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Castle Ei Castle

The ruins of Ei Castle (頴娃城跡 Ei jōseki) are located in Minamikyūshū, Kagoshima. The castle site was designated a Historic Site of Kagoshima Prefecture in 2005.

ei-castle01.jpg


History


Driving through the southern part of Satsuma Penisula from Makurazaki to Ibusuki, there is a 2-kilometre wide short corridor bordered by the impressive Mount Kaimon (開聞岳 Kaimondake) and Lake Ikeda close to Ibusuki. Ei Castle is located right on top of a mountain range. The castle was the seat of the influential Ei clan, vassals of the Shimazu who governed this district over eight generations from 1420 to 1588. The castle was also called Shishi Castle (獅子城, "Lion Castle") or Nokubi Castle (野首城 Nokubi-jō).

In 1546, a Portuguese merchant by the name of Jorge Álvares visited Ei Castle and told the missionary Francisco Xavier about the fortress. It is said that this was the first European report about a Japanese castle. There is a document that described a five-story turret constructed at the time the 7th head of the Ei clan, Hisatora (頴娃久虎, 1558-1587) ruled the district. Hisatora died in 1587 when he fell from a horse. His son Hisabune (頴娃久音, b. 1583), the 8th head, was transferred to Taniyama County in 1588, and the castle was abandoned.

Utilizing shirasu-daichi (シラス台地, pyroclastic plateaus), the enclosures were lined up from north to south and arranged into earthworks, moats fortified with stone walls. The enclosures were constructed in steps on the northern side. At the southern side, some of the earthworks reached more than three metres in height. A deep moat added to the formidable line of defence.

I overlaid the structure of the former castle on a topographical map, but it does not look well as I had expected. However, as I applied considerable labour (the number indicates enclosures, and ① is estimated to be the main enclosure) I added the map below.

ei-castle02.jpg

Based on a map of the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. The location of the enclosures is estimated.

Visiting the castle


I arrived from Chiran and passed through Ei Town. There is a useful guide board at Nigaraji Tōge (荷辛路峠). The site of Ei Castle is a bit further to the left. I parked my car near the guide board. As the road leading up to the castle is narrow and not very well maintained, you’d better not to go by car. It is just a 5-minute walk to the castle. I entered from the backside of the castle and visited the former honmaru (本丸, main enclosure) first.

ei-castle03.jpg


Honmaru

The earthwork on the southern side is some three metres high.

ei-castle04.jpg


I look at the honmaru from the top of the earthwork. A common feature of castles in Kagoshima is that they divide their enclosures into upper and lower levels Thie honmaru of Ei Castle also consisted of two levels: the open space in the front is the upper level, and the rest of the space covered with bush is the lower level.

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Remains of a stone wall around the honmaru.

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A trench between honmaru and the second enclosure (二の丸 ninomaru).

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Except for the open space around the main enclosure, it was difficult to get a clear view of the former castle grounds. Still, I ventured further to visit the ninomaru. This was what seemed to be a path.

ei-castle08.jpg


Attempting to reach the ninomaru, I got slightly off track.

ei-castle09.jpg


I had to give up finding the other enclosures and observed them from below. There was a gentle descent towards the main gate (大手口 Ōteguchi) on the northern side with several enclosures along the path.

This is what the area around the main gate looked like.

ei-castle10.jpg


Date of visit: 19 October 2013

Access:

  • Address: Ei-cho Koori, Minamikyushu-shi, Kagoshima
  • Access: 18 kilometres from Ibusuki Expressway Ei Interchange via Prefectural routes 234 and 27
  • Parking: Open space around the guide board


Map:


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About author
Hiroto Uehara
Hiroto is an ordinary Japanese office worker, but his true mission is searching for castles on the weekend.

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