Ano-shu Guild (穴太衆)

The Ano-shu Guild is a group of craftspeople who installed stone walls, mainly of temples and castles during the Shokuho era (Azuchi-Momoyama Period). The Ano-shu Guild was also referred to as stone masons and stone wall craftsmen. ‘Ano’ is written out as ‘anafu’ according to the historical kana orthography.


The Ano-shu Guild people came from Ano-no-sato village located at the base of Mt. Hiei in Omi Province and it is said that they were the descendants of stone masons who constructed ancient burial mounds. They were initially put in charge of stone masonry at temples but, with their excellent skills being recognized, they installed the stone walls of Azuchi-jo Castle. Thereafter, the Ano-shu Guild became involved in construction of stone walls of castles built by various castellans, including Nobunaga ODA and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. Up to the early Edo Period, stone walls of numerous castles were built under the supervision of the Ano-shu Guild. It is said that the Ano-shu Guild people took service with the clans throughout Japan and that they began to construct stone walls of castles and the like, but much remains unknown.

Even today, the numerous fringe temples of Enryaku-ji Temple known as satobo (small village temples) located in Sakamoto (Otsu City) lend a distinctive characteristic to the townscape with their stone walls built by the Ano-shu Guild.

Ano Zumi (stone masonry by the Ano-shu Guild)

Ano Zumi is a colloquial term for Nozura zumi that came into use in the early Showa era, meaning the stone walls that were laid by the Ano-shu Guild using mostly unprocessed natural stones. Nozura zumi is sometimes confused with the Ano stone walls. The Ano-shu Guild people were stone wall craftsmen and they also had skills in tamaishizumi (boulder masonry) and kiriishi zumi (masonry laid with regularly cut stones).

Castles that are thought to have stone walls built by the Ano-shu Guild

Azuchi-jo Castle

Hikone-jo Castle

Tsunomure-jo Castle

[Original Japanese]