There were three main passes over Mt. Hiei from Lake Biwa: Yamanaka-goe, Shiratori-goe, and Nyoi-goe. Each of these had multiple checkpoints along the highways. Some of these were simple but others were more like castles or developed into castles as they were involved in the conflicts for control of Kyoto. Nyoigatake Castle's origins may have begun as such a check point but it is not clear. The castle itself was built into battle ready castle in 1469 during the Onin War by Taga Takatada. Nyoigatake Castle remained one of the important castles of the Kyoto basin. It appears in accounts of most battles involving Kyoto including the Battle of Nyoigatake Castle (1509) between Hosokawa Takakuni and Hosokawa Sumimoto, the 1558 Battle of Kitashirakawa between the Ashikaga and Miyoshi, 1570 skirmishes between the Asai/Asakura and Oda forces and naturally the 1572 Siege of Mt. Hiei. The castle was likely abandoned after this point.
You would be forgiven for thinking Nyoigatake Castle is on top of Mt. Nyoigatake. I made the same mistake. It is on top of Mt. Daimonjiyama, where you see the big 大 character that is visible from many places in Kyoto and they have the bonfires for o-bon. That also makes it a much easier hike than trying to go all the way to Mt Nyoigatake (I've hiked that trail too!). Originally this part of the mountain was also considered to be part of Mt. Nyoigatake, thus the castle name. I suspect they made it into a new mountain after they started the gozan no okuribi tradition. Once you reach the 大 character keep following the trail another 15 minutes to the top of the mountain. You'll be rewarded with even more great views of the city and you will be standing in the main bailey of Nyoigatake Castle. I think the city has really missed a great opportunity to introduce this fantastic castle site and bit of history to hikers. Despite the extensive documentation and signposting along the Kyoto Trail and many other attractions along this route, (including Kirarazaka Castle and Shogunyama Castle) Nyoigatake Castle does not get mentioned even though it is a much more interesting site.
This was a throughly enjoyable mountaintop castle ruin. The Yokobori trench that encircles much of the main and second baileys is remarkably preserved. The eastern edge of the second Bailey has a double trench running from the trail down the side of this outer Bailey. On the downward slope side of the mountain away from the trail there are several terraced baileys too. Before you reach the peak of the mountain and the main bailey from there are two narrow dobashi with tatebori run-ins down the side. They are easy to miss on the way up but once you're familiar with a map of the castle it's easy to identify on the way back. Along the trail at the ridge of the mountain past the main Bailey there are two locations where the trail cuts through earthen embankments. When I first saw these it was my first sign that I was at the castle, exploring from here you should easily find the rest.
|English Name||Nyoigatake Castle|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Access||45 min hike from Ginkakuji|
|Visitor Information||mountain trails, open any time but unmarked|
|Time Required||75 mins|
|Coordinates||35° 1' 10.60" N, 135° 48' 42.41" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2022|
|Admin Year Visited||2022|
|Admin Visits||June 3, 2022|
|Friends of JCastle|
|Kojodan - Nyoigatake Castle|
|Shirobito - Nyoigatake Castle|