Spring Cleaning and 8 new castles

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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.

  1. Himeji Castle - To Yagura and Karamete Limited Exhibition
  2. Himeji Castle - Hishi Gate Limited Exhibition
  3. Himeji Castle - Small Keeps Special Exhibit
  4. Himeji Castle - Middle Moat
  5. 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


Some years ago when I visited the Takatsuki Castle and the nearby info center there was an exhibit of the best or most interesting Osaka Castles which featured Eboshigata Castle. Since then I always wanted to see for myself what these trenches and earthworks looked like. They did not disappoint. The center of the castle is basically the Honmaru and Ninomaru baileys surrounded by two or three layers of trenches. Overall the site was a little smaller and more compact than I expected but the layers of trenches and earthworks make for many photogenic angles. The ridge is kind of an S shape with the honmaru in the middle. Along the curve of the western ridge you will also find a couple horikiri trenches and then two further detached baileys, the West Bailey (西出郭) and the Baba Kuruwa (馬場郭) with additional small ones around them. The eastern end has an old kofun but the relatively flat area on this end of the ridge makes me think it may have been used as a detached bailey to watch the eastern side too. In the middle of the curve between the main bailey and west is a large flattened area partway up the mountain which is a municipal pool today but may have been a large bailey for living quarters or troops.

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


This one was on my original Hiroshima plan for several years ago when I visited Koriyama Castle, but it was temporarily off limits due to downed trees, some washed out areas and unstable ground following a large typhoon. When I got the chance to go back to Hiroshima recently I made it a top priority to visit. It exceeded my expectations and I'm glad I had another chance to go. In hindsight, it probably would have been impossible to do this castle justice along with Koriyama Castle in one day anyway.

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


This is a fairly large mountain castle with concentric rings of stepped baileys along the sides of the mountain. From illustrations on the site, it looks to be have been very well developed. Unfortunately only 4 baileys right around the top have been cleared for castle fan to enjoy today, including high earthen embankments around tyhe main bailey. I tried to get into a couple more baileys around the top that look like they might have other castle remains but they were too overgrown to see anything. Over the years the stepped concentric baileys were used as mikan orchards and the structure of the original baileys have largely been destroyed.

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


No castle like structures have been found on the site and the castle was likely more of a fortified residence than a castle. The exact location and size is unknown but the right angle shape of 2 canals seems to be the likely site of the castle. Many other artifacts dating to the Sengoku Period found here also indicate it was a well used site. Most of the photos below are of the canals of Azuchi town but it seems appropriate to put them here for the connection to Kimura Castle and because they may have been used, in some part, by each of Azuchi Castle and Kannonji Castle
Ohtsu Castle / 大津城


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
Shobata Castle / 勝幡城


The diorama is in an enclosure just outside the Shobata Station and is definitely one of the better models I've seen. The castle is roughly a ten minute walk away. This is probably the only castle where I've taken more photos of the diorama than the castle site itself. Despite some potential historical importance it is hard to recommend this site to any but the most die hard fans. Shobata Castle suffered the same fate of most flatland castles and was the victim of altering the course of rivers and development and modernization erasing it from the modern landscape. I dropped by on the first day of a trip to Nagoya but unfortunately it rained all the next 2 days so this was the only castle I ended up visiting on the trip. After filling up on miso katsu, miso nikomi udon and some unagi I went home early.
Tedori Castle / 手取城


Tedori Castle is a fairly easy mountaintop castle to visit and enjoy as a mountaintop castle without the worry about steep climbs, good hiking wear etc. It also offers a lot for the more adventurous castle explorers who want to search out the stone wall remains and Horikiri trenches too. The trailhead for the castle is about a 40 min walk from the station. From here you can follow a paved road right to the East Bailey just off the main Bailey. As you are walking along this road most of the ridgeline to your upper left is part of the castle. The main compounds around the center of the castle are well maintained but it takes a little more work to investigate the minor baileys around here to find various bits of remaining stonework. The main baileys offer some great views but the highlight of this castle is probably several large horikiri trenches. Another feature I found quite interesting is a series of three obikuruwa type baileys built in steps along the Eastern Bailey. They are easy to miss and not well identified on most of the maps you find online.
Usayama Castle / 宇佐山城


This is a really great castle to visit. It's not a difficult trail, not too big and the trail head is just about 15 minutes walk from the nearest station. Usayama Castle was Nobunaga's first stone walled castle in the area and shows great ruins of early nozura-zumi stonework. There were quite a lot more stone walls and ruins here than I expected to find. There are two large segments of well preserved stone walls but most of the Honmaru and Ninomaru baileys have ruins scattered about. It's also said that these stone walls are "just for show" since they were only constructed on the walls facing the road. The castle is easy to find from Omi Hachimangu shrine. There are many signs made by the local elementary school pointing the way. In the worst case scenario, just head towards the giant NHK antenna in the honmaru. One of the NHK buildings even builds up and around some foundation stones in the honmaru so they don't damage the historical site. You could easily enjoy Usayama Castle as a half day trip combined with nearby castles or exploring some of the great treasures nearby such as the Anozumi stonework of Sakamoto, Saikyo-ji or Miidera.
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