dam on the lower end of the Daimonjiyama hiking course and an easy walk back to Ginkakuji.

A second common route is to use the unmarked trail a bit farther up the path to Daimonji that goes to either the left or right of the dam. This is the trail I took coming down. The way down was unplanned. It just seemed that at the end of the castle, a trail going down this side of the mountain made sense. I did not know where it would end up. A third common route is to go almost to the top of the Daimonji trail to a point of higher elevation than Nakao-jo and break off on another unmarked trail to go back down into Nakao-jo. I have not conclusively identified where this trail is after 2 climbs of daimonji either so probably the one going behind the Korean School is the best. Around the castle area I identified at least 2 other likely trails coming up from the other side of these mountains into the castle too (one of which may have come from Daimonji) but I suspect the route described above would be the best. That being said, I did run into some people coming down (perhaps from Daimonji) but did not see anyone else going up the route I took so take any advice with a grain of salt!

In the photos below you will see the "Sennin-zuka". This is a popular resting point along the way up Daimonjiyama. This stone marker is a memorial to soldiers who died in the Battle of Nakao Castle. During WWII the Japanese army was digging in around here and found countless bones. They were thought to have been from the Battle of Nakao Castle so this stone memorial was placed here to honor them.

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  • Look closely to find the signor the castle
  • Senninzuka
  • Sign near the Daimonjiyama Trail entrance
  • Look for a trail off to the left in front of the sign

Castle Profile
English Name Nakao Castle (Yamashiro)
Japanese Name 中尾城
Alternate Names Nakaoyama-jo
Founder Ashikaga Yoshiharu
Year Founded 1549
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features trenches
Visitor Information
Access [[Access::60 min hike from Ginkakuji passing through Ohyama Dejiro]]
Visitor Information mountain, open anytime
Time Required 30 mins
Location Kyoto, Kyoto
Coordinates 35° 1' 42.78" N, 135° 48' 11.92" E
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Added to Jcastle 2022
Contributor Eric
Admin Year Visited 2022
Admin Visits Dec 19, 2022
Friends of JCastle
Kojodan: Nakao-jo
Jokaku Horoki: Nakao-jo
Shirobito: Nakao-jo

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25 months ago
Score 0++
Apparently there's also a 大山出城 further down the ridge. Might be a satellite fort!


24 months ago
Score 0++
yes, it is a satellite castle