Odani Castle

From Jcastle.info



Azai Sukemasa built Odani Castle from 1521-1528. The third generation castle lord, Azai Nagamasa married O'Ichi-no-kata, Nobunaga's younger sister in 1567 to expand his power and influence. Despite that, he turned on Nobunaga in his campaign against the Asakura in 1570. Nobunaga defeated the Asakura and Azai at the Battle of Anegawa in 1570, but was not able to take Odani Castle until 1573.

O'Ichi gave birth to three daughters, O'Chacha (Toyotomi Hideyoshi's sokushitsu), O'Hatsu (married Kyogoku Takatsugu), and O'Go (married Tokugawa Hidetada).

Odani Castle is counted among Japan's Five Greatest Mountain Castles, along with Kasugayama Castle, Nanao Castle, Kannonji Castle and Gassantoda Castle.

Visit Notes
They have really cleaned up this site in recent years (mainly for the NHK Taiga Drama: 'Go-himetachi no Sengoku') making it a very enjoyable castle ruin to visit. The trails are well marked, some trees and brush have been cut back, castle ruins and baileys are very well signposted and the museum is small but informative. Visiting in good weather in the autumn would offer great fall colors but the spring before the weeds start growing will also allow you to see the castle structures more clearly than at any other time.

For the first time visit, I recommend you take the route I did going up the Otemichi through the main structures and then down through the valley. You should plan about 4 hours for this trip but it could be done shorter if you don't take your time. I spent about 5 hours including a lunch break.

At the station is a gift shop where they sell a fantastic booklet (350 yen) including all the artist's renderings and descriptions from the signs at the castle and a great map. They also offer a shuttle bus service to the castle for about 250 yen per person. Ask at the counter if it is available the day you visit.

If you have time you could also visit the ruins on Mt. Toragozen on your way back from the station or you could easily go on to Nagahama Castle in the same day if you've gotten an early start.





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  • Mock gate
  • Demaru Bailey
  • Sign for the Demaru Bailey
  • Demaru Bailey
  • view along the trail
  • artist's rendering
  • Ochaya bailey
  • Oumaya Bailey
  • Oumaya Bailey
  • Umaarai Ike
  • Sakura no Banba bailey
  • Sakura no Banba bailey, west level
  • Looking to Oumaya and Mt. Toragozen
  • Ruins of the Kurogane Gate
  • Akao Yashiki
  • Honmaru stone wall
  • Honmaru
  • Ohiroma
  • Honmaru
  • Large horikiri moat
  • Gate to the Nakanomaru bailey
  • Gate inside the Nakanomaru bailey
  • gate to the Kyogokumaru Bailey
  • Kyogokumaru Bailey and earthen embankment
  • Sannoumaru Bailey
  • Stone walls
  • Rokubo Bailey stone wall ruins
  • Gesshomaru Bailey
  • Horikiri
  • North side of the castle
  • valley of residences
  • Stone walls of the Ohnogi residence
  • Stone walls of the Ohnogi residence
  • Mitamura Residence.
  • Stone walls of the Azai residence.
  • vertical dry moat
  • Map

Castle Profile
English Name Odani Castle
Japanese Name 小谷城
Founder Azai Sugemasa
Year Founded 1524
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Top 100 Castles, Top 100 Mountaintop Castles, National Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features trenches, stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Kawake Sta. (JR Hokuriku main trunk line); 30 mins walk from the station to the museum and trail head
Visitor Information the castle is free, but the museum is 300 yen; closed Tuesdays except on national holidays in which case they close on Wednesday. Also closed 12/28-1/4.
Time Required 4 hours
Website http://www.eonet.ne.jp/~odanijou-s/index.html
Location Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 27' 33.55" N, 136° 16' 37.45" E
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Added to Jcastle 2010
Admin Year Visited 2012
Admin Visits March 20, 2012

(8 votes)
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3 months ago
Score 0++

Odanijō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin in the Odani area of Nagahama Municipality. Ruins feature earthworks and masonry. It took me eight hours to cover, broadly speaking, the whole site. Of course, to survey every single feature would be a near unending task, so my visit was still a relatively casual one. I made two ascents (and descents) of the castlemount, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so as to cover everything.

Odani Castle is actually a network of ridgetop and mountaintop fortifications enclosing a valley. The fortified areas are called 'maru', meaning 'bailey', though outlying baileys are also alternatively referred to as 'toride', meaning 'fort'. To me, and perhaps it doesn't matter much beyond categorisation or making a list - but, the fort on the peak of Mount Odani, Ôzukujō, and the two forts along the western ridge feel like separate forts.

The castle proper, called Odanijō, made up of many baileys, is atop of the eastern ridge. Most of these baileys, unlike the western forts, are contiguous. There is a fort in the north called Gessho-maru, which is sometimes treated as a separate site. However, to me it appears structurally to be an extension of Odanijō proper. That's just my personal opinion. There is a small fort at the very tip of the ridge just above the valley floor, known as the demaru. 'Demaru' means 'detached bailey' and many castles have such detached baileys, so this generally wouldn't be considered a separate fort, though it is quite far south of the main bailey cluster (some non-technical maps seen on signboards at the site make it seem like the demaru is really close to the main castle, but it is not).

I visited Odanijō proper on both of my ascents. The second time I climbed the castlemount I had intended to take the valley route, having gone up the eastern ridge to start and come down by the western ridge, but about half way along the valley I got distracted by a tatebori (climbing moat) which forked into two trenches. I looked at my map and saw this trench, which had several forks, went all the way up to the castle proper. I was intrigued by the trench system and climbed all the way up the mountainside in it! Exploring castle trenches, one feels as snug as a rate in a sewer pipe, but the steep terrain was a constant strain on my calves, which I felt the next day.

I took the opportunity of returning to Odanijō proper to visit the Akao-yashiki site, which is a small spur of the castle, and then I made it to Gessho-maru, which I had by-passed earlier in my determination to get to the peak. Then I descended via the valley route. The morning ascent and afternoon ascent were tonally quite different; the morning was bright and sunny and there were lots of people about, whilst in contrast the afternoon was much gloomier and quieter.

A note on other comments below: I found Kawake Station to be unmanned. The gift shop and rental of bicycles appears to have been discontinued. A map is provided with the purchase of a ticket to the museum on-site. I arrived before the museum opened, but it is recommended that one acquires a map before climbing (I couldn't find any good ones online).


87 months ago
Score 0++

After visiting Hikone i arrived at Kawake station just after noon. I went inside the station to ask if there was a bus for the castle. There wasn't, but he asked me if i wanted to rent a bicycle. Like RaymondW mentioned, you pay 1000¥, but receive 500¥ back on returning the bicycle. I bought also the small brochure mentioned in the notes. The renderings are very well done. I visited the museum at the foot of the castle. After that i took the trail along the honmaru, the Oozuku castle ruins and descended the other way round. I had a lunch with me and ate at the Oozuku castle ruin.

The signs all over the place make it a more enjoyable experience than Kannonjijô, as noted below.


100 months ago
Score 0++
Revisited this castle and Oozuku Castle Ruin at the top of Mt. Odani a few weeks ago. The local authorities have cleared up Oozuku Castle Ruin and chopped down a lot of trees and put up a new sign since my previous visit in 2012. If you don't have a car and want to get to the trailheads of this castle ruin and other nearby Asai castle ruins like Jounoyama Castle, Nakajima Toride, and Yamamotoyama Castle without a warm up walk, you can rent a bicycle with three gears at JR Kawake Station for 500yen / day. You need to put down another 500yen deposit, which is refunded when you return the bike.


148 months ago
Score 0++
Great photos, Eric. Your photos certainly show what Odani Castle Ruin is really like. It is definitely prettier in late November with all the autumn foliage, but if one is after seeing all the fortified ruins such as the stone walls, moats, and earthen embankments clearly, then it looks like March is the best time as shown in your photos. February could be a little early as there is usually still some snow left on the higher baileys obscuring some of the ruins.


154 months ago
Score 0++
Just been to this again today. The autumn leaves are just about at their peak. Some of the older maps of the castle on some big billboards have been replaced by much simpler and clearer maps. The autumn leaves are much better here than at Kannonji Castle, which I visited yesterday.


163 months ago
Score 0++
This is quite an extensive mountaintop castle ruin. As mentioned by Kristy in the notes, another castle fan, you get off at JR Kawake Station. There are some mini-buses which you can take from the station to the Odani Sengoku History Musuem at the base of the mountain where the castle ruin is located. Entry to the museum cost 300yen, but it is worth the price of admission because along with getting to see the few exhibits in the museums and illustrations of the different parts of Odani Castle you get a very detailed topographical map of the whole castle site which identifies and explains 49 features in and around the castle site. I went to Odani Castle in late February. The trailhead up to the castle along the Oute Route (追手道) is about 300m from the museum. This is one of the best signposted castle ruin that I have visited in Japan. It’s a far cry from Kannonji Castle Ruin (another extensive mountaintop castle ruin in Shiga) where practically nothing is signposted. A lot of the signs were very new and a few have not been completed yet with the explanations not mounted on the wooden frames. I think this is the positive flow on effects of the current NHK drama which features Odani Castle. I went in late February and was surprised by the amount of snow left after the big dump of snow in mid-February. I managed to get up to Point 20 on the map, Sannou Bailey (山王丸), the highest point of Odani Castle Ruin. By that time, I was walking in around 30 to 40cm deep snow. Without some decent gaiters to keep the snow out of my hiking boots, I decided not to go on up to the northernmost two baileys of Odani Castle and missed out on the chance to get to the top of the mountain and see another castle ruin, Oozuku Castle Ruin, I think around 0.5km from Sannou Bailey. Also with so much snow, a lot of ishigaki (stone walls) were covered, so I could not even see the “Big Ishigaki” at the base of Sannoumaru. It was also hard to identify some of the gate ruins at the different baileys. I guess I will make another trip to this castle ruin later this year to complete the course and see the whole castle complex. Some of the baileys have had its trees and bushes removed, so visitors can see the full extent of some of the baileys. There is some ishigaki left, particularly up around Honmaru and Sannoumaru. BTW, there are shuttle buses running up to a point near the Banshomaru (番所丸) from the Odani Sengoku History Museum every 30 minutes, but they were not running in February. I guess they only operate them during the warmer and more popular seasons for visiting Odani Castle Ruin. This is a solid two-star site and could be three stars if you treat it as bushwalking with some castle ruins thrown in.

Anonymous user #1

164 months ago
Score 0++
NHK’s current period drama Gou (http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Gou) about the life of Oichi’s youngest daughter features a few battle scenes depicting the siege of Odani Castle. I never treat these shows as the honest truth but they’re good in helping to imagine what could have happened. You can also see some parts of Arato Castle (Nagano prefecture) which they used for the filming location.