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45 new Nagano Pref. castles by ART

2020/02/12


Yes, you read that right. 45 new profiles, all in Nagano Prefecture. ART is joining the ranks of the legendary Nagano castle explorers. Even if you don't click through to read many of the profiles in depth, I encourage you to skim his notes summarized below for the castles. There are some great adventures in here.


Akagi Kita Castle / 赤木北城

Akagikitajou (1).JPG

Akagi-kitajō was for me the more interesting of the twin Akagi castles, although they're about the same size. Akagi-kitajō has a large, deep karabori (dry moat) running around it on three sides, about 12m wide. To the north is a small river and a reservoir. A dobashi (earthen bridge) grants access to the main enclosure. The site is largely overgrown today, adjacent to a temple and surrounded by fields. Some of these fields have been taken over by creeping ivy which has climbed things and created strange shapes. One spectral figure has its arms stretched out, crucified, with a stump of a neck. Crows were gathering and a mad peasant was raving in an orchard. Despite my deep attraction to the site, I could not ignore a growing sense of foreboding. The main bailey was choked with ivy, bamboo and chestnut burrs which made progress impossible.
Akagi Minami Castle / 赤木南城

AkagiMinamijou (1).JPG

The remains of Akagi-minamijō, twinned with Akagi-kitajō to the north, consist of at least one kuruwa (bailey), some dorui (embankment) remnants, and a series of horikiri (trenches). The site is now a wooded promontory above a small alcove used for rice farming. To the north is a large Epson factory and workers' dormitories are located next to the castle ruin.
Akazawa Yakata / 赤沢館

Akazawayakata.JPG

The former site of the fortified manor house of the Akazawa Clan is now a school; there is nothing to see. This site connects historically to several castle sites: Chausuyamajou, Hayaotoshijou, and possibly Yokoyairi-toride.
Arai Castle / 荒井城

Araijou.JPG

The only ruin remaining at Arai Castle is a pokey bit of earthen embankment which now has a hokora (祠) on top. Araijō is also known as Shimizugajō (清水ヶ城) and there is a monument next to the shrine to a jūdōka called Shimizu, so I don't know if there's some connection there. A grand old house next to the castle ruin is also tenanted by the / a Shimizu family.
Chikuma Awaji Castle / 筑摩淡路城

ChikumaAwajijou (1).JPG

I found no ruins of Awajijō but I did find a stone marker. Someone online, a much more intrepid fellow than myself clearly, said he found trench remains ("to the east"). The back of the site is bordered by a small river and so perhaps that's where he found them but I couldn't get around to there. The site is now farmland and houses. There are lots of castle fans who blog in detail about their adventures. There is a surprising amount of information on this ruin on the blogs of Ranmaru and Travel-Shingen. If anyone cares to they can read more about the castle from these chaps. It's all in Japanese of course. I present the basic information here.
Chikuma Kushiki Castle / 筑摩櫛木城

ChikumaKushikijou (1).JPG

I found no ruins of Kushiki Castle. It may be that there are trench ruins somewhere behind or on agricultural land but I didn't see how I could avoid trespassing so I contented myself with having found the signpost for Saikōji. Although, there is a road behind the fields where there is a sign board for the castle there next to a clump of trees, but I missed this. Most of the site now contains houses and a temple.
Chikuma Osaka Castle / 筑摩小坂城

ChikumaOsakajou (1).JPG

Chikuma-Osakajō was a nice little site to visit. I wasn't sure if I could find anything and so was pleasantly surprised that I was able to identify several features, including evidence of vernacular construction methods. The bulk of the ruins consist of the shukuruwa (main bailey) surrounded by dorui (earth-piled ramparts). The dorui reaches the whole away around the enclosure, being perforated by a koguchi (gate) ruin. It seemed that the path leading from the koguchi would go all the way down to Osaka Village, although I came from the mountain road via Ôike Village. Opposite the koguchi the dorui is tallest, still standing about two meters above the enclosure. At the back of the shukuruwa is a horikiri (trench cutting into the mountain's ridge line). I began climbing further up the mountain but couldn't find anything else apart from a depression on the ridgeline which might've represented a deformed trench ruin.
Chikuma Takeda Castle / 筑摩竹田城

筑摩竹田城01.5.JPG

Takedajō is a small, difficult site, and therefore only of appeal to the most dedicated of enthusiasts. Firstly, although the site has been uploaded to Google Maps, the location given is slightly awry. First I went to where the marker indicated and found some climbing and lateral trench remains, but realised I was not at the center of the castle. The path had forked not long before and so I decided to continue on, only to find the path slowly disintegrate and take me to the wrong peak. I retraced my steps and took the alternate path in the fork and before long saw the distinctive shape of a sculpted mountain ridge through the trees. I knew I had found the castle remains and continued on past some terracing and trenches, although only one trench was large enough not to be completely obscurred by undergrowth, and this was the main trench separating the shukuruwa (main bailey) from the ridge. The shukuruwa is surrounded by dorui (earthen ramparts), but the bailey has not been cleared of vegetation and so it's quite hard to appreciate them in one sweep except by walking along their tops. The shukuruwa is also surrounded by koshikuruwa (sub-baileys) terracing the mountainside below. An obikuruwa (ring bailey) works its way around most of the shukuruwa.
Choshoin Yakata / 長勝院館

OhmachiChoushouinYakata.JPG

I could identify no ruins; only the temple remains.
Dainenji Yakata / 大念寺館

DainenjiYakata (2).JPG

I cannot be sure of the extent of Dainenji-yakata and due to its proximity to Seiryūji-yakata. I'm not sure which, if either, was the bigger site. It seems that Seiryūji-yakata retained its karabori as part of the temple Seiryūji, but little remains there today. However, what is probably a segment of dorui (earthen embankment) attests to the ruins of Dainenji-yakata. The temple Dainenji no longer exists. Edo Period maps indicate a temple with karabori (dry moats) surrounding it, which I gather is Seiryūji, but no such moat for Dainenji, so perhaps the karabori there was filled in even in the Edo Period, or they only ever constructed dorui there in the first place, although usually piling up dorui also creates a hori.
Fukuoji Yakata / 福応寺館

FukuojiYakata (1).JPG

Fukuōji-yakata is now basically a temple but I was able to find remnants of what looked like dorui (earthen embankments) here, particularly near the shōrō (belfry) and behind the hondō (main hall).
Hachikenchōja Castle / 八間長者城

Hachikenchoujajou (1).JPG

Hachikenchōjajō... what a name. Following a trail indicated by various castle bloggers, I advanced toward the driveway of a mountain inn. The trail was apparently behind a small temple house next to the inn. As I approached I noticed the innkeep. I asked him about the castle and he directed me to a different, more direct approach. His wife showed me the way. I had eschewed the trail taken by my knowledgeable predecessors but sure enough I scrambled up a ridge and quickly came to the main enclosure of the ruin. I then spent most of my time climbing beyond the shukuruwa (main bailey) to check I hadn't missed anything and found a few more trenches and baileys this way. Eventually I came to a strange area with a bubbling spring. At first I heard the fount gurgling and thought it might be a boar.

Between the shukuruwa and the other ruins is a very narrow ridge. The whole site is quite overgrown and fallen branches and trees are strewn everywhere. The shukuruwa contains an azumaya (gazebo thing). Maybe it was once a viewing platform. But now everything is mouldering. There is a fallen utility pole. The neighbourhood seems to be a mountain retreat, but some hotels are now abandoned. It seems that the castle ruin has also been neglected. In the neighbourhood some people produce honey, which attracts bears. Luckily I had my bell with me. The desolation of the site had me quite on edge.

The lower portions of the castle ruin had some more kuruwa (baileys) and nicely shaped yokobori (lateral trenches).
Hagikura Fort / 萩倉砦

萩倉砦15.JPG

Hagikura-toride was a small satellite fortification of nearby Kaminojō and Shimonojō in Suwa. The ruins are very deformed now but I was able to identify both of its baileys and a horikiri (trench) between them. A small depression indicates a trench to the front of the ninokuruwa (second bailey) as one enters the site too, but it has largely filled up now. The remains of a yokobori (lateral trench) are evident. Probably this trench wrapped the whole way around both the ichinokuruwa (first bailey) and ninokuruwa, but is now degraded with the natural movements of the earth or human activity. On the left (from entering the site) the yokobori's shape is mostly lost, but it can be seen along the whole right side and as it curves around the edge of the ichinokuruwa its embankments are still somewhat in tact, indicating, as well as by its narrow profile, that this was indeed a yokobori rather than part of an obikuruwa (ring bailey).
Hatayama Castle / 波多山城

Hatayamajou (5).JPG

Hatayamajō consisted of, and indeed the ruins attest very clearly to this, three baileys: shukuruwa (main bailey), kita-kuruwa (north bailey), and minami-kuruwa (south bailey). Many koshikuruwa (sub-baileys) can also be seen. The minami-kuruwa and kita-kuruwa both have a smaller sub-bailey immediately below them, forming a rough square layout with one depressed corner. This is quite an interesting layout, and is more pronounced in the north bailey. It may be due primarily to the shape of the mountain the castle was carved out of.

Between each integral bailey is a large horikiri (trench), the horikiri between the shukuruwa and minami-kuruwa being the deepest. The shukuruwa, which is roughly oval in shape, has the deformed remains of dorui (earth-piled ramparts) ensconcing it. An ido (well) is also to be found in the shukuruwa, toward the southern end. There is evidence of terracing along the lower slopes of the mountain.

In order to reach Hatayamajō one must take a long, winding utility road and follow signs marking the "historical trail" and those indicating a temple ruin. The castle is not mentioned specifically but when one almost comes to the temple ruins it is to be found along a road veering to the left. There is a map here on which the castle is identified. I didn't have time to inspect the temple ruins, unfortunately, but they seem to be the main attraction on the mountain, with signposts for it even in the village of Hata below. The village of Hata has a main road with old, vernacular dwellings along it. There are several more fortification and temple ruins there.
Hayaotoshi Castle / 早落城

Hayaotoshijou (19).JPG

Hayaotoshi Castle is a yamajiro (mountain castle) ruin set atop of a small mountain. Ruins consist of a series of baileys divided by trenches. The layout is very simple to follow and the trail goes through the whole site. On one side the trail goes through some pastureland, and on the other it starts at a shrine at the foot of the hill.
Hirase Castle / 平瀬城

Hirasejou (9).JPG

Hirase Castle is an extensive yamajiro (mountain castle) ruin with features such as dorui (earthen embankments), hori (trenches) and kuruwa (baileys). Hirasejō can be divided into three parts, the central and main castle, and its northern and southern branches, with each being separated by the natural eddying of the mountain's ridges. Although some sources list or show these sites separately I am treating Hirasejō as a single site.

The climb to the main area of the castle is well signalled and easy enough. The integral baileys are cleared and excellent views of the valley and opposite mountain chain can be enjoyed from there. There is a trail leading on beyond the shukuruwa (main bailey) which passes over lots of trenches. And that is where any smart person would end their investigation of Hirasejō.

However, I am not that person. I complicated my route to the northern branch of the castle with an abortive shortcut so I made it harder than necessary. To reach the northern branch one has to first climb on up the mountain well past the main area of the castle up to the point that the northern ridge and the central ridge meet at the peak, and then descend. The going is steep. The baileys of the northern castle are covered in fallen trees. These block the path and create a challenging obstacle course. I climbed up a shambolic collection of fallen trees which looked like a naked teepee to try to get a good look at the main area of the castle from across the ravine, but a tall tree still partially obscurred the view.

And then there's the southern castle. This is passed on the way to the main castle from the trail head. I left it until last. First one crosses a stream at the point that a large tree has fallen down. Then the ridge sweeps upward. It was like a real life game of snakes and ladders. Fallen trees were my ladders since I could walk along and up them to make the going easier. Every wrong footfall was a snake, as gravity sought to do its wicked work in sending me rolling like a stone discarded by the mountain down its slopes. Luckily I didn't fall.
Hirase Yakata / 平瀬館

HiraseYakata (1).JPG

The Hirase-yakata, the fortified manor house of the Hirase Clan, is now the site of a shrine to Hachiman. This shrine is surrounded by a mallet golf course on all sides... which I hadn't seen before. In one corner of the shrine there is an embankment which I would like to believe to be some remnant of the fortifications surrounding the yakata, but I cannot confirm this.
Hisawa Castle / 干沢城

Hisawajou (25).JPG

The ruins of Hisawa Castle can be reached via a path from the side of the Suwa-taisha Maemiya. It seemed like there might be a path leading from a road which swings right beneath the castle but even though I found old signboards for the castle here I could see no clear path up. Some old rice paddies reach up the mountain and there is a trail from the shrine side, and it takes but a moment to reach the castle ruins (a sign says fifteen minutes but that must mean to the main bailey).

The ruins of Hisawajō consist of four integral baileys alligned in a row (hashigo "ladder" layout) with the shukuruwa (main bailey) furthest back. I came first to the sannokuruwa (third bailey) which is separated from the ninokuruwa (second bailey) by a wide karabori (dry moat). The third bailey looms over the fourth, which is directly below it with only the ramparts of the sannokuruwa separating them. The ninokuruwa is terraced, is somewhat overgrown in parts and contains a pylon. This bailey is the least maintained, but progressing on past another large trench one comes to the shukuruwa, which is nice and cleared.

Throughout the site sub-baileys are everywhere carved into the mountainside surrounding the four principle baileys. Scattered around are some stones once used at the castle, but I found no ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts). Adjacent to the site is a sub-fortification called Fort Nagabayashi.
Ibuka Castle / 伊深城

Ibukajou (19).JPG

Ibukajō ruins consist of kuruwa (baileys), horikiri (trenches), dorui (earthen ramparts) and the remnants of stone-piled ramparts: I found three segments of ishigaki, and stone blocks scattered all over. The basic layout of the integral baileys are as follows: the shukuruwa (main bailey) is situated furthest up the mountain with a large dorui at the back, similar to other sites in the area. The main bailey is terraced, with a smaller bailey below. Two koshikuruwa (hip baileys) are to be found below here, and there is another koshikuruwa to the west of the shukuruwa. Beyond the shukuruwa is a series of trenches. The trench system visible from behind the shukuruwa is a double horikiri with a small embankment between the two trenches, roughly in the shape of a narrow eye. This trench must've been quite massive when first dug. Tatebori (climbing moats) climb the mountain and protect the approach from below. The trail up the mountain passes by some terraced areas. At the foot of the mountain is a shrine, used to venerate the ancestors of the castle lords during the time of Ibukajō. On the way up there is a smaller shrine to the fox-loving god Inari where I actually saw a fox!
Igawa Castle / 井川城

Igawajou (1).JPG

In suburban Matsumoto there is a plot of agricultural land surrounded by residential sprawl. This patch of greenery represents the ruins of Igawa Castle, a nationally designated historic site. Of the remains of the castle there are few. In addition to the remains of a hori (trench) there is a significant artificial mound, thought to have perhaps been the foundation of a castle tower (id est, a yaguradai). In this area many archaelogical investigations have been carried out, which is maybe why it hasn't been developed over yet.
Iida Castle / 飯田城

Iidajou (3).JPG

I had anticipated visiting Iidajō for half a year. The site has an original gate on site, the "Red Gate", as well as a relocated yaguramon (turret-gatehouse). Other ruins include baileys and a large karabori (dry moat), which cuts wide and deep into the citadel mount. Located away from the castle is a sweet shop called "Iida Castle" built to resemble a castle tower. This cheaply constructed spectacle does not represent any structure from the castle as Iidajō did not possess a tenshu (donjon), and in fact by way of towers possessed only a handful of small turrets.

The castle site is situated on a promontory which extends from the lower slopes of the alps into the plain. This peninsula of rock is an easy-to-defend location, and its clifffaces encompassed three baileys of the castle with the castle town beyond. The sannomaru (third bailey) is now largely developed over but here one finds the extant gatehouse with attached bansho (guardhouse), an impressive red in colour, which was the entrance to a small bailey within the sannomaru called the Sakura-maru, likely containing a palatial residence. Formerly the hankō (Domain School) was also located in the sannomaru.

The ninomaru (second bailey) now features an art museum and preserved Meiji Period structures. Some gates and walls have been reconstructed here in the style of the castle. An aqueduct runs by which is another ruin of the castle. Separating the ninomaru from the honmaru (main bailey) is a deep trench, which is the way by which I exited the castle ruin, but not before first seeing the honmaru, which is now the site of a shrine, Osahime-jinja. Beyond the honmaru was another trench and smaller bailey interestingly called Yamabushi-maru, but this has now been built over by a hotel (called "Sky Castle Hotel", though it doesn't look like castle), although it formerly contained storehouses full of the domain's treasure. A path originally ran down the hillside from the honmaru for ease of access, guarded at the base of the mount by guardhouses, but this path is now overgrown with bamboo.

After visiting the castle proper I proceeded to see the relocated yaguramon which now forms the grand entrance to a country villa. This residence, set on the hillside overlooking the alpine countryside, thrilled my aesthetic sensibilities, and it struck me as being more castle-like than the castle ruin itself. The main dwelling is built in the vernacular style of lower Shinano, and the castle gate, which was bought at auction from the castle when it was decommissioned in 1871, is flanked on both sides by rowhouse-like structures and stores. The stately home is even fronted by a moat and stone ramparts. Much I marveled here before eventually making my way to the castle-shaped sweet shop.
Inukai Yakata / 犬甘館

InukaiYakata.JPG

The site of Inukai-yakata, the fortified manor house of the Inukai Clan, is now a shrine, Takemiya-jinja (武宮神社), and no ruins remain. There is a slight embankment at the back of the shrine but I don't think this represents anything from the time of the yakata - probably just some earth piled up after a drain was dug. I couldn't get a clear view of Inukaijō from the plain unfortunately. Inukaijō is located to the southeast of Inukai-yakata, and nearby to the north is located Hirase-yakata, but Hirasejō is located to the northeast of that, so that the two yakata sites are quite close but the castle ruins are considerably further apart by comparison. The picture of the smoke coming through the trees is due to a fireput burning at the shrine.
Koike Fort / 小池砦

KoikeToride (1).JPG

One never expects to find much visiting a toride ("toride" is a term which describes small fortifications), but Koike-toride was pretty interesting; I almost didn't come, but I had time after visiting Hachikenchōjajō. Koike-toride has dorui (earthwork embankments) and a mizubori (water moat) surrounding it in the east. The main enclosure is a private residence surrounded by rice paddies. The earthen ramparts looked fairly tall and thick, but now they are hidden beneath trees.
Kuwagatahara Fort / 鍬形原砦

KuwagataharaToride (1).JPG

This former fort is now the site of a large modern necropolis built on the slopes of Mt. Nakayama. There are some suggestive features which may have been embankments and baileys, but it's not so clear. Now the area is a mallet golf course! The views of the surrounding plain are nice and the mount of Haibarajō can be seen close-by. Inukaijō can be seen in the distance. At the time the cemetary was built (before 2004) it seems there were large scale archaelogical excavations. The ruins of the fort were mapped out, forming two small enclosures at the peak of the mountain. Various kofun (burial mounds) remains were also found.
Maruyama Yakata / 丸山館

MaruyamaYakata (1).JPG

I came to this site, the Maruyama-yakata ruin, because it was on my way back home from cycling all the way to Yamabejō! It was around 4pm when I arrived. There's nothing to see in terms of ruins, apart from maybe some feint whisps of embankments which once surrounded the hall. Now they surround a farmhouse which occupies the site, along with fields. There is a cluster of old farmhouses here, and one is now a soba restaurant. These folkhomes immediately became more interesting to me than the yakata site. According to pictures I saw online, there should've been a signboard about the yakata here, but I couldn't find it.
Miyahara Castle / 宮原城

Miyaharajou (1).JPG

Exploring Miyaharajō demanded of me all of the dexterity and balance left to me from my ninja days. First of all I found a signboard with a big arrow pointing to the trailhead. This was easier than I had anticipated, although everything else thereafter was quite difficult. The arrow pointed to a path beside a rivulet which was overgrown and treacherous with flattened reeds. At a point I was required to hop over the rivulet. It wasn't so wide though. Then came a gate to keep in wild animals, but it was bolted shut. After failing to find any way to open it I simply went over. A lateral bar supported the gate and I came up on top of it as though walking a tight-rope. These fences are fairly lightweight and it wobbled as I prepared to jump down. I made sure to leap so as to not get ensared by it, and landed in a soft area of grass between rocks I had picked out, though I landed heavily on my feet, having no desire to roll onto the rocks, and this gave my insides the kind of shaking I remember from jumping off rooves and walls as a kid. It was a sensation simialr to rolling one's stomach, which was all well and fun as a child, but induces sickliness now. Here my bear bell came off and I had to go back and search for it when I realised.

The trail to the castle went past some old rice paddies, long since dried up. There was ishigaki (stone-pilings) here, or the remants thereof, and here and there it could be seen, presumably of considerable age, some of it covered in lush moss. These terraced open areas seemed too big and too low down from the actual castle to be usual of sites in the area, but I didn't wonder, because of the stone blocks all strewn around, if I wasn't looking at some kind of medieval residential area for bushi, and I was reminded of Ichijōdanijō. However, no resources mention such a thing and so long-abandoned rice paddies is the best explanation. The stone terraces were probably built in the Edo Period and incorporated stones formerly used to clad ramparts at the castle above. Some stones are still scattered about up there, particularly on the eastern side of the main bailey. The ishigaki even extended down to the river, making for some beautiful scenery, though hard to get a good view of.

The path continued, sometimes quite perilously, alongside these old paddies, if indeed that's what they were, and mouldering pilings of stoneblocks extended even further on than that. I came to a clearing just beyond a point below the uppermost bailey of the castle ruin because the ridge extending down here looked manageable. It was next to a large trench. Gradually I climbed up, using trees when I could to latch onto them, and otherwise progressing in a zigzagging fashion. Eventually I got high enough to cross the trench and clamber up into the uppermost bailey. There are no trails to the castle ruin itself. One just has to pick a good place to directly assault the slopes. Coming down is usually more dangerous under these conditions, and once again I made use of trees, hopping left or right from one to the other and using them to stop myself falling down. Once I got low enough though the terrain became less steep and I shouted "geronimo" and ran into one of the cleared terraces, running half way across it before I could slow down. And so that's the kind of adventure it was! I cannot recommend it for everyone.

Miyaharajō is probably the only yamajiro (mountain castle) that I have explored by starting at the very top and going down. Probably I could've found a better route up after all. The trench I first entered is to protect the top of the castle. Only the natural mountain extends beyond that. Here is the uppermost bailey. There is a triple trench system after this, protecting the shukuruwa (main bailey). Beyond the shukuruwa and another trench a second and third bailey are present amongst terracing and embankments. A final trench separates these integral baileys from a series of stair-like mini-baileys descending the ridge at odd angles.
Mizuban Castle / 水番城

Mizubanjou (1).JPG

Mizubanjō follows the ridge of a mountainous spur. Following the trail head which surmounts the mountain - the most difficult part of most yamajiro ruin ascents - there is a long, flat area with a small shrine. This is the start of Mizubanjō. Passing a horikiri one comes to a fork in the ridgeline. To the right is a feature called the 大手筋, the meaning of which I would translate if I was more sure of. From here two tatebori (climbing trenches) run down the mountain. This projection doesn't go anywhere so I carried on to the left. I came to a nijūhorikiri (double trench system). This is very clearly taller on one side than the other. Probably a wooden bridge used to stand here, one which could be retracted or demolished if the need arose. Now a path climbs up the trench, leading to a sub-bailey beneath the shukuruwa (main bailey). The shukuruwa is lined with both dorui (earthen embankments), now deformed, and ishizumi (stone-pilings), now collapsed apart from one segment at the back of the bailey which has held together somewhat. Protecting the rear of the shukuruwa is an extensive unejōtatebori network. How to describe this feature? It's as if a giant comb had been raked down each side of the mountain ridge creating climbing trench after climbing trench. Many of the trenches form into one single larger tench to continue on their journey down the mountain, like streams forming a river. The impression in the earth is most clear on the right as one comes down from the main bailey, although it's difficult to photograph.
Myokian Yakata / 妙喜庵館

OhmachiMyoukianYakata (3).JPG

This former yakata (fortified manor house) of the Nishina was once surrounded by a square mizubori (water moat). It was later converted into the temple Myōkian. In modern times Myōkian still exists, but has been reduced to one small prayer hall. I was able to locate this hall and a signboard.
Nagabayashi Fort / 長林砦

NagabayashiToride (2).JPG

The Nagabayashi-toride (fort) ruin is located adjacent to Hisawajō. It consists of two parts. Firstly a small enclosure with a trench on the upperside and two tiers of terracing below. Further up the ridge is more terracing and two flattened areas perforated by a cutting made into the ridge. The toride is a sort of extra stuck on the end of Hisawa Castle. I checked it out because I was anyway coming down the mountain from the road beyond.
Nishina Castle / 仁科城

OhmachiNishinajouTenshoujiYakata (1).JPG

A large stone marker at the temple identifies Tenshōji as the former site of Nishina Castle, although the site is also called Tenshōji-yakata. A yakata was a fortified manor house and the Nishina built many in the area. In fact, there are five that I visited in downtown Ōmachi alone, and more can be found throughout the surrounding countryside. The Tenshōji-yakata seems to have been the largest. Even after the Nishina were evicted and the yakata converted into temples, the surrounding moats were retained, some dry, some water-filled. Tenshōji-yakata had water moats and the remains of this moat and some embankments can be seen today, particularly on the temple's north side. A small water channel runs through the site which was used to bring water to the temple and likely the yakata before it. The temple is also known for possessing a miniaturised pagoda, sculpted in 1688, which was formerly carried about on festival days. I found possible dorui (earthwork) remnants north of the temple, near Kama-jinja and a park. According to one source the yakata may have had both an inner and outer moat, although the outer one was gone by the Edo Peirod. Kama-jinja remained part of the grounds of Tenshōji, however, until the Meiji Period. This indicates that the yakata's footprint may have extended to the north.
Ohikemurayama Castle / 大池村山城

大池村山城10.JPG

There was very little to see of ruins at this site, Ôikemurayamajō. I identified the main bailey with a deformed lip at the rear which would've been a dorui, and is now sited with a hokora (mini-shrine), and beyond that a trench, now overgrown with young bamboo. It's possible that sub-baileys existed where a mountain road now runs.
Oike Fort / 尾池砦

Oikefort1.JPG

Oike-toride is a small toride ("fort") site located on a small hill on the plain beneath Haibarajō and adjacent to Kuwagatahara-toride on the larger Nakayama ("middle mountain"). The hill is leveled atop with a small main bailey partially surrounded by what looks to me like a koshiguruwa (hip bailey). The base of the hill is surrounded by marshy area with a rivulet running through, possibly formerly a moat.
Oniba Castle / 鬼場城

Onibajou (3).JPG

There is a nature trail leading all the way from Ueharajō to Onibajō, making for a pleasant stroll between the two sites. Onibajō is a small site consisting of trenches, embankments and bailey ruins. One can enter from either the main road up a long stairway, or from the top of a residential area called Jōyama. Dorui (embankments) surround the shukuruwa (main bailey), and reach across the mountain ridge where one might otherwise expect to see more trenches. A large trench splits the castle roughly in two. The ninokuruwa (second bailey) is now the site of a pylon. Obi-kuruwa (ring baileys) wrap around the first and second enclosures. A third bailey sits between ramparts of piled earth, and has terraced sub-baileys below on either side.
Seiryuji Yakata / 青龍寺館

OhmachiSeiryuujiYakata (1).JPG

I visited the temple and found some suggestive shapes in the earth around its necropolis, but little that I could positively point to. I thought I found a karabori (dry moat) segment but could not be sure. Edo Period maps depict the temple of Seiryūji surrounded by a square karabori, the chief evidence of the former yakata (fortified manor house) used by the Nishina, one of several in town.
Shinano Asada Castle / 信濃浅田城

Asadajou.JPG

The site of Asadajō, a fortification dating to the Muromachi Period, is just fields today. There are no ruins but there is a stone marker; specifically there is an ishibumi (碑), a stone marker bearing an inscription, which the Japanese are very fond of erecting on historic sites.
Shinano Chausuyama Castle / 信濃茶臼山城

ShinanoChausuyamajou (1).JPG

Chausuyamajō is a small castle ruin in the foothills of Arima-onsen. Unfortunately the main area of the castle is on private property and I could therefore only see it from the roadside. Further down the hill are the remains of a karabori (dry moat) (next to the graves).
Suwa Kami Castle / 諏訪上城

諏訪上城01横堀.JPG

Kaminojō ("Upper Castle") is paired with Shimonojō ("Lower Castle"). The castle layout is simple and concentric, a yokobori (lateral trench) surrounding the shukuruwa (main bailey), in turn surrounded by an obikuruwa (ring bailey). It was interesting to see the defence of the castle so heavily relied on a yokobori without any tatebori (climbing trenches) or horikiri (trenches cut into the mountain ridge). There is a stone marker indicating the castle ruin, but I missed it at first because the shukuruwa is quite big.
Suwa Sakura Castle / 諏訪桜城

桜城02.JPG

Suwa-Sakurajō was a nice little site to visit. There is the shukuruwa (main bailey) with an old look-out which can't be too different from a structurewhich would've been likely used at the castle. Looking on the hillside I found it terraced with minor baileys. Since the trees have been cut back and the site is cultivated as a small park one can easily see the shape of the castle ruins. I found some trenches in the woods beyond the park but they were difficult to pick out from amongst the undergrowth and fallen leaves. I don't know where Sakurajō got its name - "Cherry Blossom Castle" - but it is appealing.
Suwa Shimo Castle / 諏訪下城

諏訪下城01.JPG

Shimonojō ("Lower Castle") is paired with Kaminojō ("Upper Castle") further along the trail. Shimonojō has a ladder-layout essentially following the ridge up. I thought it very interesting that the ôte (main path) was often flanked on both sides by tall embankments. I identified a few kuruwa (baileys) and horikiri (trenches which bisect the ridge) whilst following this path up to Kaminojō. There are four principal baileys, the two lowest of which have koshikuruwa (sub-baileys) terraced beneath them, and there are many more smaller enclosures carved into the mountainside. The upper baileys do not have terracing above or below but each have a fairly deep trench to the rear.
Suwa Tezuka Castle / 諏訪手塚城

手塚城Tezukajou04.JPG

The site of this castle is now an overflow carpark for the adjacent Suwa-Taisha shrine. A statue and explanation board relate to the castle. A bridge connects the castle ruin to the shrine passing over the road which was once a moat.
Yamabukiko Castle / 山吹小城

山吹小城01Embankment.JPG

Yamabukikojō is a small fortification ruin located down hill from the main castle, Yamabukiôjō. Yamabukikojō provided forward defence for the larger castle. It's arrangement is a simple ladder layout with the main enclosure at the top, the secondary enclosure in the middle, and the tertiary enclosure at the bottom. The top and bottom baileys both have koshikuruwa (sub-baileys) around them at lower elevation. The middle enclosure is fairly narrow and mostly serves to connect the top and bottom of the castle. Each bailey is separated by a trench.
Yamabukioh Castle / 山吹大城

山吹大城01ShukuruwaRamparts.JPG

Yamabukiôjō, "Big Yamabuki Castle", is paired with Yamabukikojō, "Little Yamabuki Castle". It is, of course, the larger of the two and located further up the mountain. The trail which leads to both castles begins from a mountain road and then forks off left and right. Yamabukiôjō is further away to the right. The ruins consist of dorui (earth-piled ramparts), karabori (dry moats) and horikiri (trenches), as well as several integral baileys. Yamabukiôjō's baileys are as follows: shukuruwa (main bailey), ninokuruwa (second bailey), higashi-kuruwa (east bailey), nishi-kuruwa (west bailey), kita-kuruwa (north bailey), and the deguruwa (projecting bailey), the latter two curving away to the west in the northern area of the castle. In addition there are many koshikuruwa (sub-baileys) which terrace the mountain slopes surrounding the castle, creating long, narrow enclosures beneath the integral baileys. Trace amounts of ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) can be seen around the shukuruwa.
Yokoyairi Fort / 横谷入砦

Yokoyairi-toride (2).JPG

Sources alternately refer to this site as a "castle" ruin and merely as a toride (small fort) ruin. I am going with toride because it says that at the site itself. There is not much to see here. If I had known how little, I probably wouldn't've come up, but I'm glad I did for the views of Asama-onsen and the Japanese Alps. There is a marker indicating the site around 800m up. This was likely the main enclosure but that's about it for ruins that I could identify. I was also under the impression, looking at satellite imagery, that the mountain was fairly open, but tree growth has since rebounded after a forest fire scourged the mountain years ago. During the hike up I came across a giant hornet. I just kept my head down and kept on walking. Luckily the beast was obviously engaged with some other nefarious errand and did not bother to harass me.
Yokoyama Castle (Yayoi Period) / 横山城(弥生時代)

YayoiYokoyamajou (2).JPG

Nothing remains to see of the fortification itself. I wouldn't have come here except it is right next to Akagi-kitajō, the ruins of a medieval castle. It was interesting to ponder what the ancient site might've been like.
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ARTShogun

11 days ago
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And then there's the things I left out of these profiles: the creepy old lady with the cats at the foot of Mizubanjou, the large mysterious animal I disturbed at Hirasejou, the animal tracks in the snow at Oh'ikemurayamajou and the boar marks at Suwa-Shimonojou. But you can have lots of adventures in these obscure locations. I just noticed that the main map has changed? : o Because of all these Nagano castles...?
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EricShogun

11 days ago
Score 0++
For the map, you caught me fooling around with new formats. It should be mostly back to normal now, but try to seach for a castle name in the upper right box where it says "filter markers"