Updated: Sep 26, 2021
In this post, we step over the Kyoto border into neighbouring Shiga to visit the remains of an Edo Era castle and PARANORMAL KANSAI spot.
In October 1600 at the end of the Sengoku Period, the Battle of Sekigahara stands without a doubt as the single most important and decisive battle in the history of feudal Japan. Fought between the forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu and clans loyal to Toyotomi (several of which defected to Tokugawa either before or during the battle), Sekigahara led to the establishment of a governing force in the country that would last until 1868, the Tokugawa Shogunate.
After the Battle, Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered that a new castle be built in Zeze, Shiga. The new Zeze Castle was designed by the Toda daimyo, Todo Takatora, a general of Toyotomi who had sided with Tokugawa at Sekigahara. Toda was known as a castle designer and also involved with the building of Edo and Wakayama castles amongst others. Unusual in Japan, Todo designed the castle with four storey's (four being an unlucky number due to its connections with the Japanese word for death, both being pronounced 'shi').
(Pic above right, replica gate at Zeze Castle Park entrance).
By the great Lake Biwa, Zeze Castle's first lord was Toda Kazuaki who had been awarded the fiefdom of Zeze in then Omi province after the Battle of Sekigahara in reward for his services in battle. Toda Kazuaki passed away in 1604 and the next incumbent was Toda Ujikane.
Pictured below, bridge to side entrance of Zeze Castle Park).
In 1662, the castle was badly damaged in an earthquake, there was damage to the castle keep, and parts of the Honmaru (main bailey) and Ninomaru (second bailey) collapsed and fell into Lake Biwa. Both were repaired and merged into one on the current site of Zeze Castle Park. The castle was demolished in 1870 after the Meiji restoration but some of the gates, listed as important cultural assets can still be found at a number of shrines in the area.
Some stone walls still remain, and a replica gate stands at the park entrance. Locals use it as an exercise and relaxation spot, children play on the park toys, people fish on the bank of the lake. And although there is little to see of the castle today, it can make for an interesting trek around the locality to find all the pieces of the castle that are now being used for other purposes. These locations can be found via an internet search and by bicycle you can easily cover the distances in an afternoon.
Zeze Castle Park is also next to a location from the HIDDEN PATHS companion book PARANORMAL KANSAI - Mysteries & Unexplained Stories of West Japan, The Ohashi Bridge over Biwako (pictured below). Known as a suicide spot which has led to ghostly sightings and experiences whilst crossing. One late night a truck driver claims to have seen a woman wearing pyjamas walking on the bridge. The teenage-looking woman was crying. The driver stopped his truck and went to check on the young woman as it was around 2am. The truck driver could not find the woman and hadn’t heard any sound in the water below to imply that she had jumped. It was as if she had vanished! The driver reported the incident to the local police, but a search revealed nothing. Could this have been the ghost of someone that had committed suicide by throwing themselves from Ohashi Bridge? Other witnesses report seeing the ghost of a woman close to the bridge. Another person whilst walking over the bridge felt their shoulder being pulled and upon looking around, they saw nobody there but on the ground was a bouquet of flowers that had been placed by a bereaved family of a suicide victim.
For more information on Paranormal spots in the Kansai area pic up a copy of PARANORMAL KANSAI - Mysteries & Unexplained Stories of West Japan in paperback or digital formats from all regions of Amazon.