• Kyodo

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Parts of stone walls and gold-plated roof tiles believed to be the ruins of Shigetsu Castle have been discovered at the construction site for a new apartment complex in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, a private research firm has announced.

Feudal leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi began construction on the castle in 1592, a year after he ended his regency. But it was called a “phantom castle” because it was said to have been destroyed by an earthquake in 1596, and no remnants had ever been found.

Researchers have excavated some 36 meters of stone wall about 0.5 to 1 meter high and 2 meters thick, more than 100 fragments of gold-plated roof tiles, and the remains of a 5- to 7-meter-wide, 2-meter-deep moat, according to Kyoto-based firm Kyoto Heian Bunkazai.

“I was very surprised because we believed the stone walls of Shigetsu Castle had collapsed and had been totally lost,” said Nara University President Yoshihiro Senda, who is an expert on the archaeology of castle sites. “The long stone walls found this time show that the castle was large and luxurious, and we can easily imagine the great power of Hideyoshi.”

The wall was built by piling up large square-shaped stones measuring more than a meter on each side and filling the cracks with smaller stones, similar to the method used to build the stone walls around Jurakudai, a lavish palace built in Kyoto earlier at Hideyoshi’s order.

The gold roof tiles had patterns similar to those used in Osaka Castle, which was also built under Hideyoshi’s rule.

“The fact that the location of the castle was made clear is a significant discovery,” said professor Hitoshi Nakai of the University of Shiga Prefecture. “The remains show the characteristics of construction ordered by Hideyoshi, who had a great influence on castle-building in Japan.”

After Shigetsu Castle collapsed, a new one called Fushimi Castle was constructed nearby and became the place where Hideyoshi died in 1598.

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