Hagi Castle 萩城
Founder Mori Terumoto
Mouri
Year 1604
Type Flatland
Condition Ruins
Alternate Name Shizuki-jo
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Historical Site National Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles
Location Hagi, Yamaguchi Pref.
Map Google Map
Access Higashi Hagi Sta. (San'in Line), bus
Website Hagi SIghtseeing
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
Notes 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.
History

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 form the sea. Be sure to look at the map to see how things are distributed around the castle and town.

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  • RonS    January 11, 2015 at 12:29 AM
    The eternal optimist in me wants to believe that if this drama "Hana Moyu" is a ratings success and it results in more visitors to Hagi over the next few years, than just m-a-y-b-e we might see some long awaited reconstruction work. Let's keep our fingers crossed!
  • Eric    January 10, 2015 at 05:52 PM
    Ron, I think you're absolutely right. (If it's done historically correct of course!) Reconstruct the main keep and maybe the Otemon Gate. Also put up better signage and preserve what's there already and you'd have a really great castle museum park. Combined with the fabulous castle town it could be the "most complete" castle there is. The new NHK drama is focusing on the end of the Edo Period and I don't get the feeling the town values the castle ruins as much as the old Edo architecture so it doesn't seem like there will ever be such an interest to do it unfortunately.
  • Ron Sabatini    January 07, 2015 at 02:14 AM
    I've always felt that Hagi Castle's tenshu was an excellent candidate for reconstruction. It has historical significance and the details of its structure are well documented. Or is the site better left as is? What do you think?
  • Kris on My Page    July 23, 2012 at 10:05 PM
    Hagi in the Summer was definitely a good choice; the castle site is surrounded by amazing beaches and the green leaves, blue ocean, and stone walls looked fantastic. Even though I have reputation for being slightly Choshu-girai, I'm not a Mouri fan, and the fact that a black spider bit me on the lip at the tenshukaku ruins, (possibly due to the first two facts), Hagi was completely worth seeing. A friend and I walked from the Hagi Bus centre, (taking a detour to see the statues and houses of hot dead men), through the castle town, to the North Gate. Then from there we walked through the castle town to the beach, and then to the site of the castle ruins. Although they promote bicycle rental, walking was a great idea because there was so much to see, so many old buildings you could enter, and it recreated the feel of a castle town better than many other places I have been to. The beach was what surprised me the most – I have island resort style photos that the Bakufu could use in a Choshu seibatsu summer campaign – well it's not often you get to see turquoise seas and ishigaki together. It was peaceful to wander around and beautiful to see.
  • Amaro    August 26, 2011 at 12:25 PM
    If ever any interest in this castle one should read `Tales of Otori` a fantasy novel about a not-quite-Japan but which takes place in Hagi and surrounding area. It`s a beauitful book about feudal Japan culture and the author has drawn a lot from the local history but made it her own. Anyway, inspried and in the area I visited the castle ruin and have to say despite not having a castle tower it is by far the most peaceful frounds I have ever been to. Furthermore, because the west coast of Japan is not as visited as the east, I almost had the whole place to myself! And if in Hagi, you must go a little bit north and visit Matsue Castle which is an original and one of the most atmospheric castles I have ever been to! Overall, a gorgeous area of Japan!
  • Matt    April 22, 2011 at 01:11 PM
    I visited Hagi and it's castle in 2007. Hagi Castle was the demolished shortly after the Meiji restoration and on the site there is actually a black and white photograph of the castle in full glory before deconstruction. The grounds of the castle are quite large and well signposted in English. The old section of town has a river cum moat around it (beyond the moat around the castle) and the entire area seems constructed in such a way that they were ready for invasion (not surprising given the history). The Samurai quarter has well preserved buildings and sits close to the castle. While the ruins of the castle itself are interesting the preserved areas of town also give you a really good idea of what living in a joka-machi might have been like.
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Hagi, Yamaguchi Pref.
Hagi Castle views
main keep foundation, moat, stone walls Minamimon Gate (South Gate)
Minamimon Gate (South Gate) Stone wall to the left of the Honmaru Gate
Mushabashiri in the stone wall Main keep foundation
Honmaru gangi The top of the main keep foundation
View of the moat and stone walls form the main keep Moats viewed form the West Gate
Looking towards the main keep foundation Ruins of a wall at the Hakken Yagura
Main keep foundation Mushabashiri
Inner moat Stone walls between the Honmaru Gate and the Tsukimi Yagura.
Wall remnants Wall remnant
Wall remains Kia Yagura stone walls
North Yagura stone foundation Stone marked for splitting
Large stone with ya-ana Shioiri Gate ruins
Stone walls by the ocean. Stone walls and clay walls near the ocean
Ninomaru Shikirimon Gate mushabashiri to the top of the sea wall.
East Gate Map of the Tsumenomaru
Entrance to the Tsumenomaru Entrance to the Tumemaru
Back side of the entrance clay wall Ninomaru bailey of the Tsumenomaru
large stones with wedge holes Yaguramon Gate
Steps to the Honmaru View of the Yaguramon Gate and the Ninomaru Bailey
View of the Yaguramon Gate Large boulder marked for splitting
Closer view of the huge stone with wedge holes Marks from slitting the stones many times
Stone wall around the Tsumenomaru Stone wall around the Tsumenomaru.
Uzumimon Gate of the Honmaru Stone with wedge holes for splitting
Asa Mori Clan residence Asa Mori Clan residence
Inside one of the apartments A model of the castle found in the Asa Mori residence.
Kuchiba Clan Residence Nagayamon gate. Kuchiba Clan residence.
Inside the main house of the Kuchiba Clan residence Inside the main house of the Kuchiba Clan residence
castle town road castle town corner
Castle town walls Kodama Clan residence Nagayamon
Kodama Clan residence Nagayamon Maki Moku's Residence
Hagi Museum Walls and Nagayamon Corner yagura at the Hagi Museum
Masuda Clan Residence Watch Tower Hanzawa Clan Residence Nagayamon Gate
North Gate North Gate
Kikuya Clan residence. Kido Takayoshi's residence
Saeki Tange Residence Map