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Castle Ōgaki Castle

This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
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Ōgaki Castle (大垣城 Ōgakijō) was a flatland castle (平城 hirajiro or hirajō) in Ōgaki, western Mino Province (modern-day Gifu Prefecture). It is also known as Kyoroku Castle (巨鹿城 Kyorokujō) or Bi Castle (麇城 Bijō).

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

Castellans of Ōgaki during the Edo period:

  • 1601-15: Ishikawa Yasumichi (石川康通) and descendants (50.000 koku)
  • 1615-24: Hisamitsu Matsudaira clan (50.000 koku)
  • 1624-33: Okabe clan (岡部氏) with 50.000 koku
  • 1633-35: Hisamitsu Matsudaira with 60.000 koku
  • 1635-1871: Toda Ujikane (戸田氏鉄) and descendants (100.000 koku)


From ancient times, Ōgaki has been an important east-west transportation hub between the Kinki and Tōkai regions, with the Nakasendō road just to the north. Water transportation was also very well developed in the area. The western part of the Nobi Plain is very flat, and although the centre of Ōgaki lies 30 kilometres inland from the sea, it is only five metres above sea level. Three major rivers - the Kiso (木曽川), Nagara (長良川), and Ibi (揖斐川) - flow into this lowland area. Naturally, the site has always suffered from flooding, but on the other hand, the large rivers and the flat terrain have also brought water transport advantages. Ōgaki is also blessed with river and spring water, and self-priming wells are all over the city. For this reason, Ōgaki is also known as the Water Capital (水都 Suito).

Ōgaki Castle is said to have been built in 1500 by Takekoshi Naotsuna (竹腰尚綱) and in 1535 completed by Miyagawa Yasusada (宮川安定). At the time, the castle was called Ushiya Castle (牛屋城 Ushiyajō) and was small in scale, using the Suimon River (水門川) as an outer moat.

In 1559, when Ujiie Naomoto (氏家直元, 1512-1571), one of the Mino Triumvirate (西美濃三人衆), became lord of the castle, significant expansion work was carried out, and the enclosures were improved and fortified. Later, Ichiyanagi Naosue (一柳直末), Ito Sukemori (伊藤祐盛) and other vassals of Toyotomi Hideyoshi were installed as castellans. Around that time, the keep was built. In 1600, Ishida Mitsunari and his Western army set up their headquarters in Ōgaki Castle to intercept Tokugawa Ieyasu on his return from Kantō. The two armies then clashed at Sekigahara, west of the castle. The Tokugawa forces, victorious at the Battle of Sekigahara, then attacked Ōgaki Castle, which fell within a week or so.

During this series of battles, a young girl named Oamu (おあむ) was present in the castle and later recounted her experiences to her grandchildren. The vivid tales of how she applied makeup to the heads of those killed as part of her role as a woman and how a bullet in front of her killed her younger brother have been handed down as 'Oamu Monogatari (The Tales of Oamu).

After the war, various feudal lords served as castellans in Ōgaki, a strategic location. In 1620, Matsudaira Tadayoshi (松平忠良) rebuilt the castle tower to four storeys. After Toda Ujikane (戸田氏鉄) took over the castle in 1635, the Toda clan continued to serve as lord until the Meiji Restoration. The castle's keep and other structures survived the Meiji Period and were designated national treasures in the Showa era (1926-1989). Unfortunately, the castle was destroyed by fire during an air raid in 1945. The keep was restored in 1959. In 2011, the windows, roof and other external features were renovated to bring them closer to their original appearance.

Ōgaki Castle was surrounded by several moats around the Honmaru (本丸) and Ninomaru (二の丸), taking advantage of the abundance of water. The relatively compact size of the Honmaru and Ninomaru castle buildings has only entrances and exits on the south and east sides, respectively. Seven gates, known as the Seven Gates of Ōgaki Castle (大垣城七口之門), were built around the perimeter: the Higashiguchi-ōte (東口大手), Minamiguchi-ōte (南口大手), Yanagiguchi (柳口), Takehashiguchi (竹橋口), Shimizuguchi (清水口), Tatsunoguchi (辰之口) and Kobashiguchi (小橋口).

Reference: Illustrated Map of Ōgaki Castle in Mino Province (美濃国大垣城絵図, National Archives of Japan)

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

A reconstruction of the castle shows how the Honmaru and Ninomaru looked in those days, like tiny islands floating in a pond. In the Honmaru, a continuous keep was built with turrets surrounding the centre.

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

Most enclosures beside the Honmaru have been demolished, and the inner moat has been filled in. However, the moat around the perimeter remains, and you can see the scale of the castle at that time.

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

Aerial photographs taken from Geographical Survey Institute maps. The location of the enclosures is estimated.


Ōgaki Castle, surrounded by branches of the Ibikawa (揖斐川), has the classic shape of a flatland castle. In the centre is the Hommaru, and south of it is the Ninomaru, both surrounded by a moat up to 70 metres wide. The Sannomaru and other fortifications define the wider surroundings, surrounded by an outer moat, the Sōgamae (総構), four kilometres long. The Hommaru, or inner bailey, had a four-storey donjon, a three-storey watchtower and two two-storey, later four two-storey watchtowers. A three-storey watchtower protected the Ninomaru. The residence, the Goten (御殿), was also located there.


I visited the castle by car and parked at the Municipal Marunouchi parking lot on the south side of Ōgaki Park. There are also municipal parking lots around the castle.

① Ōgaki Park (大垣公園)

Nowadays, the central part of the castle structure consists of Ōgaki Park.

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

② Honmaru (本丸)

This corner turret is located to the northeast of Honmaru. It was destroyed in a US air raid in 1945.

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

Kuroganemon Ruins (鉄門跡)

Although several gates exist nowadays, initially, there was only one gate to the Honmaru, the Kuroganemon (Iron Gate) on the south side.

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

The East Gate of the Honmaru (本丸東口)

Initially, there was no gate on the east side of the castle. Later, the Yanagiguchi Gate on the outer perimeter was relocated to accommodate the reconstruction of the keep.

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

Parts of the ishigaki (stone wall) that surrounded the centre of Honmaru.

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

Tenshukaku (天守)

In 1959, the four-storey keep was reconstructed in reinforced concrete. It houses a museum.

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

The top floor of the keep (天守最上階)

The original kuruwa stretched over a vast area. When the moats were filled up later, private residences spawned nearby, obstructing the view of the former castle grounds.

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

Next, we walked along the former outer moat.

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

③ Former Han school (藩校跡)

It was founded in Tenpo 11 (1840).

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

④ Sumiyoshi Lighthouse and Funamachi Port Ruins (住吉燈台と船町港跡)

This is the symbol of a town that prospered by transporting people and goods over inland waterways. Matsuo Bashō (松尾芭蕉) completed his journey on the 'Oku no Hosomichi' (奥の細道) here in Ōgaki and travelled to Kuwana by boat.

Ōgaki Castle (大垣城)

ogakialt=Ōgaki Castle (大垣城) in 1933

A photo of Ōgaki Castle donjon and a yagura (1933). It was destroyed in the Ōgaki bombing of July 1945.

Date of visit: 22 March 2014


  • Address: 2-52 Kuruwamachi, Ōgaki, Gifu 503-0887
  • Access: a 14-minute walk from Ōgaki Station on the JR Tōkaidō Main Line, Yōrō Line, Tarumi Line
    5 kilometres from Tōkai Kanjō Expressway Ōgaki Nishi Interchange via Prefectural Route 50
  • Parking: Municipal Marunouchi parking lot
  • Other sites: Castle Town Ogaki Sightseeing Map (Ōgaki City Tourism Association)
Next article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Ōtaki Castle
Previous article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Sone Castle
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Hiroto Uehara
Hiroto is an ordinary Japanese office worker, but his true mission is searching for castles on the weekend.


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Hiroto Uehara
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〒503-0887 岐阜県大垣市郭町2丁目52

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