Odoi mound (御土居)

Odoi is a mound built by Hideyoshi TYOTOMI surrounding Kyoto. This mound together with the moat on its outside is also called Odoi-hori Moat. This is a product of Hideyoshi's project of reconstructing Kyoto along with Jurakudai Castle, Teramachi-dori Street, and Tensho no Jiwari (land allotment system during the Tensho period). A part of this mound still remaining in Kyoto City is designated as a Historic Spot.


The position of the Odoi mound is estimated based on its existing remains and maps of the Edo period, because the actual records of its position from the time of Hideyoshi are now lost.

It encircles a rectangular area that measures about 8.5 km from north to south and about 3.5 km from east to west. Odoi mound is not necessarily linearly arranged, it has a few indentations on the west side. It's entire length is about 22.5 km. Its northern end is around Kamogawa Junior High School at Shichiku of Kita-ku Ward; its southern end is at the south of To-ji Temple in Minami-ku Ward; its eastern end roughly comes into line with present Kawaramachi-dori Street; and its western end is around Enmachi Station of Sanin Main Line in Nakagyo-ku Ward. Its eastern part was along the Kamo-gawa River, its northwestern part was along the Kamiya-gawa River (also known as the Tenjin-gawa River), and these rivers served as moats.

The area inside Odoi mound was called Rakuchu, and outside, Rakugai. The area north to Kuramaguchi-dori Street inside Odoi was sometimes called Rakugai.

Those spots at which Odoi was cut by roads that connected Rakuchu and Rakugai were called 'Kuchi' (Guchi). Place names such as Kuramaguchi and Tanbaguchi survive today. There were ten Kuchi when it was built according to "Sanmyakuinki" (diary of Nobutaka KONOE).

Kyoto Prefecture's survey in 1920 revealed that the cross section of Odoi mound was a trapezoid measuring about twenty meters wide at the base, about five meters wide at the top, and about five meters tall. Along the outer side of the mound a moat was built measuring about a dozen meters wide and about four meters deep at the maximum.

Bamboo trees were planted on top of Odoi mound. Stone Buddhist images are sometimes excavated from inside the mound, and the reason why they were buried there is unknown.

Purpose of its Construction
Although there are no documents that refer to the purposes of its construction explained by Hideyoshi's own words, the following theories are presented:

Military Defense
Many cities in the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) had encircling protective walls called 'Sogamae' (defense facilities such as moat and mound). Devastated by the Onin War, Kyoto at that time was split into two towns, Kamigyo and Shimogyo, and each had Sogamae. Hideyoshi is thought to have built the Odoi mound as a large scale Sogamae to replace the old Sogamae by dismantling them with the aim of expanding the city area of Kyoto.
However, there are some unreasonable aspects for the purpose of military defense as follows:

The area surrounded by Odoi was extremely large compared to the urban area at that time, and some areas at the west and at the north were farmlands until the end of the Second World War. This made the length of Odoi mound very long and required a large number of soldiers to defend it.

Bamboo trees on Odoi blocked the view and made it difficult for soldiers to move on the mound. It had no Yagura (turret) which was usually built on a protective wall.

A picture map of Odoi shows no obstructions at any entrances of Odoi and no structures to repel intruders which were usually used for castles at that time.

The east side of Odoi faced the west side of the Kamo-gawa River playing a role of a dike of the river. The Odoi mound extends to the north to protect the Kyoto's urban area from flood water at this part of the Kamo-gawa River.

Other Purposes
It was to fend off the influences of temples and shrines. Temples and shrines such as Enryaku-ji Temple and Yasaka-jinja Shrine in the neighborhood had significantly influential powers in the medieval Kyoto. Some say that Odoi was to stem these powers by restricting the traffic between Rakuchu and Rakugai.

Aesthetic Purposes
According to "Nihonshi" (History of Japan) by Luis FROIS, Hideyoshi had Odoi planted with trees (bamboo) for aesthetic purposes.

Construction of the Odoi mound started around January and February 1591. Records say that it was almost completed in April of the same year. Many other constructions such as of Jurakudai Palace and Teramachi (the temples district) were under way at the same time in Kyoto.

The Edo Period
Following the demise of Toyotomi regime, parts of the Odoi mound across roads were dismantled and many passages were cut open. The mound that had blocked Shijo-dori Street close to the place of present Shijo Kawaramachi was removed in 1601. At the east side of the urban area, such as Kiyamachi-dori Street and Ponto-cho expanded close to the riverside of the Kamo-gawa River outside the east of Odoi mound, and Kanbun Shintei Dike was completed in 1670 to make Odoi useless as a dike, so the mounds were sold to temples, shrines, and court nobles, and eventually were dismantled to become residential lands.

However, most of the other parts of the mound than those mentioned above remain, and the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) government took care of them as bamboo woods. The Suminokura family was in charge of the management of Odoi during the middle of the Edo period.

The Odoi mound was not only dismantled, but some pieces of it were moved to other places. The redevelopment of Jinai-cho (temple villages) of Higashi Hongan-ji Temple started in 1641, and it moved part of Odoi and the Takase-gawa River to the east. Tsukiyama (a miniature hill) in Kikokutei (Shosei-en Garden) is said to have used the soil of Odoi.

The Meiji Period and Thereafter
During the Meiji period, Odoi changed hands from the bakufu to the people, and the mounds were turned into fields with their bamboo trees being cut down. Although most of the mounds remained during the Meiji period, in the Taisho period, many parts of Odoi were dismantled in order to develop residential lands because the urban area grew larger. Responding to this situation, to preserve the remaining parts of Odoi, the government designated eight sites as National Historic Spots in 1930. An additional spot was designated in 1965. Mounds other than the designated historic spots were continued to be removed, and there were some incidents in which housing developers damaged Odoi mounds that were designated as historic spots in the 1960s.

Remains of the Odoi Mound

Designated as Historic Spots in 1930
Shichikukami Nagame-cho and Shichikukami Horikawa-cho, Kita-ku Ward (the site of Kamogawa Junior High School, and so on)
Omiyadoi-cho, Kita-ku Ward
2 Takagamine Kyudoi-cho, Kita-ku Ward
3 Takagamine Kyudoi-cho, Kita-ku Ward (Odoi Shiseki-koen Park)
Murasakino Nishidoi-cho, Kita-ku Ward
Hirano Toriimae-cho, Kita-ku Ward
Kitanobe-cho, Kamigyo-ku Ward (Rozan-ji Temple)
Nishinokyo Hara-machi, Nakagyo-ku Ward (Ichigoro-jinja Shrine on Odoi)
Designated as Historic Spots in 1965
Bakuro-cho, Kamigyo-ku Ward (in the precinct of Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine)
Other than these designated sites, there remain pieces of Odoi at the schoolyard of Kitano Junior High School (Nishinokyo Nakaho-cho, Nakagyo-ku Ward) and Omiya Kotsu Koen (Omiya Traffic Park) (Omiya Nishiwakidai, Kita-ku Ward), and so on.

Place-names, Streets, and Land Allotments

Omiyadoi Cho of Kita Ward and Takamine Kyudoi-cho are elongated in shape because they just replaced Odoi to become towns. The following place-names came from Odoi: Town names such as Higashi Doinouchi-cho, Doinouchi-cho, and Nishi Doinouchi-cho of Nakagyo-ku Ward; and street names such as Dotemachi-dori Street of Shimogyo-ku Ward and Nishidoi-dori Street of Nakagyo-ku Ward.
There is a bus stop called 'Odoi' in Minami-ku Ward, and the 'Omiya Kotsu Koen' bus stop in Kita-ku Ward used be called 'Omiya Odoi.'

Parts of the border lines between Nakagyo-ku Ward and Ukyo-ku Ward, and between Kamigyo-ku Ward and Kita-ku Ward fall in line with Odoi lines. Some roads run along the Odoi mound.

Kyoto Station Platform Zero
There are incorrect descriptions in some books, which say Kyoto Station Platform Zero (old Platform One) uses a mound of Odoi. This platform was built in 1914 when the second Kyoto Station started service, and maps of the Meiji period before that show no Odoi mounds there. According to the record of Higashi Shiokoji-mura Village which used be where the station was standing, parts of the Odoi mound in this neighborhood were dismantled before the railway was opened in 1877. The excavation survey at the west end of the platform in 1993 revealed a clay layer which is thought to be remains of the moat.