Just a stones-throw from down-town Nara,lies Yamatokoriyama-shi (Yamatokoriyama City),with,as it's centerpiece,Yamatokoriyama-jo (Yamatokoriyama Castle).
The area is also famous for the "Yamatokoriyama Goldfish",so much so that the city is often associated with the species.As you follow this course you will be taken by some of the many goldfish-ponds that dot the area.
While researching this castle I discovered that there are two castles in the area - Yamatokoriyama-jo and Yamatokoizumi-jo.
In 1576 Tsutsui Junkei (1549 to 1584),one of the most powerful warriors of the region in feudal Japan at the time,united the Yamato Province by overcoming the rising local Samurais.In recognition of his accomplishment,Junkei was appointed to the position of Lord of Yamato by Oda Nobunaga (1534 to 1582),a Daimyo or powerful territorial lord,and,in 1580,he moved to Koriyama where he strengthened the existing fortifications,and built Yamatokoriyama-jo.
Four years later Junkei would pass-away, and occupancy of the castle would be transferred to Hashiba Hidenaga (1540 to 1591)a chief retainer,who made some improvements to the castle,as well as instituting many local reforms.
In 1595,Mashita Nagamori (1545 to 1615),a Daimyo,moved-into the castle, but soon abandoned it when he lost at the "Battle of Sekigahara" (a decisive battle on October 21st 1600,which cleared the path to the Shogunate for Tokugawa Ieyasu).The castle soon fell into disrepair,but,in 1615,Mizuno Katsushige (1564 to 1651),a Daimyo,was commissioned by Ieyasu to reconstruct the castle.
From 1619,when the Mizuno Clan were transferred to Fukuyama,until it's final abandonment in 1873,Yamatokoriyama-jo would be occupied by four different Clans.
In 1983 the Otemon,a gate or entrance,was reconstructed,followed a year later,in 1984,with the reconstruction of the Ote Higashisumi Turret. The final piece to be reconstructed was the Otemon Watari Turret,in 1987.
The Moat,Towering Stonework and overall Rustic Charm,are all that really remain of the original castle.But the grounds are quite extensive,and,during "Cherry Blossom Season" (April/May)and Autumn(October/November)the colours are abound,and,along with the many historical buildings,Yamatokoriyama-jo is a very-picturesque sight to behold.From the top of the castle's foundation,you can see the "Five Story Pagoda" in Nara Park.
Very little information exists regarding Yamatokoizumi-jo, just that it is believed that construction commenced sometime between 1332 and 1391.In 1623 the castle was modernized into a fortified residence by the Katagiri Clan,then,in 1673,the inner moat was completed along with further enhancements to the fortifications.But,unfortunately,in 1873 the castle was abandoned then demolished, as was decreed.Today,very little remains of Yamatokoizumi-jo.
The area around Yamatokoriyama station and Yamatokoriyama-jo are well signposted as well as markings on the footpath.But,once you begin your walk to Yamatokoizumi-jo you become reliant on this map.So,as we experienced,if you wander-off the trail,god-knows where you will end up.
Of the seven castles I have visited,researched,photographed and written-about for this bundle,this is my personal favourite. And the ironical thing is,there are no castles.Just ruins.What makes this trip my favourite,is the serenity and beauty of the area.
I would like to acknowledge to assistance of my friend,Motokazu Mishima,who accompanied me on this trip.Without his assistance I would not have been able to see and record half the information in this Guide.
There are three options with this walk;1)begin and end your day at Yamatokoriyama station,taking-in the castle and surrounding area.2)begin at Yamatokoriyama station and end at Yamatokoizumi station,taking-in the castles,the countryside and the many goldfish ponds.3)when finished at Yamatokoriyama,reboard the train for Yamatokoizumi and take-in that area.
As I always say,any-time of year is a good time to visit this area,but,in saying that,Spring(April/May),for the cherry-blossom,or Autumn(October/November),for the colours.
Apart from the convenience store next to Yamatokoriyama station,the opportunity to purchase something to eat and drink,while on your walk,are very scarce.So I suggest you purchase something before arriving.
Access to the area is very-easy.Yamatokoriyama is on the J.R. Main Line between Osaka city and Nara city,or,if you are coming from Kyoto,change trains at Nara.
Again,I need to stress upon you,if you are doing the full course,pay attention to the map and where you are walking.