Mt. Shizugatake

Mt. Shizugatake

The mountaintop site of a decisive battle with fantastic views

place Area: access_time Published: 2020.07.23

Name in Japanese: 賤ヶ岳
Pronunciation: shizugatake

Mt. Shizugatake is a mountain with an altitude of 421 m located in Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture. The mountain is a peak on a mountain range between Lake Biwa and one of its subsidiary lakes, Lake Yogo. It offers an amazing panoramic view over the whole Ōmi region.

The area around the mountains is part of the Biwako Quasi-National Park. There are hiking trails from several directions to the summit such as from Yogo-so, a national lodge on the southern shore of Lake Yogo, Hannoura on the north shore of Lake Biwa, Yogo Station on the JR West Japan Hokuriku Main Line, and a ridge extending from Mt. Yamamoto on the south side. The whole area was the scene of major conflict in the Warring States period, and the decisive Battle of Shizugatake was fought around fortifications on the mountain.

The geography of Mt. Shizugatake

A ridge extends northeast from the summit, and beyond that is Mt. Ōiwa, where the grave of Nakagawa Kiyohide is located. A ridge extends to the northwest leading to Mt. Gyōichi (660 m). In the south, a ridge extends to Mt. Yamamoto (324 m) along the eastern shore of Lake Biwa. The Yogo River flows from north to south at the eastern foot of the mountain. On the west side of the mountain, there is the Hannoura water supply tunnel connecting Lake Biwa and Lake Yogo.


A chairlift connects the Ooto district at the southwestern foot of the mountain to the ridge of the summit. The nearest station is Kinomoto Station on the JR West Japan Hokuriku Main Line. The nearest interchange is the Kinomoto interchange on the Hokuriku Expressway, and the Shizugatake service area to the north.

The Battle of Shizugatake

A major battle of the Warring States period was fought on Mt. Shizugatake in May 1583.

Oda Nobunaga had succeeded in bringing much of Japan under his control when he was betrayed by a vassal and committed suicide. In the jockeying for succession after his death, Hashiba Hideyoshi (later named Toyotomi Hideyoshi), gained an early advantage over Oda’s senior generals, including Shibata Katsuie.

Compared with Katsuie, Hideyoshi was of low rank, and his adopted name ‘Hashiba’ was taken to honour Katsuie by including the ‘shiba’ character. The rise of Hideyoshi and subsequent developments would have been personally galling to Katsuie.

Nobunaga left several heirs, and Hideyoshi and Katsuie supported different offspring according to their own calculations. Hideyoshi’s choice prevailed, setting the stage for an armed contest.

While Katsuie was snowed in at a castle in Fukui, Hideyoshi took the opportunity to oust Katsuie’s allies from Nagahama Castle and Gifu Castle. As spring approached, Hideyoshi took steps to protect western Japan from attack by Katsuie and his ally Maeda Toshiie. He built forts on the mountains between Lake Biwa and Lake Yogo, including Shizugatake, and he installed his vassals to defend three of them while he occupied another.

As expected, Shibata Katsuie came down from the north to attack, when Oda Nobutaka declared an insurrection from Gifu Castle and Hideyoshi was obliged to go and defeat it. Katsuie’s forces took the opportunity to overrun several of the forts, but while they were besieging the fort on Shizugatake, Hideyoshi returned by forced march and engaged his surprised enemies on the northeastern ridge of the mountain.

A wood-block print by the Meiji period artist, Utagawa Toyonobu, shows the scene before the engagement. Hideyoshi is standing at right.

In the fierce fighting, Katsuie’s forces were routed. Pursued by Hideyoshi, Katsuie himself returned to his castle in Fukui, where he and his wife killed themselves and burned down the castle.

As a result of the battle Hideyoshi became the ruler of much of Japan, and during his lifetime he extended his rule even further.

The battle was an opportunity for the advancement of many who took part in it. The most famous of these were the Seven Spears of Shizugatake, mounted bodyguards of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. At a decisive moment in the battle, Hideyoshi ordered them to leave him and charge at Shibata Katsuie’s forces. Many were rewarded for their service by being promoted to daimyō. The Seven Spears are remembered in the name of a popular brand of sake, Shichihonyari, drunk widely in the Ōmi area. It’s brewed nearby in Kinomoto at the Tomita Brewery. Although not one of the Seven Spears, Ishida Mitsunari of Ōmi was charged with reporting on the movement Katsuie’s forces, and when battle was joined, he took the honour of being first to engage the enemy.

On Mt. Ōiwa, you can still see the grave of Nakagawa Kiyohide, defender of one of the forts taken by Shibata Katsuie’s army. Kiyohide and the few hundred men in his command died fighting. Hideyoshi wept to hear of their bravery to the end.


place Ōto, Kinomotochō, Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture