156.Kamaha Castle Part2

Ruins in the animal kingdom now


Several Routes to Castle Ruins

Today, visiting the ruins of Kamaha Castle needs climbing up the mountain. There are several routes for visiting them. Probably the popular ones are from the old Banba Station on the old Nakasendo Road, because they reach the front side of the castle. You have to walk on the routes for about 1 hour, but many signs will lead you along the way. From the station, you will first go through the underpasses of Hikone44 or 43 of the Meshin Expressway. You have to open and close the front wire netting gate in order to shut animals outside it when you pass. The inside of the gate is basically the animal kingdom now. the route from Hikone44 is relatively smooth but longer, and the one from Hikone43 is shorter but comparatively steeper. The route from Hikone43 seemed to be the original Main Route.

The map around the castle

The old Banba Station on the old Nakasendo Road
A distant view of the mountain where the castle was built
The underpass of Hikone44 of the Meshin Expressway
The underpass of Hikone43 of the Meshin Expressway

If you choose the route from Hikone44, the first part of your visit is completely a trek. You will go on the trail along natural valleys and ridges for over 30 minutes. The signs will show you when you are close to the castle ruins. You will also find a bear-avoiding bell that you can ring. You may not visualize there was an advanced castle where many people usually used it over such a place.

Going on the trail from the underpass of Hikone44
A bear-avoiding bell
Going on a ridge
Closing to the castle ruins

Large Ditch and Stone Walls

You will first reach the Large Ditch in the northern edge of the castle. It may look like a natural valley, but, in fact, it is artificial. The enclosure behind the ditch is called the North VI.

The map around the castle

The Large Ditch
Looking up the North VI Enclosure from the Large Ditch

You can see the Large Stone Walls in the western side of the enclosure. These stone walls were made in a unique method which uses clay to fill in the gaps.

The Large Stone Walls
The cray between the stones can’t be seen just looking at them

Ruins of Large Turret and Entrance

Large scale earthen walls also remain on the enclosure, which supported the Large Turret in the past. A simple wooden observation platform stands there now.

The North VI Enclosure
The remaining earthen walls of the enclosure
Looking down the Large Ditch from the observation platform
A view from the observation platform

The next part is the North V Enclosure which has the other entrance ruins with stone steps and stone mound than those in the Main Enclosure.

The entrance ruins of the North V Enclosure
Water is supplied in the enclosure from its source somewhere

After that is the North IV Enclosure has another wooden observation platform for visitors probably because it is a good viewing spot. You can enjoy a good view of the Omi Plain beside Biwa Lake.

The North IV Enclosure
The observation platform in the North IV Enclosure
A view from the observation platform

To be continued in “Kamaha Castle Part3”
Back to “Kamaha Castle Part1”

156.鎌刃城 その2










そのうちにまず、城の北端にある大堀切に到着します。一見して自然の谷のようにも思えますが、実際には人工に作られたものです。この堀切の奥にある曲輪は、北― VI(第六)曲輪と呼ばれています。







北― VI(第六)曲輪






156.Kamaha Castle Part1

A mountain castle with advanced systems

Location and History

Border Castle between Northern and Southern Omi Province

Kamaha Castle was a mountain castle during the Sengoku Period, which was located in Omi Provence (currently the modern day location of Shiga Prefecture). Its position was in the central area of the province, which at the time was divided into two parts, the northern part and the southern part. As a result, the two warlords from the Rokkaku Clan in the south and the warlord from the Azai Clan in the north were constantly gaining and loosing castles each other. Kamaha Castle was built on one of the ridges, which was 384 meters high, of Mt. Ryozen,. The name “Kamaha” which means “Sickle Blade” got its name from the shape of the ridge with its steep sides. The castle was located near a major road called “Nakasendo”, which was conveniently located for battle making it easier for transportation as well.

The range of Omi Province and the location of the castle


In the middle of the 16th Century, during the Sengoku Period, the Hori Clan was the ruler of the castle. The clan frequently changed their masters depending on the situation. In one instance, back in 1553, the Rokkaku Clan attacked Kamaha Castle, forcing the Hori Clan to escape, eventually surrendering the castle completely. However, the Hori Clan would eventually form an allegiance with the Azai Clan, most likely because the Azai Clan was gaining a lot of power at that time. Back in 1570, The Azai Clan fought Nobunaga Oda, where Hidemura Hori sided with Nobunaga who was easily persuaded by Hideyoshi Hashiba, the eventual ruler of Japan. This was the destiny of lord of the border castle.

The portrait of Nobunaga Oda, attributed to Soshu Kano, owned by Chokoji Temple, in the late 16th century (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The Portrait of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, attributed to Mitsunobu Kano, owned by Kodaiji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Harsh Fate of Hidemura Hiri, Lord of Castle

Since Hidemura formed an allegiance with Hideyoshi, the Azai Clan were eventually beaten. Furthermore, Hideyoshi assisted Hidemura defend Kamaha Castle from an Azai Clan attack in 1571. This resulted in Nobunaga, Hidemura and Hideyoshi capturing Odani Castle (the home base of the Azai Clan) in 1573. A year later (in 1574) shortly after the succession, Hidemura was fired by Nobunaga due to Hidemura’s senior vassal’s failures. The primary reason for this is still unknown, but perhaps we can assume that this was purely the cruelty of Nobunaga’s character. Some historians speculate that there was a power imbalance since Hidemura was getting more powerful through his allegiance with Nobunaga. It was well-known that Hidemura accumulated more territory than Hideyoshi, who at the time was Nobunaga’s important retainer. Nobunaga might have the rebellion by Hidemura, or perhaps he wanted to take the territory for him. As the famous Chinese proverb goes “When the nimble rabbit dies, the hunting dog will be cooked”, so too was the fate of Hidemura. Finally, there is a strong belief by historians that Hidemura was hired by Hideyoshi and his brother Hidenaga in the end.

The ruins of Odani Castle
The portrait of Hidenaga Toyotomi, owned by Shungakuin Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Systems of Castle improved uniquely

Kamaha Castle was finally abandoned in 1575. Some historians assumed that because the castle was made of soil, and that it was inferior to other castles, that it was abandoned sooner than other castles. However, according to a more recent excavation, it was revealed that Kamaha Castle actually had an advance system compared to other mountain castles. Kamaha Castle had at least a 3-level large turret, like a Main Tower, in the northern enclosures of the castle. This turret was thought to be used by defenders who shot arrows against attackers, as well as a large ditch located in front of it. If attackers had the misfortune of getting stuck in the ditch, it would give a clear and perfect sight for the defenders. Many enclosures were surrounded by stone walls. Moreover, the main enclosure at the center of the castle had its entrance with a square space surrounded by stone walls and steps called “Koguchi”. These types of systems were seldom seen in castles that were built after Azuchi Castle which Nobunaba built back in 1579. Based on these findings, Kamaha Castle was truly more advance than Azuchi Castle.

The imaginary drawing of the large turret of Kamaha Castle, quoted from the Kamaha Castle Official Site
The imaginary drawing of Azuchi Castle, exhibited by Gifu Castle Museum

On the other hand, there were some differences between Kamaha Castle and Azuchi Castle as well. The large turret in Kamaha Castle was placed on earthen walls, and not on stone walls. These stone walls supported the earthen walls which prevented them from collapsing. In the case of Azuchi Castle, its main tower was built on stone walls directly. The Koguchi entrance of Kamaha Castle was designed for the gate of the main hall, and not for defense. Koguchi entrances built after Azuchi Castle exhibited more defensive capabilities, combined with complex routes. Historian often speculate that the systems used in Kamaha Castle had been improved uniquely, but was eventually replaced with other systems which were first seen in Azuchi Castle. However, the design of Kamaha Castle ‘s large turret might have been used for the main towers of other castles. This is because Hideoyoshi who would eventually build Osaka Castle included its main tower, must have seen the large turret when he worked with Hidemura at Kamaha Castle.

The stone walls of Kamaha Castle
The stone wall base for the Main Tower of Azuchi Castle
Koguchi entrance ruins of Kamaha Castle
The Kocuchi entrance of the Kurogane-mon Gate of Azuchi Castle

To be continued in “Kamaha Castle Part2”