Ochaya Yashiki

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Ochaya-yashiki was constructed in 1609 by Tokugawa Ieyasu. He had been busy developing the national road network after his victory over Ishida Mitsunari, and needed a place to stay when travelling between Edo, his new main base, and the capital, Kyōto, as well as his old realm of Mikawa. Ochaya-yashiki was handsomely constructed, essentially a small scale castle, with moats, ramparts, turrets and a gatehouse, as well as living facilities. It is said that the yashiki was built with 61 buildings relocated from Oda Nobunaga's palace at the foot of Mount Kinka (Gifu Castle). I don't know who had been maitaining the palace since then, however, and what remained of Gifujō was repurposed for the construction of Kanōjō. Ochaya-yashiki was used three times by Tokugawa Ieyasu, and also by Tokugawa Hidetada during the summer campaign at Ôsaka.

Ochaya-yashiki was built just west of the Akasaka-juku, a shukuba (inn town), one of many being built up since the start of Tokugawan hegemony dawned on Japan. Daimyō also stayed at these inn towns at special inns called honjin (main inns) on their way to and from Edo. In 1628, Okada Yoshiatsu, a hatamoto (bannerman), took over Akasaka, and the yashiki was decommissioned. Many buildings were demolished and the site was largely abandoned; by 1635 only the palace remained. The goten-ochaya system was formally abolished in 1689. By the Meiji period the site had become farmland.

Visit Notes

Ochaya-yashiki is a unique Edo period fortification site in Akasaka Township, Ôgaki Municipality. The site's name means 'Teahouse Residence'; have you ever heard of a fortified teahouse? The explanation for this site, and the reason for its creation, is somewhat obscure even to fans of Japanese history.

Students of the samurai will have heard of the sankin-kōtai (alternate attendance) system whereby samurai lords and their retinues were compelled to spend a year living in Edo and a year living in their domains. The purpose was to keep a perpetual strain on daimyō finances due to the expense of travelling and maintaining dual residences, as every lord who had a castle in his own domain had several townhouses in Edo, and the cost of journeying to Edo and back every other year was considerable. Handing over effective control of their domains to a deputy also undermined daimyō power even within their own realms. Furthermore, their wives and children lived permanently in Edo, making them perpetual hostages.

In order to facilitate sankin-kōtai, shukuba (inn towns) popped up along major trade routes. These shukuba supported special inns like safehouses for daimyō to stay in whilst on the road. This is well known. What is much less well known is that in the early Edo period, until 1689, the Shogunate maintained its own parallel system of palatial compounds and safehouses for the shoguns to stay at when travelling between Edo and the capital, Kyōto. Large compounds were called goten (palaces) and smaller safehouses were called ochaya (teahouses). In 1689 this infrastructure was considered superfluous since the shoguns were no longer keeping up pretences by visiting Kyōto, and the goten and ochaya were decommissioned - though some goten would become castles, like Minakuchijō in Kōka.

Ochaya-yashiki in Mino Province, despite being a humble teahouse, was relatively well fortified with four towers and a gatehouse, and the remains of karabori (dry moats) and dorui (earthen ramparts) can still be seen today. It is therefore special among ochaya, and even goten, for the extent to which it was fortified, and for its extant ruins.

It should be noted that, at least according to Wikipedia, whilst goten and ochaya were distinguished in eastern Japan, with goten being for longer stays and ochaya being fort shorter stays, the two facilities were often conflated in western Japan. So maybe the Ochaya-yashiki should be properly considered a goten afterall.

In 1949 half of the site was demolished for the construction of a school, but the remaining half, including moats and ramparts in the north, east and south, survived, and the site is now a park and peony garden open to the public. It was designated as a protected historical site in 1976.

There is a handsome thatched-roof gate at the entrance of the garden. I visited before the brief peony-blossoming season, but instead found many other flowers, such as camellia, cherry blossom, daffodils, tulips, and so on. I was particularly attracted to the garden's 'mosscapes' which were bespeckled and mottled by sunlight creeping through foliage.

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  • Karabori (dry moat)
  • Dry moat and embankments
  • Entrance to garden
  • Dorui with karabori below
  • Gate site
  • Dorui

Castle Profile
English Name Ochaya Yashiki
Japanese Name 御茶屋屋敷
Founder Tokugawa Ieyasu
Year Founded 1609
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations Prefectural Historic Site
Historical Period Edo Period
Artifacts Karabori, Dorui, Kuruwa, &c.
Features trenches
Visitor Information
Access Mino-Akasaka Station on the Mino-Akasaka Line; 4 minute walk; or, Higashi-Akasaka Station on the Yōrō Line; 30 minute walk
Visitor Information 24/7 free; park
Time Required 30 minutes
Website https://www.city.ogaki.lg.jp/0000019630.html
Location Ôgaki, Gifu Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 23' 20.47" N, 136° 34' 47.53" E
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Added to Jcastle 2024
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Jōkaku Hōrōki
Kojōshi Tanbō

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