|Admin's Rating||★ ★ ★ ★ ☆|
|Historical Site||National Historic Site|
|Historical Value||Top 100 Castles, UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Location||Hagi, Yamaguchi Pref.|
|Access||Higashi Hagi Sta. (San'in Line), bus|
|Visited||November 21, 2014|
|Visitor Info.||8:00-18:30 (Apr-Oct), 8:30-16:30 (Nov-Feb), 8:30-:18:00 (Mar). 210 yen | Time Required: 180 mins, including the top of the mountain|
This was an amazing site to visit. Personally, I would include it as one of my favorites. The castle ruins themselves are much more extensive than most books give them credit for. There are many stone walls around the base of the mountain and some that go right up to the edge of the ocean. There are remnants of clay walls and the remains from splitting stones for the walls at both the top of the mountain and on the coast. The castle ruins are amazing enough, but the castle town really sets Hagi Castle apart from others. I've never seen another castle town that's so well preserved. There are several original samurai homes, gates, merchants homes, walls, storehouses, and more that make you feel like you've stepped back into the Edo Period. I only spent one day here (4 hrs at the castle ruins, including climbing the mountain) and 3 hours walking around the town, but I could easily spend two full days. I did not even visit the Hagi Museum. I did not have enough time on my first visit so I look forward to another visit in the future. I'm rating this four stars for the combination of the castle and castle town. I think I would recommend you to visit on a weekday if possible. Everywhere was fairly empty despite it being fall colors season but I saw a lot of bus parking and the crowd I saw the following day at Tsuwano on Saturday afternoon would probably pale compared to what Hagi could bring.
Also see this interesting CG reconstruction of the main keep at Hagi Castle
After losing to Tokugawa at the Battle of Sekigahara, Mori Terumoto's lands around Hiroshima were confiscated. Tokugawa wanted to lock the Mori into a remote location on the Japan Sea so they commanded him to build his castle at Hagi. If you visit Hagi you'll see how far and difficult a place it is to get to. The Mori family continued to rule over Hagi until the Meiji restoration. In 1863, Mori Takachika moved the major government functions of the domain to Yamaguchi, because Hagi was too vulnerable to bombardment from the sea. From this point Hagi started losing it's importance and many of the castle buildings were dismantled. In the Meiji Restoration the main keep and the remainder of the buildings were destroyed.
The structure of Hagi Castle is actually very interesting and Mori built a brilliantly defensible little castle. Mt Shizuki is a small mountain right on the coast creating a small peninsula of land. The castle sits at the base of the mountain facing the land and occupies all the approachable land to the mountain. Stone walls and defensible positions on the coast prevent attack from the sea. The Honmaru, Ninomaru and Sannomaru baileys extend towards the land protecting the castle from a land invasion. The Sannomaru Bailey encloses much of the castle town which has numerous walled streets, narrow streets, T-junctions and dead ends to confuse and make it difficult for any attacker to reach the castle. A scattering of watchtowers, gates and strategically placed storehouses for weapons would have made any attack on Hagi very difficult indeed. At the top of the mountain is the Tsumenomaru, a fallback position in case of a siege. The Tsumenomaru itself is divided into two baileys ringed with stone walls and had multiple watchtowers. In the latter Edo Period a yagura partway up the mountain and a platform for cannon was also added to help protect it from the sea. Be sure to look at the map to see how things are distributed around the castle and town.