After the Battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered a new castle to be built in Zeze. This castle was designed by Todo Takatora. In its construction, some building materials were taken from the dismantled Otsu Castle. Zeze Castle had a four storey castle keep, a rarity in Japan as the number four is considered to be unlucky. The castle ruin site protrudes into Lake Biwa and is considered to be one of the top three lakeside castles (along with Takashima Castle in Nagano, and Matsue Castle in Shimane) in Japan. The Honmaru (Main Bailey) and Ninomaru (Second Bailey) of the castle were like islands floating in the lake, and it was also called Sekiroku (Stone Deer) Castle. In May 1662, this castle was badly damaged by an earthquake. The original castle keep was severely damaged, and some of the Honmaru and Ninomaru turrets including their bases collapsed and sunk into the lake. The Honmaru and Ninomaru were repaired, and the baileys were merged into a new Honmaru, the current site of Zeze Park. The former Sannomaru (Third Bailey) became the Ninomaru and a new Sannomaru was created.
The first lord of the castle was Toda Kazuaki in 1601 followed by Toda Ujikane, Honda Yasutoshi, Honda Toshitsugu, Suganuma Sadayoshi, Ishikawa Tadafusa, and Ishikawa Noriyuki. In 1651, Honda Toshitsugu took over again and until the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the Honda Clan ruled the castle. In 1870, the castle was demolished and many of its gates were sold to nearby shrines and temples. In 膳所城と藩政, a book published by the Otsu City Museum of History in 2018, it lists 11 relocated structures from Zeze Castle and its castle town. Most of these original gates and buildings have been specifically identified while a couple remain as a generic castle gate or building from Zeze Castle. Below is the list of the 11 relocated structures, their original names (if identified) and relocated locations in brackets.
• The gate between the Honmaru and Ninomaru 二の丸と本丸の間の門 (Zeze Shrine’s Main Gate 膳所神社表門) • Honmaru’s Dobashi Gate 本丸土橋の門 (Zeze Shrine’s North Gate 膳所神社北門) • The North Oote Gate 北大手門 (Shinozu Shrine’s Main Gate 篠津神社表門) • The South Oote Gate 南大手門 (Muchizaki Shrine’s Main Gate 鞭崎神社表門) • Honmaru’s Inubashiri Gate 本丸の犬走門 (Wakamiya Shrine’s Main Gate 若宮八幡神社表門) • Honmaru’s Black Gate 本丸黒門 (Goryo Shrine’s Main Shrine’s Side Gate 御 霊 神社 本殿脇門) • Yet-to-be-identified Zeze Castle gate (Chikatsuo Shrine’s Main Gate近津尾神社表門) • Ninomaru’s Water Gate 二の丸水門 (Shingu Shrine’s gate 新宮神社参道横の門) • The Two-Storey Turret on the eastern side of the Honmaru 本丸東正面の二 重 櫓 (芭蕉会館 in Chausuyama Park茶臼山公園) • A castle storehouse 城内の蔵 (Rittai Jizo Shrine 六体地蔵堂) • Setaguchi Main Gate 瀬田口総門 (relocated to a private residence in Izumiotsu City, Osaka Prefecture)
Visiting Zeze Castle Ruin can be a deceptively underwhelming experience, and this is completely true if a castle fan just strolls around the public park where Zeze Castle’s honmaru or main bailey had once stood. There is little vestige of Zeze Castle at the park apart from a reconstructed gate and some stone wall remnants, some of which are modern reconstructions. Much of what was Zeze Castle has been built over and subsumed by modern day Zeze. However, if you are willing to spend time walking around Zeze, Ishiyama, and Kusatsu, there are 10 relocated gates and buildings from Zeze Castle to be seen. In addition to these relocated structures recognized by Otsu City, there are three more possible relocated gates, one in Ritto, another one in Kusatsu, and a third one at Zeze Shrine.
If you are done tracking down relocated Zeze Castle gates and buildings, there are three nagayamons (長屋門) from former samurai residences in the castle town. They have been moved to three different temples along the former Tokaido Road in Zeze. Furthermore, at Enshin Temple, one can see the tombs of Toda Kazuaki, the first lord of Zeze Castle and Honda Toshitsugu, the fourth and then again, the eighth lord of Zeze Castle.
At Zeze Castle Park, in recent years, a new sign with a map has been installed at the site of where the castle keep had once stood. The map is a bird’s eye view of Zeze Castle. It is a copy of an old map created in 1894. While the map on the new sign is informative, the castle model of Zeze Castle at the Otsu City Museum of History raises it to another level. It is an amazingly detailed model of Zeze Castle and the castle town, bringing the castle and its town “back to life” for castle fans to experience. Looking at this model one can see why Zeze Castle was rated as one of the Top Three Lakeside Castles in Japan. Unfortunately, for copyright reasons, I am unable to upload any photos of it.
In sum, there are eleven relocated structures, two possible relocated structures, three nagayamons, two tombs of Zeze Castle lords, and a brilliant model of Zeze Castle that castle fans can check out if they want to do more than just briefly visit Zeze Castle Park.
Most of the relocated gates and buildings are within walking distance from the JR stations, Ishiyama and Minami-Kusatsu and Keihan stations, Kawaragahama and Zeze-Honmachi. Otsu City Museum of History is a 5-to-6-minute walk from Keihan Otsu Shiyakushomae Station.
If you just walk around Zeze Castle Park, my rating is still half a star, but if you spend hours tracking down all the structures listed here and visit the Otsu City Museum of History, the total Zeze Castle experience gets bumped up to 2 stars.
The original (2012) and revised castle profile (2022) are by RaymondW.
|English Name||Zeze Castle|
|Alternate Names||Sekiroku Castle|
|Castle Condition||No main keep but other buildings|
|Designations||has Important Cultural Properties|
|Historical Period||Edo Period|
|Artifacts||Shinozu Shrine Omote Gate, Zeze Shrine Omote Gate|
|Features||gates, turrets, trenches, stone walls, walls|
|Access||JR Ishiyama Station then transfer to Keihan Zeze-Honmachi Station, 5 min walk|
|Visitor Information||No fees|
|Time Required||30 minutes for castle ruins and 5+ hours for visiting original structures scattered around Zeze, Ishiyama, and Kusatsu|
|Location||Otsu, Shiga Prefecture|
|Coordinates||34° 59' 42.97" N, 135° 53' 43.26" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2012|
|Admin Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|
|Admin Visits||Viewer Donated|