By 1575 Nobunaga had become the most powerful samurai in the country. He turned over control of the Owari & Mino provinces to his eldest son Nobutada and set his own eyes on the unification of all Japan. In 1576, Nobunaga established his new castle and power base at Azuchi on Lake Biwa. This was a very strategic location in that it gave him significant control over the nearby Tokaida and Nakasendo roads to Kyoto and any traffic on Lake Biwa.
It took 3.5 years to complete the main keep and entire castle. Unfortunately, the castle was short lived. After Nobunaga was killed by Akechi Mitsuhide in 1582 at Honnoji Temple, Azuchi Castle was burned to the ground in a battle between Nobunaga's second son Nobukatsu and Akechi's men who had taken over the castle.
The construction of Azuchi Castle was a revolution in castle design and marked the turning point in a new type of castle. Until this time, most were smaller mountaintop structures that were only used as a lookout or as needed. Nobunaga's Azuchi castle led the way for the larger and more grand structures of the late Sengoku Period and Early Edo Period turning castles in to quarters for the daimyo and some retainers.
The main keep itself was 7 stories high and thought to have been the largest multi-storied wooden building in the world at that time. The fifth floor of the main keep was an octagon representing heaven and the quadrangular sixth floor represented the thoughts of Taoism and Confucianism.
The picture above is of the Ote-michi entrance through to the castle. Along either side were houses of loyal retainers.
Azuchi Castle is a fantastic site to visit. They've done an amazing job excavating the ruins and rebuilding the stone walls throughout the site. Since I was last there in 2004 they rebuilt all the stonework foundations around the base of the mountain. There are still many inaccessible ruins around the mountain so I hope they continue these efforts and open up more of the castle soon. Even though there are only ruins I have to give 4 stars due to the extent of ruins, signage, and the maintenance and ongoing excavations. This site is really a must see for any castle fans.
|English Name||Azuchi Castle|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Top 100 Castles, Top 100 Mountaintop Castles, Special Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Features||trenches, stone walls|
|Access||Azuchi Station (JR Tokaido Line)|
|Visitor Information||700 yen|
|Time Required||120 mins|
|Location||Azuchi, Shiga Prefecture|
|Coordinates||35° 9' 21", 136° 8' 21"|
|Year Visited||2004, 2011|
|Visits||February 21, 2004; November 26, 2011|