The construction of Hikone Castle started in 1604, after the Battle of Sekigahara. In 1601, the year after greatly contributing to the victory of the Tokugawa side in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Ii Naomasa was given the former feudal territory and residential castle, Sawayama Castle, of Ishida Mitsunari, who was defeated in the battle. Although Naomasa died the next year due to the firearm injury he received in the battle, Kimata Morikatsu, Naomasa’s retainer who was commissioned to help manage the feudal domain after the lord’s death, consulted Tokugawa Ieyasu on the planning of moving and reconstructing the castle. Morikatsu would have thought that Sawayama Castle, a medieval type of mountain castle, would not be suitable as a new residential castle for several reasons, including the fact that experience of the Warring States period had shifted the focus of battle from using mountain castles as bases to collective battles on the plain, and the increasing need for a large castle town around the castle.The candidates for the future castle site were Mount Hikone and Mount Isoyama (in present-day Maibara City), and finally Mount Hikone was selected as the site of the castle, because there was not enough available land in the Isoyama area for a large castle town.Through two periods of construction work (the first period: Keicho construction work (1604-14) and the second period: Genna construction work (1615-22)), the castle was completed in about 20 years.In the first period, which began in 1604, the central part of the castle within the inner moats was built, and an artificial river, which we know as the Serigawa River, was dug. This stage of construction work was done as tenka bushin(meaning “the shogun’s construction work”), whereby the Tokugawa Shogunate commanded feudal lords in the areas near Omi to conduct construction work.In this period of construction, the buildings forming the heart of the castle, including the donjon and the Honmarugoten Palace, were built.Meanwhile, multiple natural flows of water winding to the northwest, toward Mount Hikone (also known as Mount Konki), had existed before Hikone Castle was constructed, and in order to direct these flows straight to Lake Biwa, an artificial river called the Serigawa River was created.This artificial river would have been the first line of defense in the case of attack by enemies from the south. One of the hypothetical enemies at the time of the construction of Hikone Castle was the Toyotomi family based in Osaka Castle in Settsu.It is thought that this river was exploited not only for the purpose of defense, but also for the purpose of the creation of wetland needed to ensure the space for a castle town.The second period of construction work started in July 1615, soon after the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Osaka. Construction work in this period was conducted only by the Ii family.Literature sources and the studies on the two dimensional structure of stone walls and the castle suggest that improvements to part of the castle site within the inner moats, the construction of the bailey between the inner moats and the middle moats, and the construction of the outer moats surrounding the outer fortifications of the castle, were completed during the second period.The improvements within the inner moats include the construction of the Omotegoten Palace. The Omotegoten Palace was built near the Sawaguchi entrance to the east of the castle, for use as the center of the domain government, in place of the Honmarugoten Palace built during the first period. Additionally, the Omotegomonguchi entrance was added to the Sawaguchi entrance, and was used as an entrance for the domain lord to pass through going to and returning from Edo in alternate years. Moreover, the residence quarters for important retainers, built inside the inner moats during the first period of construction, were moved to outside the outer fortifications of the castle, and the domain’s public facilities, including rice warehouses, were constructed at the former site of the residence quarters.From the construction of Hikone Castle to the abolition of feudal domains in the first years of the Meiji era, the Ii family continued to be one of the top fudai daimyoof the Tokugawa Shogunate, which means that the family had become a feudal lord family (daimyo) after many years of sharing hardships with Tokugawa Ieyasu before the Battle of Sekigahara.Given that many other fudai daimyowere commanded to move their territories and castles to other places during the Edo period, the Ii family was a rare case of a feudal lord that had experienced no territory shift.The Ii family of the Hikone domain was a feudal lord family with a holding yielding some 350,000 koku(the unit of rice), including 300,000 kokufrom its fiefdom, as well as 20,000 kokuof goyomai, rice entrusted by the Shogunate and always stored in Hikone Castle (equivalent to 50,000 kokuwhen assessed as a stipend from the shogunate).Comparison with many other fudai daimyo, who held yields of 50,000 to 150,000 koku, suggests that the Ii family received overwhelmingly generous treatment from the Shogunate.
Hikone Castle is a typical early-modern castle, with a number of multiple-layer structures, including souishigaki(walls without using materials other than stones) and a tile-thatched donjon. The castle, however, is a rare case among those built in the early-modern era in that it has dry moats (moats constructed by digging across ridge lines) and artificially carved precipices, which are features of medieval mountaintop castles. This is deemed to originate from the fact that Hikone Castle was constructed soon after the Battle of Sekigahara, when the military tensions of the late Warring States period had not yet been eased.One of the characteristic remains of Hikone Castle is a facility called nobori ishigaki(vertical stone walls) built in parallel with mountain slopes. This is a rare structure, one of only a few cases found in Japan, including Matsuyama Castle in Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture, and Sumoto Castle in Sumoto City, Hyogo Prefecture.
As seen above, nationwide comparisons show that Hikone Castle is a valuable example of a castle with both the features of medieval castles focusing on military functions and those of early-modern castles focusing on political functions.
The arrangement of buildings on the site of Hikone Castle we see today was completed after the second period of its construction.The main facilities of the castle, including the donjon (designated as a national treasure), are arranged on Mount Konki (Mount Hikone), and important fortification facilities, including entrance structures, are arranged at the skirts of the mountain.Moreover, inner moats connecting to an inner lake (Matsubara-naiko) of Lake Biwa are located around these castle facilities.Outside the inner moats, residence quarters for important retainers are arranged, and the quarters are surrounded with the middle moats.Outside the middle moats is an area containing samurai residences, merchant residences, and sites of temples and shrines, which is also surrounded by the outer moats called sogamae-bori.Pictorial sources, including Gojoka soezu(meaning “General map of the castle town,” designated as a local cultural property of Hikone City) made in 1836 and the present block arrangement suggests that a castle town was created and developed in the southeast and the southwest outside the outer moats.As seen above, Hikone Castle is a castle complex (including the castle town) with a wide area, including the artificial Serigawa River. Pictorial sources and the present block arrangement help us to understand what the huge remaining castle site was like at that time.Inside the middle moats, there are clusters of remaining castle-related structures, including stone walls. They are preserved in very good condition, so this area is designated as a special historic site.Although the present-day downtown area outside the middle moats has changed in various ways after the castle became unoccupied, there are some spots with well-preserved structural remains and materials telling us thoroughly about the layout of the castle complex, including vertical ground gaps and zonings.
The heart of Hikone Castle is a cluster of baileys on the top of Mount Konki (Hikone).Its center is the Honmaru Bailey with the donjon (a national treasure), and there are the Nishinomaru Bailey to the west, and the Taikomaru Bailey to the east. Across the huge dry moat with stone walls, the Deguruwa Bailey to the west of the Nishinomaru Bailey, and the Kanenomaru Bailey to the east of the Taikomaru Bailey. The name “Taikomaru” contains “maruThrough the Taikomaru Bailey, a passage connects the Honmaru Bailey and the Kanenomaru Bailey. This passage is completely bordered by stone forts, and strongly protected by the Tenbin-yagura Turret (an important cultural property), which is a Tamon-yagura turret located at the eastern end of the Taikomaru Bailey. The Idoguruwa Bailey has a similar structure to it.These baileys on the top of the mountain are connected with each other by entrances called koguchi. These entrances are divided into two types; cranked entrances with the opening between two walls not in the same line, and simple entrances with the opening between walls in the same line. Each bailey is built on tall stone walls.Except for four passages from the skirts of the mountain to these baileys on the mountain, the mountain is strongly protected with yama-kirigishi, artificially carved mountainous precipices.Five wooden bridges connect the inside of the inner moats and the skirts of the mountain, and all these bridges are protected by turret gates. Furthermore, the Otemon Gate and the Omotemon Gate are strongly protected by square-shaped entrance structures with two gates including a turret gate. These two entrances are connected to vertical stone walls, which are stone forts running on the mountain slope straight between the mountain top and the skirts, and huge vertical dry moats, for defensive purposes.In addition to these, there are three sets of vertical stone walls and a vertical dry moat. The five sets of vertical stone walls and a vertical dry moat divide the entire area into five smaller areas to protect them, while the facilities at the skirts of the mountain inside the inner moats connect directly the top and skirts of the mountain.Other noteworthy features of Hikone Castle are types of stone walls using earth banks: hachimaki ishigaki(literally “headband-like stone walls”) and koshimaki ishigaki(literally “waste-cloth-like stone walls”). Unlike stone walls comprising heaped stones from the top to the bottom, the stone walls on the earthwork are called hachimaki ishigaki, and the stone walls under the earthwork are called koshimaki ishigaki. In Hikone Castle, these types of stone walls are used at the same place only in the inner moat between the Otemon Bridge and the Omotemon Bridge. Specifically, stone walls were built on the earth bank built on stone walls. In other places, inner moats are constructed with koshimaki ishigaki(stone walls under the earthwork) on which the earthwork is built.In the inner moats protecting the heart of Hikone Castle, there are high stone walls only around the entrances. This kind of structure is rare for castles in western Japan.Given that the Ii family, the lords of Hikone Castle, had come from the Kanto region, this is thought to be a product of the combination of the Kanto-region-particular technique for constructing huge earthworks and the technique in constructing stone walls in the Kansai region (and Hikone in particular).Next, the bailey called the second bailey between the inner moat and the middle moat is built on stone walls in not only the inner moat parts but in the middle moat parts.However, while the inner moat is built with low stone walls under the earthworks, the middle moat is completely constructed with high stone walls.These stone walls are zigzagged in order to provide places at certain intervals for soldiers to shoot arrows and muskets from the sides (a method called “yokoyaBetween the middle moat and the castle, there are only four entrances: the Sawaguchi, Kyobashiguchi, Funamachiguchi, and Nagabashiguchi entrances. All the entrance bridges except the Nagabashiguchi entrance bridge are earth bridges, and strongly protected by huge square-shaped entrance structures. At the Sawaguchi and Kyobashiguchi entrances, we can see the foundation stones of the stone walls and gates, and traces of the pillars, which tell us how large the pillars were.
Some ink writings suggest that these buildings were completed around 1606. The three-story donjon is not very large, but boasts a beautiful appearance created by the use of various construction techniques, including gables, hip-and-gable roofs, and undulating gables. The donjon has a structure of building up layers of stories, instead of that of one pillar through the entire building from the top to the bottom. Moreover, as seen in holes in pillars in the donjon, it was constructed by using materials once used in constructing other buildings.
This gate is located at the entrance to the Honmaru Bailey from the Kanenomaru and Taikomaru Baileys. The set of the gate and the Tsuzuki-yagura turret attached to it in the south is designated as an important cultural property. One feature of this gate is an open-air corridor in the turret on the gate, on the side facing the Honmaru Bailey. Disassembling repair work found that this gate had been in another place and moved to this place to be reconstructed.
This turret is located in the Taikomaru side of the bridge between the Kanenomaru and Taikomaru Baileys. This turret, including two-story turrets at both ends, is called “tenbin (a pair of scales)” due to its appearance like a pair of scales. Just under the Tenbin-yagura turret, there is a huge dry moat between the Kanenomaru and Taikomaru Baileys. This turret is presumed to have been an important turret for protecting the heart of the castle. Ii nenpu says that this turret was once the Otemon gate of Nagahama Castle (in present-day Nagahama City) before it was moved and reconstructed here. Disassembling repair work confirmed that it had been moved and reconstructed here, but did not reveal that this turret had been once the Otemon gate of Nagahama Castle.The Tenbin-yagura turret has undergone multiple repairs, among which the repair in 1854 was of so large a scale that the stone walls at the basis of the building were reconstructed. That is why the stones in the stone walls on the left and right sides are heaped in different ways; the stone walls on the right side seen from the front were constructed when the castle was built, and stone walls in the left side were reconstructions from the 19th century repair work.
This turret has three stories as the donjon does, and was built on the dry moat in the west of the Nishinomaru Bailey. This was the key defensive building against enemies from the west. One-story Tsuzuki-yagura turrets are attached to this turret in the eastern and northern sides. The set of these buildings is designated as an important cultural property.
This turret surrounds the square-shaped structure at the Sawaguchi entrance, one of the four entrances along the middle moat, to the east of the castle. The name “Tamon-yagura” denotes a long one-story turret.
This is a long building located outside the Omotemon Gate. There is no other example of an existing stable of an early-modern castle in Japan. The stable is L-shaped, with a small tatami room at the eastern end and a gate at the western end. The inside of this building comprises 21 horse stands and feeding places, so this building was able to keep 21 horses.
Seiryoji Temple of the Sotoshu Buddhist sect was established as the graveyard of the first Hikone domain lord, Ii Naomasa, after he died in 1602. This graveyard contains the 58 graves of the deceased related to the Ii family, including Naomasa and the six other domain lords who died in Hikone. (The graveyard is designated as a historic site under the name of the Graveyard of the Successive Hikone Domain Lords of the Ii Family, though not open to the general public). Besides this, there are other graveyards for the Ii family in Eigenji Temple (Higashiomi City) and Gotokuji Temple (Setagaya-ku, Tokyo). 2) Ryotanji TempleWhen the Ii family moved to Hikone, this temple was opened as a branch of the guardian temple of the Ii family located in Inasa-cho, Inasa-gun, Shizuoka Prefecture (present-day Inasa-cho, Kita-ku, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture), where the Ii family originated. This temple belongs to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzaishu Buddhist sect. The Hojo south garden and the Shoin east garden in this temple were designed by Shoten, the founding priest of this temple. The Hojo south garden is a karesansui (dry landscape) garden, and the Shoin east garden, designated as a local cultural property of Hikone city, is a pond and stream garden.
This is a Buddhist temple of the Shingonshu sect, built in 1695 by order of Ii Naooki, the fifth lord of the Hikone domain. The main building (Benzaiten-do) is designated as an important cultural property, and four buildings —Amida-do, the tower gate, the scripture house, and the treasure house— are local cultural properties of Shiga Prefecture.
This castle is presumed to have originated from a residence built by Omigenji Sasaki Sadatsuna’s sixth son, Tokitsuna, at the skirts of Mount Sawa in the early Kamakura period. Later, this castle was competed for by the Sasaki Rokkaku family based in the Konan area and the Kyogoku and Azai families based in the Kohoku area, because it was located on the border between these two forces. In the Warring States period, this castle was occupied by the Azai family, and Oda Nobunaga attacked this castle in 1570, resulting in the surrender of the castle by the lord, Isono Kazumasa, to Nobunaga and the occupation of the castle by Nobunaga. After the Azai family was ruined, Niwa Nagahide, a retainer of Nobunaga, became the lord of this castle. After the death of Nobunaga and the conquer of Omi by Hideyoshi, this castle received Hideyoshi’s followers as castle lords, including Hori Hidemasa, Horio Yoshiharu, and Ishida Mitsunari. After Ishida Mitsunari was defeated in the Battle of Sekigahara, Ii Naomasa, a retailer of Tokugawa Ieyasu, entered the castle, and his son, Naotsugu, moved their castle to Hikone. Since then, Sawayama Castle has not been occupied.
(Cultural Property Section, Cultural Property Department, Hikone City Board of Education)