Minowa Castle 箕輪城
Founder Nagano Narihisa
Nagano
Year 1500
Type Hilltop
Condition Ruins
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Historical Site National Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles
Location Takasaki, Gunma Pref.
Map Google Map
Access Takasaki Sta. (Takasaki Line), 40 min. bus, 15 min. walk
Website Takasaki City Sightseeing
Visited November 6, 2008
Notes The route to get to this castle from Takasaki Station was not very clear, but it was worth the efforts to figure it out and go. There are a few nice signs explaining different points around the castle but they need to have better maps showing the layout. It was fun to walk all around the different paths around the mountain through all the different baileys and moats.
History Nagano Narihisa established his base here around 1500 from which his family ruled for 4 generations until the castle fell to Takeda Shingen in 1566. After the fall of the Takeda, the castle was taken over by Oda Nobunaga in 1582 and ruled by Takigawa Kazumasa. Less than a month later, the castle was taken over by the Gohojo and was ruled by Hojo Ujikuni from Hachigata Castle. In 1590, after the fall of the Hojo, Tokugawa Ieyasu stationed Ii Naomasa here. Ii Naomasa undertook a large reformation of the castle and most of the castle structure and remnants are thought to be from this period. In 1598, Ii Naomasa moved to Takasaki Castle and Minowa Castle was decomissioned. The picture above is of one of the very few remaining sections of stone walls. It's located near the Kotomon entrance of the Sannomaru.
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  • RaymondW on My Page    November 10, 2013 at 05:53 PM
    Minowa Castle Ruin is like other “earthen” castles in Eastern Japan such as Sakura Castle (Chiba) and Suwahara Castle (Shizuoka) with well preserved earthen ramparts, earthen bridges, very deep moats and, in Minowa’s case, a few stone walls. Some of the moats used to be filled with water. For castle fans who want to track Ii Naomasa’s castles’ evolution, this is certainly a worthwhile site. There isn’t a lot of ishigaki (stone walls) at this castle site. What is left is located mainly around the Sannomaru (Third Bailey) and at the Kotomon (Koto Gate) on the west side. The photos have already been posted by the website administer from his trip in 2008. There is also some ishigaki at the Gozen Kuruwa (Gozen Bailey), but the area was roped off and closed to the public. Minowa Castle has some huge moats. The deepest moat, at around 20 metres from top to bottom, is located between the Honmaru and Ninomaru. As you move from north to south, the moats get shallower. Most of the moats protecting the inner baileys of Minowa Castle: Honmaru (Main Bailey), Ninomaru (Second Bailey), Kuruwa Umadashi (Kuruwa Barbican), and Gozen Kuruwa (Gozen Bailey) are 10 to 20 metres deep. The baileys are terraced and overlook the next layer of defences as you descend down the hill from north to south. Since 2011, a lot of effort has gone into making more of the castle ruin visible and accessible to visitors. Some of the massive moats have had all of its undergrowth and trees removed, so you can see them clearly as well as actually walk in them unlike at Sakura Castle, where the deep dry moat around the main bailey is full of undergrowth and inaccessible. Many of the major baileys have also had their undergrowth and weeds cut back, so they are a lot more visible now compared to some of the photos on this website. As mentioned already by web administrator, you can catch a bus to Minowa Castle from Takasaki Station. My wife and I got off at the Shiroyama Iriguchi stop (550yen), entering the castle complex from the southeast. Alternatively, you can get off at the Shogakkomae (Primary School) stop and get into the castle complex from the south via the Mizunote Bailey. This is a solid two-star castle (mainly for its impressive moats and massive earthen ramparts), but it will morph into a three-star experience if you come across Okada-san, the local castle expert who is at the site almost every day of the week. This guy is very knowledgeable about Minowa Castle (and other castles), and he is one of the members of the local NPO which promotes Minowa Castle. He explained to us about some Hojo-period ishigaki (at least 6 metres high) found in the excavation of the earthen bridge linking the Kuruwa Umadashi and Ninomaru. He also told us about the types of ishigaki found at the Sannomaru. The other ishigaki visible dates from when Ii Naomasa upgraded the castle fortifications, particularly along the main path up to the castle. Misaki City will rebuild two of the castle gates, including a wooden two-storey gatehouse at the Kuruwa Umadashi and a simpler wooden gate on the western side on the Honmaru (Nishikoguchi). If I remember correctly from what Okada-san told us, both gates will be built from Kiyaki (Zelkova).The wooden bridge which used to link the Honmaru and the Kurayashiki Bailey will also be rebuilt. It is similar to the one which links Kane Bailey and Tenbin Yagura at Hikone Castle. The work is scheduled to start next year and will take five years to complete. Guess when I will be back for a re-visit. The site is reasonably well signposted with additional signs put up since the web administrator’s visit in 2008. According to Okada-san, there are plans to upgrade the signs further by making them more detailed with multilingual explanations in Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese, and German. Whether this actually happens will depend on funding available. Oh, I almost forgot: before you head out to Minowa Castle, stop by the tourist info counter at Takasaki Station and ask the helpful ladies there for an A3 double-sided handout(in Japanese only) with a map of the castle ruin and detailed explanations about the castle as well as information on catching the bus to get there and back. Armed with a map of the castle, we had no problem at all in locating one of the six ways to get into and navigate our way around this massive castle ruin. This castle ruin certainly deserves its place in the list of top 100 castles in Japan. For me, Minowa Castle Ruin is definitely worth at least 2.5 stars.
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Takasaki, Gunma Pref.
Minowa Castle views
stone walls
dry moat, bridge dry moat
stone walls dry moat, earthen bridge
honmaru moat
dry moat, honmaru sannomaru
View from the NInomaru.

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