Kannonji Castle 観音寺城
Founder Sasaki clan
Rokkaku
Year 1335 (?)
Type Mountaintop
Condition Ruins
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Historical Site National Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles
Location Azuchi, Shiga Pref.
Map Google Map
Access Azuchi Sta. (JR Tokaido Line)
Website Azuchi Town Sightseeing
Visited November 26, 2011
Visitor Info. If you enter or exit through Kuwanomi Temple you'll need to pay the admission fee of 300 yen. Hours are 900-1630. | Time Required: 4 hrs
Notes From Azuchi Sta. rent a bicycle and get a map that will show you how to get to the Kuwanomi Temple (桑實寺), itself an important cultural property. From there it's a beautiful walk up a stone paved mountain path to the main part of the castle. It's almost a 60 min walk straight up so wear good shoes and be prepared.

This was one of the most fun castle sites that I've visited. I like castles and hiking so this was perfect. There are ruins scattered all over the mountaintop in varying states and some of the trails are not well marked. Even though it was a fairly busy day with many people visiting the temples and enjoying some autumn hiking in the good weather, there were trails that had no people on them too. I will definitely go back sometime, with a better map and take my time exploring all the ruins. Despite the long time I spent there, I think I still missed some things even in the areas I did visit.

History

It's not known exactly when this castle was built but the oldest records show it existed as early as 1335 and was probably built by the Sasaki. At one point during the Onin War the castle was turned over to the Ashikaga for a short term.

The Rokkaku rebuilt much of the castle during the Sengoku Period, but they gradually lost power and the castle was abandoned. In 1560, Rokkaku Yoshikata lost an important battle to the Asai Clan. The execution of Goto Katatoyo in 1563 created much dissention among the Rokkaku retainers. When Nobunaga took control of the region in 1568, the Rokkaku were simply swept aside and they fled the castle. After Nobunaga built Azuchi Castle just a few kilometers away, Kannonji Castle was most likely abandoned but some stories say it was still used in a minor capacity.

The original castle nearly covered the mountain with baileys, stone walls and earthen walls. It was one of the most extensive mountaintop castles built.

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  • ART    December 25, 2016 at 05:31 PM
    I did it backwards it seems: i went first through kannonshoji and then exited via kuwanomidera, costing 800yen in total. Going via kuwanomidera and retracing your tracks is best.
  • etienne21    November 30, 2015 at 10:25 AM
    Since September 1st 2015, entering the Kannonshoji Temple costs 500 Yen. If you come from the Kuwanomiji Temple, visit the castle and then arrive at the Kannonshoji Temple, you can visit it for free but you will have to pay the 500 Yen if you decide to go out the temple (cross the reception desk) and takes the stairs. If you turn back to the castle after visiting the temple you won't have to pay the 500 Yen.
  • yasuo narukawa    September 01, 2013 at 02:31 PM
    I appriciate That It is known by foreigners! It's not known so much in Japan.
  • thomasV    January 29, 2012 at 11:24 PM
    I absolutely loved visiting this castle. I went in february and I didn't encounter a single soul during the hours I was there, which was pretty magical in itself. I took the route up the mountain via Kuwanomi dera, but I had no idea of the entire layout of the castle so I only really saw the honmaru. However, on the path from the honmaru to the Kannonshoji temple, there was a small overgrown trail on the left that went to the very top of the Kinugasa mountain, which offerend one of the best views of lake Biwa, mount Azuchi and a whole lot more. I plan to go back as soon as I get back to Japan. A highly recommended castle site!
  • RaymondW    September 24, 2011 at 10:18 PM
    There are some proper trails linking the major baileys. The bigger baileys on the southwestern side like Ikedamaru (signposted) and Hiraimaru (signposted) plus the Honmaru (signposted) are easy to get to, but the ones on the northern side, with the exception of Sangokumaru and Awajimaru, are not signposted. On the trail (parts of it a bit overgrown in summer and with lots of spiders) running along the northeastern ridgeline of the castle site, it is fairly easy to make out a number of baileys from the trail. For those thinking of hitting this yamashiro ruin, I recommend doing it in late autumn to early spring when all the undergrowth has died back a bit, and the spiders are not out in force. This is not a popular castle ruin (probably hasn't featured in a NHK drama yet.) In the four hours that I was there with my GF, we only came across five other people visiting the castle ruin and none of them on the northeastern trail.
  • Eric    September 24, 2011 at 08:21 PM
    Thanks Raymond. Are there proper trails through all those baileys? Are they at least well mapped and marked?
  • RaymondW    September 23, 2011 at 09:43 PM
    Went back to this castle ruin again today. I have now visited all the major baileys at this site, but there are still scores of overgrown minor baileys that I may have missed. This castle ruin has the potential to at least rival if not better than Odani Castle Ruin as it has lots of ishigaki (stone walls) around the major baileys built by the Rokkaku Clan after they took over the castle from the Sasaki Clan. This castle site is definitely worth a visit for the yamashiro fans, but you need to give yourself at least 3 hours to enjoy this vast castle ruin. I spent over 4 hours there today. It is a little overgrown in parts and not very well signposted.
  • RaymondW    June 18, 2011 at 10:13 PM
    No worries, mate. I have benefited from other people's experience and insights at some castle sites here on Jcastle. It's cool that people are sharing their experiences of visiting castle sites here. There are plenty of Japanese blogs about castles in Japan, but this is one of the few websites in English for those of us who like Japanese castles but aren't so proficient in the language and thus find it hard to get info about castles sites.
  • a22cricket    June 14, 2011 at 11:48 PM
    For RaymondW, thanks for the info. about the map. Also thanks for the great details you put up about the area. They were really helpful.
  • RaymondW    June 11, 2011 at 03:51 PM
    a22cricket, glad you like Kannonji Castle Ruin and found my description helpful. You can also get the Meijo 100 stamp at Kuwanomi Temple. I'll probably go again in autumn as I know that I have missed some of the baileys at this massive castle complex on my earlier visits.
  • a22cricket    June 08, 2011 at 12:01 AM
    Kannosho-Ji is North of the Honmaru. My mistake, banish me to the dungeon.
  • a22cricket on My Page    June 07, 2011 at 10:09 PM
    Went to Kannonji on June 7th with the intention of visiting Omi Hachiman later in the day. Big mistake. Kannonji definitley deserves a full day. You could sneak in some of the museums in town or Azuchi castle the same day if you have a bike, but I was walking and checking out parts of the town I haven't been to. The route I took was from Kuwanomi-Ji which is built on the stone walls and staircases of the old castle. At the top of the stairs is the temple (300 yen admission) and the path to the immediate right leads to the old main gate and location where the tower used to be. The complete path from the bottom to the top down the other side is much longer than I expected, about three hours or more ( I wasn't keeping a watch on time). Just outside the main gate is a staircase with the well located nearby, per Raymond W.'s description which is what I was using for a guide. Continuing south is Kannosho-Ji which has the 100 best castles of Japan stamp inside the main hall. Also nearby are restrooms and vending machines. This temple is also built on the old walls and stairs. There is also a great view of the plains and mountains from here. I would definitely recommend a full day.
  • RaymondW on My Page    March 01, 2011 at 08:51 PM
    I went to this castle ruin on the last weekend of February. It’s my second visit, but this time armed with a better map found on a Japanese website, I was able to suss out most of the castle site. As mentioned above by the site administrator, it is quite a sprawling complex. However, a lot of is overgrown and hard to find. Unlike Odani Castle Ruin in northern Shiga, the baileys at Kannonji are poorly signposted. Only the Honmaru (本丸) and Hiraimaru (平井丸) have any signs. I was able to identify the following baileys with certainty based on the map that I had: Honmaru, Itoumaru (伊藤丸), Hiraimaru, and Ikedamaru (池田丸). These are all located in the northern part of the castle ruin. I think I also found the Sawadamaru (澤田丸), but I could not be 100% sure. The other baileys like Sangokumaru (三国丸), Shindomaru (新藤丸), and Sanimaru (三井丸) in the central and southern parts of the castle ruin were really hard to identify. I did come across some other baileys, but I could not reconcile them with what I saw on my map. If you want to see ishigaki (stone walls), there are ample remains in the baileys that I found on the northern side. To get to the Itoumaru (Itou Bailey), you need to get off the regular trail and trample through the bush above the Honmaru to get there. The two times that I have been to this castle, I have gone there by bicycle from JR Azuchi Station. I brought my own foldable bike, but you can easily rent one at a shop in front of the station. I accessed this castle from the Kuwanomi Temple (桑實寺) trailhead. Entry into the temple is 300yen. If you go to Kuwanomi Temple, the path that leads up to it about a third of the way up the mountain can be found about 500-600m from the museum which houses the reconstructed top two floors of Azuchi Castle. This certainly beats cycling 5km+ to the trailheads on the other side of the mountain. The path from Kuwanomi Temple will eventually take you to the gate ruin that leads into the Honmaru. Just before you go into the honmaru, you will find some steps leading down the hill on your right. Go down these steps, and you will find the remains of a well and more ishigaki. I did not notice this the first time that I went to Kannonji Castle. This castle ruin is not for everyone, but if you like your castle ruins, are happy with just seeing some ishigaki, stone stairs and some earthen banks, and like going bushwalking, then this is a great place to spend three or four hours. BTW, there is a lot more ishigaki left here than at Odani Castle Ruin, but Odani is much better signposted with each major bailey clearly marked and explained.
  • Kris on My Page    November 14, 2010 at 11:54 PM
    I got really very lost cycling to Kannonji from Azuchi – the man at the bicycle rental had given me about 7 different maps but they were all quite small for the area covered and the sign-posting wasn't so great. In any case, I walked my bike up a long, tortuous road and when I got to a toll gate the two women inside told me it would take probably another hour if I went this way. (At least the way back down was easy). If you are going by bicycle probably the easiest way is to go via Ishi-dera Raku-ichi, a site commemorating the free market system started there in the 15th century, (where the 100Meijo stamp is; they also sell local produce and food souvenirs). Quite near here there is a giant sign on the hillside with an arrow pointing to the ruins.
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Azuchi, Shiga Pref.
Kannonji Castle views
Hirai Bailey Entrance Trail to Kuwanomi Temple
Trail to Kuwanomi Temple Stone walls of Kuwanomi Temple
Trail from the temple to the castle Horikiri type dry moat
stone walls near the well Honmaru entrance stone walls
Honmaru stone walls Honmaru entrance stone walls
Hirai Bailey stone walls Hirai Bailey stone walls
Hirai Bailey stone walls Hirai Bailey stone walls
Path to the Ikeda Bailey Ikeda Bailey stone walls
Ikeda Bailey stone walls Ikeda Bailey
Ikeda Bailey stone walls Ikeda Bailey entrance stone walls
Path outside the Ikeda Bailey Path outside the Ikeda Bailey
Stone stairs to the Sannomaru Bailey Stone walls
Stone walls Path on the mountain
horikiri Stone walls
Awaji Bailey stone walls Awaji Bailey
Awaji Bailey stone walls Mt. Kinugasa