New Castles - 3 in Shiga and 1 in Nara castle

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New Castles - 3 in Shiga and 1 in Nara

2024/06/27


This is a mini update covering the castles that have been posted to Facebook but not on Jcastle yet. With this I should be sync'd up with sharing across the two platforms. I will try to update both simultaneously from now.

Tsubokasayama Castle is the main castle in the set of three from Shiga Prefecture also including Ahoyama Castle and Mikoshiyama Castle. Tsubokasayama Castle has thwarted me a couple times when I tried to get there (due to rain or snow) so I was relieved to finally visit this set as my first castle visits of the new year this year. Tsubokasayama Castle in particular has some great stonework ruins to explore.

Shigisan Castle was a giant mountaintop castle on. a thin mountain range between the plains around Sakai and Nara Prefecture. It was also the home castle of Matsunaga Hidehisa. The mountain (and entrance to the castle) is also home to the giant Chogosonshi-ji Temple complex. Take a full day and explore them both!


 

Ahoyama Castle / 青山城 

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Ahoyama Castle is on the opposite side of Tsubokasayama Castle from Mikoshiyama Castle and is what you would reach first if you were taking the main trail up from the town. There is a large cleft in the mountainside that splits the mountaintop Ahoyama Castle from Tsubokasayama Castle. I have read other accounts that say there are no discernible ruins at Ahoyama Castle, but from my perspective I really think some of the largish stones strewn about may be from some stonework remains and are similar in size and shape to those found at Tsubokasayama and Mikoshiyama. There also seems to be a couple small baileys on either side and possibly an obikuruwa Bailey too. I have seen one photo of an illustration of this castle from a seminar in Otsu (?) so I think I need to make a trip to the Otsu City Musuem at some point to see if they have any more materials on both these sites. There is no actual trail up to Ahoyama Castle. Some don't recommend trying it but I managed. Just find a place to scramble up the side and once you hit the ridge it's not so bad. Regarding the name Ahoyama Castle, old records say「あほ山」without kanji so it was likely originally ahoyama. It seems that at some point it was given the kanji 青山 which would be read Aoyama but I really did not dig into the history of the name any more.
 
Mikoshiyama Castle / 神輿山城

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Following along the ridge from Tsubokasayama Castle you can easily reach Mikoshiyama Castle. It has one central bailey at the mountaintop and some smaller sub baileys or flattened areas along the ridge leading towards Tsubokasayama Castle. It also has two small bits of stonework remnants. I think I missed one, but caught it on the edge of one photo.
 
Shigisan Castle / 信貴山城

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The main part of the castle is probably the north facing side which has countless terraced baileys going down the mountainside along at least 4 ridges that radiate out from the mountaintop. the widest and largest middle ridge held what's called the "Matsunaga Residence" but we don't know for sure if he ever lived here or not. This area of the castle is well signposted with clear and easy trails.

Across the small valley is another ridge running parallel all the way down. At the bottom of the ridge point there is a actually a bit of stonework ruins. This is not a stone walled castle and given the location I suspect the stonework is for fortifying it against erosion close to the stream bed. I was pretty happy to find this bit of stonework. Other bloggers and castle explorers have not been able to find it or at least not on their first try! Coming down that ridge from the top is technically off limits, but I didn't know that since I started from the bottom after crossing the valley and stream. Being off limits is unfortunate because it has some huge baileys, nice dorui and kirigishi to excite any mountain castle fan.

The west side entrance of the castle also has an intricate system of baileys, earthworks and a single trench that may have doubled as a road into the castle. Despite it's vast size and mountain location, I found it interesting that there were relatively few of the typical mountain castle structures like trenches or moats (horikiri, tatebori, yokobori) or more earthworks besides the few piled embankments around the edges of some of the baileys. Perhaps that's why it was defeated so easily!

Unfortunately, the site is so forested over that these few modest photos will not do it justice. The castle had a main bailey at the top of the mountain with a small tenshu like yagura that may have inspired Nobunaga to build a similar but much larger tenshu at Azuchi Castle. Although this story is also attributed to Hisahide's Tamon Castle in Nara too.

I put 3 hrs for a good tour of Shigisan Castle, you could spend more or less time depending on how much you want to go up and down the mountain findings the different ruins. I actually spent a little over 4 hrs here.

Many websites and materials tell you to take a bus to Shigi Sanmon Bus Stop (信貴山門). Shigi Ohashi (信貴大橋) is actually closer and will save you time in the end. They also say you should stop at the tourist information center to get a good map before assailing the castle. I was there a little early and waited for them to open, but they had no maps left! The south side of the castle which is where the bus stops is actually the well known Chogosonshiji Temple complex. If you go, plan to spend a full day and visit this splendid temple complex too. If you have a few minutes to burn before the bus arrives grab some of the yomogi yakimochi from the vendor by the info center. They were great!
 
Tsubokasayama Castle / 壺笠山城

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I was thwarted 3 other times that I tried to visit for snow or rain. It is not one of the easier castles to find either since it is not marked on maps and even the trail goes right by it without pointing out the castle. You need to find the purple ribbon marked trees along the trail and just start climbing finding your way up the last 50m or so of elevation. The rest of the trail goes on to the top of Mt Hiei (or Yumemigaoka) so don't miss it! I've heard of others trying to reach the castle only ending up at the top of Mt Hiei. Check the photos and GPS locations below so you can find the right place too. The castle itself is mainly one bailey at the top of the circular mountaintop (which was also the site of an old kofun burial tomb). Around the main bailey are a few partial koshiguruwa or obikuruwa baileys and two entrances to the castle. Around these side baileys you will find most of the stone wall remains. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of stonework and ruined walls scattered about the site. The central bailey is also the site of a kofun. There is a kofun park along the main trail to the castle and many other kofun ruins along the way too.
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