Attention Castle Explorers: How To Find The Remains Of Zeze Castle

As a castle lover it sometimes draws me to mysterious places almost nobody else would think of.

In order to find even the tiniest castle tower, I would walk through dark forests, swim through dirty lakes …. and stop eating sushi. JUST KIDDING!
But I do love exploring things that are a bit hidden and unknown to the “standard tourist”. Today I want to share one of these encounters with you, although I doubt that most of you would consider visiting it.

smilie Visited: April 5th 2013 smilie

What I’m about to share with you can be found in Shiga Prefecture (map). This prefecture has some really nice castles, the most popular being Hikone Castle.
But have you ever heard of Zeze Castle?

Zeze Castle in Shiga

Access To Zeze Castle

Zeze Castle (膳所城) is located in Otsu City. It’s close to other sights such as Mt. Hiei, Miidera or Ishiyama Temple and not too far from Kyoto!

As the remaining castle buildings are scattered, there’s not exactly ONE nearest station. Generally you can’t go wrong if you get off at Zeze or Keihanzeze Station.

Zeze Castle in Shiga

History of Zeze Castle

The castle was founded in 1601 by order of Tokugawa Ieyasu. It was designed to have 4 floors which is rare in Japan. Four is pronounced as “shi” which also means death, so it’s considered to be an unlucky number.

Zeze Castle is said to be one of the “Top 3 Lakeside Castles” in Japan together with Matsue Castle (Shimane) and Takashima Castle (Nagano). And yes, I’ve been to all three of them. ;)

A strong earthquake in 1662 destroyed the castle almost completely. The original castle keep was severely damaged. That’s why you’ll only find ruins of the castle today. The remaining buildings are scattered throughout the city, so I guess only real castle fans would want to explore all of them.

In 1870, the castle was abandoned like many others during the Meiji Restoration.


Remaining Buildings of Zeze Castle

If you want to take a walking tour and find all the remaining castle buildings, then check out JCastle Info’s detailed report and photos:

“Some of these original gates, which are listed as important national cultural assets, can be found at Shinozu Shrine (篠津神社), Wakamiya Hachiman Shrine (若宮八幡神社) and Zeze Shrine (膳所神社). The Shinozu Shrine’s current Otemon is the former North Otemon of Zeze Castle. Zeze Shrine has two of the Zeze Castle’s original Honmaru gates with the current Zeze Shrine’s Omote Gate being a former Zeze Castle Honmaru gate facing the Ninomaru. Wakamiya Hachiman Shrine’s main gate is the former Honmaru’s Inuhashi Gate. An original two-storey turret from the east side of the Honmaru can be found in Chausuyama Park (茶臼山公園). It has been converted into a small building used for meetings. “

Zeze Castle in Shiga

Two-Storied Turret of Zeze Castle

I only went to see the most beautiful remaining building of Zeze Castle, the two-storied castle turret inside of Chausuyama Park.
It was extremely difficult to find out how to get there, so I thought I should share this with you!

One of the closest stations is “Nakanosho“. From there it takes about 15 minutes to get to Chausuyama Park. You could also walk from Zeze or Keihanzeze stations, but it will take much longer.

Zeze Castle in Shiga

You’ll have to go through a tunnel when walking to the park. This is the cutest tunnel I’ve ever seen!

In order to find the park either ask at the station or use Google Maps. That’s what I did. It’s not a famous park nor a tourist attraction, so there weren’t any signs pointing out where to go.
I don’t recommend trying to visit if you have neither Google Maps nor any Japanese skills because even if you find the park, you still need to get to the turret! Once you are at the park’s entrance, it’s towards the right side. As I had difficulties finding it at first, I asked somebody and then it was quite easy. :D


 Is This Castle For Me?

This sight is only interesting if you truly love Japanese castles or if you’re up for a little adventure. I recommend going during cherry blossom season, possibly while visiting other sights nearby. For castle fans Shiga Prefecture has a lot to offer: Nagahama Castle, Hikone Castle, Azuchi Castle Ruins or Omi Hachiman Castle Ruins to name just a few. So castle fans should visit Shiga and also drop by Zeze Castle.


T O U R I S T     I N F O R M A T I O N
Opening Hours: none (you can only see the building(s) from the outside)
Holidays: none
Entrance fee: free
Time required: 5-10 mins (only for the building I visited); 2-3h if you want to explore all the remains
TEL: (+81)077-522-3830 (Otsu Tourist Information)
Website: http://www.biwako-visitors.jp/
Access: The remains of the castle are scattered, but Zeze Station or Keihanzeze Station are good starting points for a walking tour.

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