Arato Castle 荒砥城
Founder Yamada clan
Year 1524
Type Mountaintop
Condition Other Buildings
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Historical Site Local Historic Site
Location Chikuma, Nagano Pref.
Map Google Map
Access Togura Sta. (Shinano Tetsudo); 1700 yen taxi
Website Chikuma City
Visited October 16, 2008
Notes This is a castle I've wanted to visit for a long time. It splendidly recreates the feeling of a Sengoku Period mountaintop castle. It was also used as the location for filming several scenes from the NHK drama Furin Kazan.
History Arato Castle was built by the Yamada clan as retainers for the Murakami around 1524. It became the focal point of the battles between Takeda Shingen and Murakami Yoshikiyo. In 1548, Yamada Kunimasa, the lord of Arato Castle was killed in a battle at Toishi Castle. His son, Kunitsugu, also perished in the battle at Katsurao Castle in 1553. With the fall of Katsurao Castle, the Yamada clan were destroyed and Takeda Shingen chose his retainer Yashiro Masakuni as the lord of Arato Castle. From 1553-1564, Arato Castle was involved in several skirmishes during the Battles of Kawanakajima. After the destruction of the Takeda clan in 1582, Arato Castle and it lord, Yashiro Hidemasa, came under the control of Uesugi Kagekatsu. In 1584, Yashiro turned on the Uesugi and made a secret pact with Tokugawa Ieyasu. Yashiro fled to Arato Castle but was attacked and destroyed by the Uesugi forces. After this the castle was decommissioned and no longer used.

Viewer Comments

Comment on this castle
  • furinkazan    May 18, 2017 at 10:06 PM
    I revisited this site today. Since i was still in Nagano prefecture, i dicided to go back to this wonderful reconstruction. It's easy to get to Togura station from Nagano. It's a 410¥ ride on the Shinano tetsudo line. This time the weather was outstanding. Not too warm this morning to walk from the station. In the barracks are 2 videos. The long one of 20 min talks about the activities one could do in Chikuma city and the traditions in the region. The short video of 8 min talks about the history of the castle and it's structures.(in japanese : Aratojô monogatari)
  • Eric    February 01, 2014 at 12:02 AM
    Thanks Tyler, that's fixed. There are several reasons that led to the building of monster castles like Matsumoto, but when comparing it to Arato, basically no one built castles like Matsumoto at that time. The warfare, economics and political climate all contributed to the rise of the big Edo Period castles.
  • Tyler Lynch    January 31, 2014 at 12:24 PM
    Wow - amazing website! I live at the base of Arato-jo, so was thrilled to see you included it. I'm sure you're already aware of this, but when I show guests Arato-jo I always explain that the main difference between a mountain fortress like this and typical Japanese o-shiro like Matsumoto Castle is that the latter are usually built in the middle of a town so as to be seen from anywhere in the town (i.e. the builder had a big ego), whereas the former is designed so that you can't see what's in it from below. Also, you may want to double-check one thing. You mention "Katsuo Castle". If you are referring to Murakami's mountaintop fortress across the Chikuma River from Arato-jo, it's "Katsurao". Anyways, keep up the good work!
  • camarena.alex.96    July 26, 2012 at 11:37 AM
    Hey, have you seen the movie, The Hidden Fortress by Akira Kurosawa, i think this is the castle in which they made one of the last scenes, im no sure, i just wanted to say it
  • furinkazan    June 08, 2012 at 05:16 AM
    I bought the 2011 NHK Taiga Dorama 'Go-hime'(princess Go). It arrived today and i saw the first episode. Some scenes representing Odani-castle of the Azai were filmed at Arato-jô. Nice to see that it is still used like this.
  • Eric    May 23, 2011 at 07:31 AM
    John, have a look at Ne Castle, Shiwa Castle, Taga Castle, and Kikuchi castle on this site for some other good examples. Also Hotta Saku in Akita is another good one but I haven't been there yet.
  • John    May 23, 2011 at 02:10 AM
    were there even casltes (other than Ki castle) in japan before the 1300s? I'm doing some research on japan in the Nara, Heian and kauakura periods, particularly partaining to the samurai, and i need to know what castles looked like in those time periods. can anyone give me some info on this?
  • Alamo6400    January 08, 2011 at 12:05 PM
    arato castle beloned to the takeda clan such a castle is a shame to be lost when the takeda lost the battle of nagashino in 1575 when the takeda clan got ripped out of the pges of history
  • furinkazan on My Page    June 13, 2010 at 05:21 AM
    The location of this little yamashiro and the buildings reconstructed are very nice, but don't expect a castle like Himeji or Matsumoto.
  • furinkazan    August 04, 2009 at 12:49 AM
    I went there during last april. The day was very cloudy, but i decided to walk to the castle. It is 4km from Togurastation. I have to tell that the last km is an almost 17% steep climb to the castle. I could figure out that attacking a castle like this, in full armor and with defenders shooting and hurling stones at you, would'nt be an easy task. The reconstructed parts are very interesting and surely worth the 3 stars.
  • RAD    March 13, 2009 at 03:21 PM
    I looking forward to visit this amazing castle next summer!
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Chikuma, Nagano Pref.
Arato Castle views
yaguramon gate
yaguramon seiroyagura
kabukimon gate baileys and barracks
ninokak and gate honkaku residence and barracks
view view from the top