Minakuchi-jo Castle (水口城)
Minakuchi-jo Castle is located in the middle of the Yasu-gawa drainage basin, and surrounded by the Minakuchi Hills. The Tokai-do Road is located north; the Minakuchi-jinja Shrine (Koka City) and the Yasu-gawa River are located south of the Minakuchi-jo Castle. There used to be rice fields sweeping away behind the Yasu-gawa River in the southern part. There also is the Iga-kaido Road - a Kando (byroad) that passes through the Konan area and Somatani to Iga.
Minakuchi, which became directly controlled by the Tokugawa clan after the Battle of Sekigahara, was designated as a shukuba-machi (post station) on the Tokai-do Road.
Later, Iemitsu TOKUGAWA, the third Shogun built a castle in Minakuchi, where he passed along the way to Kyoto, as his own Shukukan (inn) in 1634. This is the Minakuchi-jo Castle - Minakuchi ochaya (rest house). Enshu KOBORI acted as the Sakuji bugyo (commissioner of building), and a luxurious Goten (palace), which imitated the one in Nijo-jo Castle, was built in the castle. However, Iemitsu's trip to Kyoto was the first and last time the Goten was used as a shogun's inn, and later it became a 'banjiro' under the supervision of a Joban (one who takes care of castles) who was appointed by the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).
Akitomo KATO moved into the castle with a stipend of 20,000 koku (one koku is about 180 liters) in rice, and the Minakuchi Domain came into existence. Before the castle belonged to the Kato clan, the bakufu was taking care of it as their Shukukan with a Joban staying there. Later, the Torii clan temporarily became the lord of the domain, but the Kato clan came back to the position with a stipend of 25,000 koku. Although, it was in essence their own castle, successive Minakuchi Domain custodians treated it as if they were just borrowing it from the bakufu and took great care of it, and didn't seem to use the Goten in the Honmaru (the keep of the castle).
(They used the Ninomaru [second bailey] for the everyday governmental duties.)
Minakuchi-jo Castle was deserted after the Meiji Restoration.
Structure of the castle
The Minakuchi-jo Castle was located in the west of the Tokai-do Minakuchi-juku Station, and the city of Minakuchi was divided into shukuba-machi on its east side and castle town on its west side.
The castle consisted of two baileys, the Honmaru which was surrounded by a mizubori (water-filled moat) and the Ninomaru, which had the maintenance facilities; the Ninomaru was not surrounded by a mizubori but by mud wall like barriers separating the castle from the outside. The Honmaru, which had the convexed side facing east, had two gates, and the Demaru (small castle or tower built onto and projecting from a larger castle) had an Otte-mon Gate (Main Gate) and beyond that a bridge towards the north was built on the Mizubori. This bridge was used when the Shogun came to the castle and was called "Onaribashi." The square-shaped Honmaru had the Kitamikado (north gate) on its north side, and it was directly connected to the main area of the Ninomaru. Also, the former Tokai-do Road that was running though the site before the castle was built was redirected so as to go around the north side. From this reason, the Ninomaru section cut across the road.
As mentioned earlier, the area of Honmaru, that had a convex shape, was surrounded by mud walls built on the stonewalls, and watchtowers were built on each of the four corners of the square shaped main area. Each corner of the square shaped Honmaru area was pointing to the four points of the compass, and the watchtowers at each corner were named after the directions: Ushitora yagura, Tatsumi yagura, Hitsujisaru yagura, Inui yagura. Onnagaya (long ridges consisting of dwelling units connected horizontally) continued from the Kitamikado to the Otte-mon Gate at the northeast part of the square shaped main area. Also, there were Gomon Yagura (watchtowers by gates) at the western edge of the Kitamikado and at the southern edge of the Otte-mon Gate.
Although, the Honmaru area was surrounded by stonewalls and was protected by the mud walls, gates, and watchtowers as mentioned earlier, the Honmaru Goten (Honmaru Palace) was more like a Shukukan for the Shogun family. The Goten was a large-scale building with Kokerabuki (a roof covering made with a layer of thin wooden shingles made of cypress), and was broadly divided into 'Omotemuki,' a public space and 'Okumuki' (inner part of the house), a private space. The Okumuki was used as a Gozasho (a room for a noble person) when the Shogun stayed there, and there were buildings for palaces, baths, and Gotei (residences). The Gotei was located in the garden, which was facing the Gozasho, and was a two-story Boro (watch tower) style building. The entire castle was very elegant (Suki), and it could be a smaller version of the Nijo-jo Castle in Kyoto.
The Ninomaru contained the Goten of the successive domain loads, the main buildings for the duties of the domain, Samurai residences etc, and had barriers dividing the castle area from the outside as mentioned earlier. The barriers had many small gates connected to the roads outside the castle. The gates also were closed and heavily guarded at night and the foot traffic going in and out the castle was limited.
Obviously, since Minakuchi-jo Castle too was repaired many times, the structure shown above is from when it was built for the first time.
The castle site after the castle was abandoned
After the castle was abandoned, most of the architectural materials were sold at auctions. Most of the stonewalls, except the parts of the Demaru and the Inui yagura, seemed to have been used for railroad construction by the Ohmi Railway Corporation at the time. Most parts of the Honmaru Goten were taken away. The remains of the Honmaru, are now the property of Shiga Prefectural Minakuchi Senior High School, and is used as an athletic field.
Later, its value as the remains of a Shukukan for the Shogun family was appraised in 1972, after avoiding ideas such as filling in the Mizubori, the castle site was designated a historic site by Shiga Prefecture, and the interest of caring and maintaining it was built up. They repaired the Demaru where the structural remnants of the stonewalls remains, and the resource center of Minakuchi-jo Castle opened in November 1991. This resource center is a copy of the watchtowers of the castle of the day, and is a two-layered two-story wooden building made the best use of the gable.
The Structural remnants of the Ninomaru were lost in the development-related construction, but the Hori (moat) and stonewalls, continuing from the Honmaru to the Demaru, still remain.
There is a Gomon that seems to be one of the structural remnants of the Minakuchi-jo Castle entrance, in the property of Daiko-ji Temple, which is located at the foot of Mt. Kojo. Also, the Kara hafu (undulating gable) entrance has been moved from the castle to Renge-ji Temple located at Minakuchi-cho Minakuchi City, so as to be used as the temple's Hondo (main hall) and still remains there.
Leaflet from the Minakuchi-jo Castle resource center
Access to the site
Take the Ohmi Railway Corporation Main line, and get off at Minakuchi-Jonan Station, and walk north for four minutes.