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Yamatokoriyama and Yamatokoizumi Castles

Yamatokoriyama,home of the Japanese Carp.
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 6.835 miles
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly

Overview :  Just a stones-throw from down-town Nara,lies Yamatokoriyama-shi (Yamatokoriyama City),with,as it's centerpiece,Yamatokoriyama-jo ... more »

Tips:  There are three options with this walk;1)begin and end your day at Yamatokoriyama station,taking-in the castle and surrounding area.2)... more »

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Points of Interest

You have arrived at the beginning of what I hope will be a great days walking/touring.
Next to the exit of the station is a "7/11" convenience store.If you haven't brought anything to eat or drink,this will be your last opportunity to purchase something.
Next to the clock is a large noticeboard with map giving you directions through the town to... More

2. Kitamon - North Gate.

As you enter the gate you get your first glimpse of the Sotobariryukuchi or outside moat.
There is a notice-board giving directions and information just inside the gate.
In Japanese,Kita means North,and mon means gate.

3. Sotobariryukuchi - Outside Moat.

You will be following the moat through the early-stages of your walk through the town.
Some days you can see schools of small goldfish swimming in the moat.
During Spring (April/May)and Autumn (October/November)the colours on the trees will be very-beautiful.

4. Sotobariryukuchi - Outside Moat.

You are nearing the end of this section of your walk.In the two times I have visited this area I have left appreciating the serenity and beauty of the moat,gardens and surrounding area.

5. Minamimon - South Gate.

You are at the end of this segment of your walk and are about to enter the mainstream area of Yamatokoriyama-shi,or,in other words,you have arrived at a junction where you join the busy road.
In Japanese,Minami means South,and mon means gate.

6. Minamimon - South Gate.

Once through the gate, you turn right to walk towards your next destination.
The gate is an imposing landmark,and one not easily forgotten.
Directly outside the gate,on your right (where my friend is standing),is another notice-board with a map giving you directions.

7. Jizou

Not far from the Minamimon gate is this Jizou. (I have included this P.O.I. to confirm you are going in the right direcion).
If you look inside the small gate you will see a small-statue,known as a Jizou.
People will stop and pray at this site and make offerings to the god.

8. Footpath Guidance

As mentioned earlier,the trail is well marked. Apart from the signs and information maps,there are markers laid into the ground along the footpath.

9. Sotobariryukuchi.

You have now rejoined the Outside Moat.The moat runs through the middle of the street.
After leaving P.O.I.-8,you turn left here and walk through an area with some traditional Japanese buildings.

10. Sotobariryukuchi Street.

Just a couple of shops you want to keep an eye-out for as you make your way along the street (please be careful as vehicles drive up-and-down this street).
In the first of the two photos,is a Hakomotokan "Konya",or traditional Japanese Dye-workshop.Take the time to look-through the dyed materials/clothing as it is very-impressive.
The other shop... More

11. Sotobariryukuchi Street.

As you near the end of the street,the moat crosses to the right side of the street.
When you reach the intersection,you turn right.To confirm this,there is a florist on the left of the intersection (there was at the time of writing this guide).

12. Directions

From this point you turn left.To confirm this,there is a souvenir shop on your left.
Don't forget to check-out something to take home for those loved-ones.

13. Directions.

When you arrive at these ponds,check-out the huge Karp in the pond. Opposite is the offices of Yamatokoriyama City.

14. Directions

This is a busy intersection,so please be careful as you cross the street.
From this point you make your way to Sanmoraryukuchi-koen (don't try pronouncing that word,I still can't get my tongue around it).

15. Sanmoraryukuchi-koen - Park.

Imagine all these trees in bloom during "Cherry Blossom" season. The vivid-white colours. It's a site you will only see/experience in Japan.

16. Directions

As you exit Sanmoraryukuchi-koen,you turn left and cross the rail-line (making sure there are no trains crossing).
Take note of the large Jizou on your right.

17. Directions

As mentioned in my introduction,one wrong turn,and god-knows where you will end-up.
If you don't turn right here,you will miss the castle.Don't be put-off by the narrow alley,it is the right course.
From here you are entering a bygone era,or stepping-back in time.Enjoy the moment.
As you make you way along the narrow alley you will get your first ... More

18. Ote Gate

If you are fortunate to be here in Spring (April/May)the sight of the Cherry-Blossom in full bloom is spectacular.
You have arrived at the Ote Gate - there are many different types of gate,but the basic construction is the same for all.Two columns (Kagamibashira)that hold the gate doors,and are connected across the top by a crossbeam (Kabuki).
... More

19. Ote Gate from inside

Once entering the complex,take a look back through the gate,at the Otemon Watari Turret, and the surrounding beauty.

20. Yamatokoriyama Museum.

I like museums,especially when they are attached to the complex I am visiting. But,unfortunately,there isn't much to see in this one.
On the day we were here,there were several artists painting different parts of the complex.On this occasion we were able to capture the image of the museum on canvas.

21. Directions

This is another of those "one wrong turns" points.Here we took a wrong turn and circumnavigated the castle, before finding the right track.Unfortunately it isn't well signposted.
At this point,to proceed,go straight-ahead.On your immediate left,where you have just come from,is the museum.

22. Directions

Just to confirm you are on the right track,there is this lovely old rustic building.

23. Yanagisawa Bunko(Library)

At this point you will get your first glimpse of the castle walls and moat.
If you are feeling peckish,this would be a good place to take-a-break and visit the library and gardens.

24. Entrance to castle grounds.

After leaving the library and it's grounds,you come to this wee gate.
This is a good vantage-point to admire the moat and walls.

25. Directions

This is the gate you have just entered,from the inside.You turn right here,towards Yanagisawa Jinjya.
You return to this point as you exit the complex.

26. Yanagisawa Jinjya (Shrine)

What was once the castles Donjon (a central tower that was used as a dungeon or fortress)but is now the Yanagisawa Jinjya.

27. Tenshu Foundation

The Tenshu,or main Keep or Tower,is by far the most important part of any castle.Located at the centre of the castle's defences,it was the safest place to be during an attack.
Just be careful as you climb the steps,especially if they are wet.

28. Atop Tenshu Foundation

Not much left of it (sorry).The first time I came here,in winter of 2003,I was able to see the "Five-Storey Pagoda" in Nara Park.
As you wander-about the Tenshu,try to imagine what it was like when the castle stood here,and the view surrounding you.Hopefully the train won't toot as it passes.

29. Concrete Torii.

Here you have exited the castle complex.If your plans are to return to Yamatokoriyama Station,turn left here (you will recognize the road when you reach the junction in P.O.I. 17).
If you plan to continue,turn right.You will get to see more of the Moats that surround the castle.
Opposite the Torii is one of the most exclusive schools in Japan.

30. Corner of the West and South Stone Walls

In one of the accompanied photos,the one with the white-circle,you will see two workers clearing the weed from the moat walls. This will give you an idea as to the size of the walls.

31. Directions

You have reached another important junction.You turn left here and walk along the side of a wee park.In front of you is a toilet.To your right is the last of the moats.
In the photo you have come from the left,your course is in front of the camera,the toilet is on the right and the moat is behind the camera.

32. Jizou

As you exit the park-area,you will come-across this large Jizou Statue,on your right.
This might be quite a nice spot to admire the view and take a short break.

33. Eikei-ji Temple

Built in 1710,Eikei-ji is the family temple of the Yanagisawa Clan (1658 to 1714),a powerful Daimyo who served as an official in the Tokugawa Shogunate.It is a Zen Sect temple.
The main gate was originally the South Gate at Yamatokoriyama Castle.

34. Benzenten Shrine

A few meters away from the entrance to the Eikei-ji Temple,is the Benzenten Shrine.
The shrine is dedicated to the Woman's God.If you take a close look above the gate entrance,you will see impressions of women playing musical instruments.
After leaving the shrine you turn right.From this point you will be needing to pay close attention to your map... More

35. Directions

After exiting the narrow street (on the right in the photo)you will arrive onto a busy street,so please be careful.
If you take a closer look at the photo,you will see a set of traffic-lights up ahead.You turn left there.

36. Directions

If you can approach this intersection on the left side of the road,you will avoid getting run-over (like I nearly did)trying to cross the intersection.
You turn left at this intersection(in the photo you are approaching the intersection from left and you are turning right).

37. Directions

Don't miss your turn-off here,otherwise god-knows where you will end up.So turn hard-left.
In front of you,you will notice a large clump of trees.What you are looking at is a "Burial Mound" with Tomb.These are a great sight to see,but,one needs to view them from above for them to have any real affect.There are several in this area.

38. Directions

You are about to enter the Goldfish Pond area,but,before you do,you have to navigate this junction first.
By the road-barrier,there is a mirror and signpost (directly behind them is a pond),if you are standing in front of the mirror and signpost,you turn right.
In the photo you have come from the right and you turn sharp-right(almost going back in... More

39. Jizou

This small Jizou looks impressive with the goldfish pond in the background.
Take a look at the house directly behind you.The one overhanging the pond.I wonder how many have fallen-into the pond,especially on a dark night.Hardly bears thinking-about.

40. Directions

Do you see where my friend is standing? You turn left there.
Looking at the map,you will see that you are now well into the pond area.
You are about to walk along a long-narrow lane. Keep walking.When you get to a rail-crossing,you know you are on the right track.You will see the trains passing to your left.

41. Directions

You are again about to exit a narrow lane onto a busy road.Please be very-careful here.
When reaching this junction make a right turn.Another rail-crossing should be in front of you.

42. Directions

If you are crossing the road,or have already crossed,I need to warn you about the traffic.This is a very-busy junction.
Directly in front of you is a restaurant.On this map it shows a combination store on your left (D),well it's closed.But the building is still there.
In the photo,you have come from the left.

43. Directions

After a short walk,you will be leaving the heavy-traffic behind and entering another narrow lane.The carbon monoxide was annoying,just in that short distance.
In the photo,the lane is directly in front,the main-road turns right.

44. ......-Temple

Behind these walls is a temple(name unknown).We were interested in taking a look inside,but,as luck would have it,there were road-works in progress and we couldn't access the complex.Maybe you may have better luck.The entrance is at the rear,on this map.

45. Lunchtime

What better place to take-a-break and have a bite-to-eat,than in the middle of a rice field.

46. Directions

Follow the instructions here,and turn right and go under the road-bridge (as in the first photo).Don't take the pedestrian-way onto the bridge.It will take you miles-away from where you are suppose to be going.
Once exiting from under the bridge,turn left towards Yamatokoizumi (as in the second photo).

After your walk along the narrow lane,you reach this intersection.Turn right here to proceed to Yamatokoizumi Castle.
You re-pass this intersection on your way to the station.

48. Koizumi Sokudobashi Bridge

After your walk through the Yamatokoizumi C.B.D. you reach this area.On your left is a small Jizou and a rest area with other statues inside.
You are about to cross the Tameogawa (Tameo River).
From this point you need to keep a close-eye out for your next P.O.I. - a Monument directing you to Kamatokoizumi-jo.

49. Monument/sign to site of Yamatokoizumi-jo

This landmark will be easily missed if you are not paying attention.It is about a meter off the road,on your left.
I would estimate about 10-minutes walk from the bridge.
You follow the small-lane here,and,to your right,you will see the steps to the site.

50. Site of Yamatokoizumi-jo

After ascending the steps,I hope you don't become too disappointed with what you are about to see (or,in this case,not see)is the site of Yamatokoizumi-jo.
The rock monument is the site of the original Yamatokoizumi castle.As the castle was abandoned and demolished in 1873,most of it's remains were either lost or,as in the case of the Main Gate... More

51. Directions

When reaching this junction,you turn left,then,a few meters on,you turn right.

52. Katagiri Sadamitsu Clan Homestead.

This is the surprise I mentioned.At this intersection you will see the white painted Turret of the residence of Katagiri Sadamitsu,a direct descendant of Katagiri Katsumoto (1556 to 1615),a Samurai of the Azuchi-Momayama Period through the Edo Period.Katagiri served under Toyotomi Hedeyori,and later betrayed him at Osaka.
Turn left here and cross ... More

53. Katagiri Sadamitsu Clan Homestead.

The white walls of the complex make this a very-impressive and photo-opportunity site.

54. Katagiri Homestead Shrine

I just loved this view.I could look at it all day.Especially with the Autumn colours.

55. Directions

You are half-way around the complex.At this junction,turn right.
This is the road you were originally on,which takes you to the station,but,before you leave,you have more to see of this complex.
In the photo you are coming from the right,and walking-away from the camera.

56. Katagiri Homestead Shrine

After turning right at the next intersection (there is an information board,made out of a slice of timber,on the corner),and before continuing to the Homestead,you reach the Katagiri Shrine.
Take note of the main gate.It must be hundreds-of-years old.We feel it is the original gate to the castle.

57. Syachihoko and Crest.

Take a close look at the fence,before the entrance to the Shrine.You will notice the oval-shape tiles,just below the apex of the fence,and the gold-coloured inscriptions on each tile.These are the Crest of the Lord.
On the roof of the Shrine,on each end,you will notice a fish-looking figure.This is a Syachihoko,and are only placed at the roof-ends... More

58. Katagiri Sadamitsu Clan Homestead

You have now reached the main gate to the complex.It is quite an imposing thought,that a descendant of Katagiri Katsumoto lives here.
Please,may I ask you to respect the privacy of the residents by not ringing the door-bell or do anything invasive.

59. Directions

Well,it's time to go home. This part of our walk was the highlight of our day,and I hope it was yours too.
At the intersection,turn right and walk along route- 123 to Yamatokoizumi station.
A couple-of-hundred meters along the road,you will pass the junction,with the monument on the corner, where you turned-off to see the castle ruins.

Well,this is where it ends.I hope you have enjoyed the trip as-much-as I have enjoyed researching,photographing and writing about it.
Unfortunately we couldn't find anywhere to buy something to eat or drink,so I can't recommend any place for you to refresh yourself.
Enjoy your trip home.