Spring Cleaning and 8 new castles
Spring Cleaning and 8 new castles
I keep plugging away at updates to the site but it's been awhile since I updated this news feed so it's about time I do so before I lose track.
First, there is some clean up. I fixed a number of display oddities around the site (that you may not even notice!) and improved the display and caching of sub galleries connected to a castle profile. This was necessary for the updates I did to Edo Castle and Himeji Castle.
I have over 100 photos connected to Edo Castle and the page would time out or not load all the photos, so I reorganized them into sub-albums roughly organized by areas around the castle. Sadly, I also realized I have a lot more photos/locations I need to add someday! (someday)
For Himeji Castle I stalled adding some new sub-albums for the same reason as Edo Castle, but now that the sub-albums problem has been fixed I added new albums for the 2 of the special exhibits I went to over the past year, updated 1 with new photos, and added albums for the middle/outer moats and some kokuin I've started to identify around the castle.
- Himeji Castle - To Yagura and Karamete Limited Exhibition
- Himeji Castle - Hishi Gate Limited Exhibition
- Himeji Castle - Small Keeps Special Exhibit
- Himeji Castle - Middle Moat
- Himeji Castle - Kokuin
Second, I split up a few castles that had been combined into one previously.
Kazurayama Yakata is a huge Fortified Manor site and makes a great yakata/mountain redoubt combination with Kazurayama Castle. I also took the opportunity to renew the photos for both sites adding more photos and higher resolution ones from my photo collection.
Nakaara Castle was split from Tsuwano Castle. Nakaara Castle is located at the end of the ridge line, about 20 mins walk from Tsuwano Castle. Unfortunately, there is very little to see through the undergrowth today, but it is an important site as the precursor and a fort of Tsuwano Castle. I also added a few more photos for Nakaara Castle than what were associated with the Tsuwano Castle profile. I have some great photos of Tsuwano Castle and I would like to add some more and higher res ones again some time, but there are just too many other things to get to right now.
I also split Keirozan Castle from Tatsuno Castle. Even the Hyogo Prefecture website lists them separately and they are quite distinct and not contemporary fortifications so it makes sense. Naturally I added some more photos and higher res versions of what was there already. They have done some work around the top of the mountain and I have some better maps now so it is one castle that I'd definitely like to revisit sometime along with Tatsuno Castle and the castle town.
Apart from the new castles below I also added an album of photos for a mostly overlooked section of Azuchi Castle along the eastern ridge of the mountain and outside the paid admission area. There are brilliant stone walls hidden in the woods around there so check it out Azuchi Castle - Eastern Baileys.
This is not everything from my 2023 travels yet. I still have another dozen or so sites to add and a couple projects in the works from last year to keep me occupied through the summer months too!
Completely New Castles:
Eboshigata Castle / 烏帽子形城
If you walk to/from the Mikkaichicho Station you will also pass through the Mikkaichi-juku a post town along the old Koya Kaido highway. There are several old buildings and rebuilt buildings to give the street some atmosphere of the old post town.
Goryu Castle / 五龍城
The castle itself was the home castle of the Shishido clan, a top retainer of the Mori from nearby Koriyama Castle. It is in a great location where a spear of land sticks out into the plain. The castle starts at the point of the spear and follows the narrow ridge to the top of the mountain. Japanese sources split it into 3 sections, but I will call it two. The first section is quite easy. Leveled areas rise in steps along the ridge until the main bailey (honmaru). There are a few side baileys and stonework and broken or loose stones scattered throughout the site. The trail is fairly good and there are signs labeling each bailey. Most of the sign posts are rotten and the signs have fallen over so those you see standing here I actually stood up against a tree for the photos.
On the far end of the honmaru is a huge dorui (earthen embankment) with a small stone retaining wall at the base. Beyond this bailey is one of the biggest horikiri I've ever seen. I question if you can call it a horikiri at all. They just carved off the side of a natural valley between two peaks to make it even more steep. From here there are no signs nor trails. Most visitors stop here and go back, but I knew from maps there was more to see.
Here starts the second part of the castle. I tried three different paths to get down this horikiri, including doubling back and trying to get across it at the same elevation as other baileys. The most reasonable route was to angle diagonally down the side slowly. The bottom of this horikiri was so muddy my boots kept getting stuck and the only good way through was to try to walk on fallen trees and branches. Thank goodness for good hiking boots or I may have lost them! The other side of the horikiri was not much better. It's obvious that you need to go up to the top of the ridge but it seemed too slippery and steep to walk up so I tried to angle around the hillside staying at roughly the same elevation. I knew there were some more stepped baileys around the side that I might be able to use to get up more easily. Around the bottom of this huge trench are some possibly flattened areas and tatebori running down the hillside. After 2 or 3 more false starts (slippery muddy areas) I found a passable trail around the side (possibly a game trail, it was covered with many hoof prints from deer or boar) which indeed took me to the baileys I hoped to find. These started quite nicely and only got better as I scaled the mountainside. There were bits of stonework around the entrances to some of the baileys and once you got into them the ground was comparatively easier to navigate. Climbing through 3 or 4 of these smaller baileys landed me near the top of the ridge where there are three long baileys to the top of the mountain. The furthest has another big earthen embankment which drops down an even bigger cliff like horikiri. I did not attempt to scale down into this since it is the end of the castle anyway.
On the way back I took the steep ridge straight down into the horikiri where I started. Surprisingly this ridge did not look as bad from the top and I really did not want to double back the long way around again! It was better than expected and along the way was a double horikiri which only seems to be marked as a single horikiri on maps, so this was an exciting discovery. By this time, I had already spent 4 hours on site and once I scaled the big horikiri back to the honmaru it was a quick walk back down to the trailhead.The first part of the castle alone could be highly recommended for any mountain castle fans, but the second section beyond the honmaru is for serious enthusiasts only. I had mud caked shoes and pants, and scrapes and bruises to show for my efforts! The fact that it rained for 2 days before I visited probably did not help.
Kameyama Castle (Kii) / 亀山城
You often see this castle called the tsume-no-shiro, or mountain redoubt, paired with the Komatsubara Yakata down on the plain, but this is a much later development. The mountain castle is much older and far more well developed than any typical mountain redoubt and plains castle pair. The Komatsubara Yakata was built in the mid 1500s.The castle is not far from Gobo Station and can be visited along with Tedori Castle in one day if you plan train timings carefully. There are few trains going between Gobo Station and Wasa Statio (for Tedori Castle).
Kimura Castle / 木村城
Ohtsu Castle / 大津城
-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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