Shigisan Castle




Kizawa Nagamasa built Shigisan Castle for the Hatakeyama to fortify the Yamato region and control the Shigi passes over the mountains that led to Sakai and the sea ports. in 1542, Kizawa Nagamasa was defeated at the Battle of Taihei-ji. The castle was burned down and abandoned. Matsunaga Hisahide took control of the Yamato area in 1559 and rebuilt the former castle, significantly expanding and fortifying it from the days of Kizawa's control.

Shigisan Castle was taken in battle by Hisahide's rival Tsutsui Junkei in 1568 but was soon recovered by Matsunaga. The castle's final battle would come in 1577. Hisahide allied himself with Nobunaga but in an uneasy alliance. Hisahide fought with Nobunaga against the Miyoshi but also betrayed Nobunaga and briefly allied with the Miyoshi when it seemed that Nobunaga's rivals could potentially defeat him. When things turned against them so did Hisahide who switched back to Nobunaga's side. Hisahide and Nobunaga had another falling out when Hisahide withdrew his support at the battle of Ishiyama Honganji. Possibly due to these events and Hisahide's refusal to gift a coveted teapot to Nobunaga, he attacked Shigisan Castle and defeated Hisahide in 1577. Hisahide killed himself and destroyed the teapot before he could be captured. The castle was abandoned at this time.

Visit Notes

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!

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Castle Profile
English Name Shigisan Castle
Japanese Name 信貴山城
Alternate Names Shigi-jo
Founder Kizawa Nagamasa
Year Founded 1536
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Local Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features trenches, stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Oji Station (JR Yamatoji Line), 20 min bus to Shigi Ohashi bus stop
Visitor Information mountain, open 24x7, but may be some limits if you enter through the temple complex
Time Required 180 mins
Location Heguricho, Nara Prefecture
Coordinates 34° 36' 52.09" N, 135° 40' 9.12" E
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Added to Jcastle 2024
Contributor Eric
Admin Year Visited 2024
Admin Visits March 10, 2024
Friends of JCastle
Shiro Meguri Fan
Jokaku Horoki
Japan Castle Explorer

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28 days ago
Score 0++
My fiefdom for a teapot!