Ohtsu Castle

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Toyotomi Hideyoshi abandoned Sakamoto Castle in 1586 and ordered Asano Nagamasa to build a new castle at Otsu. It was likely built to protect the port, goods shipped across the lake and as a storehouse for rice tributes. It's hardly any distance away and Sakamoto Castle would have been a much better castle so you might say it was simply out of spite that he abandoned Mitsuhide's castle at Sakamoto. Kyogoku Takatsugu became lord of the castle in 1595 and defended it in the Battle of Sekigahara.

In 1600, Kyogoku Takatsugu sided with Tokugawa Ieyasu. During the Battle of Sekigahara, Ohtsu Castle was besieged by Western Army forces numbering around 15,000 led by Mori Terumoto and Tachibana Muneshige. The castle's garrison, which numbered around 3,000 soldiers, razed the surrounding town before the battle so that the besiegers could not use the townhouses as cover. Commanders Akao and Yamada defended the castle for a week but the attackers brought cannon to bear against them. The second bailey fell to General Tachibana, and Lord Kyogoku surrendered the castle. According to some accounts, the commotion of the battle could be heard from neighbouring Kyoto, and curious city dwellers climbed up to Mt. Hiei to have a gander, with some even bringing bento (lunch boxes) and piqueniqueing whilst watching the siege!

A courageous defense by Kyogoku and his allies kept the Western forces occupied from October 13-21, preventing them from joining the fight at the Sekigahara battlefield. On the 21st, Kyogoku surrendered and became a monk at Koyasan. Tokugawa Ieyasu was victorious at Sekigahara, and so Takatsugu had lost the battle but not the war. He was subsequently granted with territory around Obama Castle in Wakasa Province, valued at over 80,000 koku. Although much of Ohtsu Castle was destroyed during the siege and it was abandoned after the war, it is said that some of the castle's buildings, including parts of the main keep, were relocated to Zeze Castle and Hikone Castle when those castles were constructed, with Zeze Castle replacing Ohtsu Castle very nearby. Based on findings at Hikone Castle, it is speculated that Ohtsu Castle had a four-tier, five-storey bōrōgata-style tenshu (main keep).

Visit Notes

Very little remains of Ôtsujō, a once mighty castle. On what was once the edge of the castle's main bailey on the lake front is a park with a marker for the castle. There is actually an underground carpark here, next to the Ôtsu Marina, with some modern ishigaki (stone walls) built around it as part of the park above. However, there are no castle ruins here. Fortunately, some small trace of the Ôtsujō's structure does remain, and this can be found at a place which was once part of the castle's sotobori (outer moat). On eitherside of the Hikiyama Parade Float Museum there are parking areas. Here we can glimpse a segment of original ishigaki which runs for about 50m behind the buildings here. -Visit notes by ART 2021

This flatland lakeside castle has been completely developed over. I suppose how long you spend on this site also depends how desperately you want to find something to see. The main stone monument for the castle is on the edge of the Honmaru near the station. Most of the land you see between here and the lakeshore was actually filled in. In the nearby shopping arcade (10 mins way) a segment of stone wall runs behind a few buildings and glimpses of it may be seen in one of the parking lots. Unfortunately, the day I visited there was actually a truck parked there blocking part of the view. It looks like the building next to it has some stonework too, but it's not really visible. Along the way, you may also find a bit of mock stonework on one of the street corners and there are various maps on signs around town telling you what part of the once castle was there. It's only worth the effort if you're maybe passing through, visiting Miidera or other attractions nearby. -Visit notes by Eric 2022, also updated photos and history

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  • Mostly fill-in of the lake but part of the Honmaru

Castle Profile
English Name Ohtsu Castle
Japanese Name 大津城
Founder Asano Nagamasa
Year Founded 1586
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition Ruins only
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Biwakohamaohtsu Station on the Keihan Ishiyama Sakamoto Line; 1 minute walk
Visitor Information Free; 24/7; Park
Time Required 30 minutes
Website https://www.biwako-visitors.jp/spot/detail/875/
Location Otsu, Shiga Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 0' 43.42" N, 135° 51' 51.16" E
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Added to Jcastle 2021
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed, 2022
Admin Visits December 28, 2022
Friends of JCastle
Shiga Shiro Expo
Shiro Meguri Fan
Jokaku Horoki

(2 votes)
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16 months ago
Score 0++

I went to the site of Otsu Castle’s main bailey back in 2011, and there was nothing there. Even walking around 150 metres in all directions, I found no traces of any extant ruins. Every trace of this lakeside castle seemed to have been subsumed by modern Otsu. I had not included this castle site on my tally of castle visited for many years because I did not come across any ruins during my first visit. However, last summer on my way to Miidera to check out some relocated buildings from Fushimi Castle, I stumbled across the remnants of the sotobori ishigaki that ART and Eric have written about and shown in the photos here.

As Eric has mentioned in the notes above, Otsu Castle ruin, well, at least the remnants of the sotobori ishigaki is worth visiting only if you are on your way to Miidera. It is along the shortest and easiest route to Miidera on foot from JR Otsu Station via a covered street mall.