Wada Castle (Koka)
Seven castles in the Wata Valley were built by the Wada clan. The origins of the Wada family likely date to the 1370's when an ally of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu moved here and took the name Wada. Wada Koremasa, one of the well known Sengoku Period samurai, was from this Wada family. Wada Koremasa befriended Oda Nobunaga and helped sway some of the Koka families to Oda's side. Koremasa was awarded Takatsuki Castle, Akutagawasan Castle and part of Settsu Province for his service to Nobunaga, but was unfortunately killed at the Battle of Shiraigawara in 1571.
The Wada were one of the more senior families among the 53 Koka Families and formed a sub-group of multiple members named Wada. They may have been either branch families or took the family name as part of the alliance. The standing of the Wada clan and the location of the castles made it an ideal place for 15th Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki to seek refuge. The fact that the Shogun temporarily resided here, may have been the reason that the first castle on our list is called Tonoyama Castle. Tono is an honorific for a high ranking lord, however it should not be confused that the castle was built simply for his residence.
Tonoyama Castle sits at the entrance to the Wata Valley and was used as a lookout and first point of defense for the whole valley, but exactly what is the extent of the castle is not completely clear. A 1984 survey (repeated in some blogs and materials) indicates that the top of the mountain is the castle ruin. However, more recent studies (甲賀市史) say that there are no castle ruins to be found on the mountaintop and that Tonoyama Castle actually sat at the lower end of the ridge, not the top of the mountain, at a similar elevation to other castles in the valley. Levelled areas/baileys that look more like they would have been part of such a castle have recently been cleared in this area. However, there is still a curious horikiri trench up the ridge near the top of the mountain. I would like to suggest that both are correct. The main part of the castle was lower on the ridge at the levelled baileys, but the top of the mountain may have been used as a watchtower for the entire area. The map you find at these castle sites in the Wata Valley shows a big red circle encompassing most of the mountaintop and ridge so it really does not help the situation!
At the base of this mountain, on the inside of the valley, is Kuboyashiki, the fortified residence of the leader of the Wada clan, but was also known as Wada Izumi Yakata. The name kuboyashiki pays respect to the story that in 1565, when future shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki fled Nara (Kofukuji Ichijoin) ahead of Miyoshi forces that killed his brother Yoshiteru, Wada Koremasa helped him escape Nara and sheltered him at (his home. Koremasa went on to become an important messenger between Yoshiaki and Nobunaga and was granted Takatsuki Castle. Kubo is an honorific title used by the Ashikaga shoguns. Unfortunately, there is very little left of this site. You can easily see the structure of where the palace was and hidden in the thick trees and bamboo you can see some remains of the embankments.
Across the valley from Tonoyama Castle and Kuboyashiki is the Kuboyashikishi Castle. Paired with Tonoyama Castle, it helped to control the entrance to the valley. The naming of "Kuboyashikishi Castle" is only for convenience. It was not specifically related to the Kuboyashiki Castle or the shogun. It merely sits parallel across the valley.
The castle furthest down the valley of this grouping is Wada Castle. It has the most extensive smaller baileys and extensive defenses and was likely the central fortification of the Wada families. The core of the castle is a very typical single bailey structure (yakatajiro) with multiple additional baileys and defenses built around the outside. The castle features 7m high embankments and the main central Bailey is about 50m on each side. Each of the embankments is slightly different in size and shape with the south embankment being split level and particularly high and 20m wide. Yagura or other defensive fortifications likely stood atop here. Wada Castle is unique in that it has a simple yet additional satellite fortification along the eastern ridge.
In between this castle and the Tonoyama Castle are three (or four) other castles in this castle network.
Wadashi Castle I is located directly across the river from Wada Castle. The main Bailey is 25m by 35 m. It has a large second bailey and multiple obikuruwa and koshiguruwa style sub baileys making it the largest by area of the castes in the Wata Valley. Since we don't know which, if any, of these castles was the first or the main castle, Wadashi Castle I maybe have equally been the main castle instead of Wada Castle.
Wadashi Castle II has a mainly Bailey roughly 30m on a side with 5m embankments, large trenches and smaller attached baileys.
Wadashi Castle III has a main Bailey roughly 45m x 50m with 5m embankments but sitting on a narrow ridge it starts to lose the square shape of the typical single bailey castles and added complexity of other the yakatajiro found in the Wata Valley. It sits between Wadashi Castle II and the Kuboyashikishi Castle. In this manner it seems that the farther up the valley you go the castles become larger and more fortified which is why the farthest are considered the main fortifications.
There is a small castle noted on some maps as Tanadayama Castle situated on the side of the valley between the Kuboyashiki and Wada Castle. I did not have time to explore this one more but will get to it on a future trip. According to the Koka City history book (甲賀市史 vol.7) there are no notable castle ruins. Given how all the other ridges of the valley contain castles it makes sense that this one also had some kind of fortification despite most materials that claim there were "seven castles" in the valley. It's possible that Kuboyashiki was not considered a castle by these accounts so this Tanadayama Castle could also be the seventh.
Of the Koka castles that I have visited the Wata Valley seems to be one of the most ideal locations. The Wata valley is fairly deep into the Koka territory but still a practical distance to the more central areas like Lake Biwa, Kannonji Castle, and Kyoto but not as far as Kurokawashi Castle or Ogawa Castle. The Wata Valley is also geographically mostly enclosed making it more easily defensible than some others. The seven castles were each built at the end of a ridge that extends into the valley. Each is a distinct castle built and managed by a different family and not connected to the others.
|English Name||Wada Castle|
|Year Founded||14th C.|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Local Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Access||Aburahi Sta (JR Kusatsu Line), 20 min walk|
|Visitor Information||mountain, open 24/7|
|Time Required||60 mins|
|Location||Koka, Shiga Prefecture|
|Coordinates||34° 52' 41.23" N, 136° 13' 31.98" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2022|
|Admin Year Visited||2022|
|Admin Visits||January 29, 2022|
|Friends of JCastle|
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