Mukaihaguroyama Castle and Motosu Castle

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Mukaihaguroyama Castle and Motosu Castle

2019/10/06


Finally! I am back to updating JCastle.info. I'm so sorry that it has taken so long to get out a new update. I visited many castles in the last 10 months and have 39 castles to update. Some of them are big and famous castles so the updates are time consuming. I might cut back on some of the descriptions to at least get all the new photos and castles posted more promptly.

My typical process for visiting castles is to do some extensive research first, planning the transportation and walking/hiking trails and what I need to be sure to see or find. After returning, I sort, tag, and GPS my photos. Then I'll select a subset of photos for Facebook and/or Instagram before doing the writeup for this site including uploading and labelling photos. In the last year, by the time I get to the writeup phase I was back into the cycle of planning a new castle trip :) In addition, to any of the little things life and work that tend to eat away one's castle time in any given year. Anyway, enough excuses. If you'd like more frequent updates, please follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (links in the footer).

Now on to the new castles.

Mukaihaguroyama Castle and Motosu Castle were are castle visits from last November. They were both long day trips by bus from Tokyo, but well worth it. They're both fantastic sites and highly recommended for any yamajiro fans.


Motosu Castle / 本栖城

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This was a really interesting and fun castle ruin and probably one of a kind. The castle itself is a fairly typical borderland ridge line mountain castle, but the ruins of the structures around the base of the mountain are really impressive. First, this castle sits on the edge of the Aokigahara forest. This is a deep forest around the base of Mt. Fuji for several kilometers covered in thick trees and lava rock. The woods is very difficult to walk through except on cleared paths because of the fallen trees, roots and loose small lava rock everywhere.

This lava rock was used in the construction of several structures and stone walls around the base of the mountain and castle some of which we don't even know their use of today. There are sections of long stone walls, some ring formations and a couple gates. Across the road from the base of the mountain (at the bus stop) a stone wall goes at least 2km deep into the forest. I did not walk the entire wall, only about 1km but I would not mind going back again to explore even more.

It seems that the highly porous lava rock also makes for a good substrate for growing moss. Most of the stones have a thick covering of moss adding to the mysterious and somewhat spooky atmosphere. For such a unique and interesting site I'm really surprised it's not more well known.

The Lake Motosu tourist information center (April to October) has a model of the castle but I did not visit since it was November.
Mukaihaguroyama Castle / 向羽黒山城

Mukaihaguroyama42.jpg

There are several ways to get to the castle, but none of the train nor bus lines are frequent so you may need to use something different each way. The park is very well maintained. Grasses are cut back and some trees are trimmed. There are a few signs, but there could be more. Notably, there were signs telling you to be careful of bears, so consider yourself warned. Mukaihaguroyama Castle was named as one of the "Next Top 100" castles and it's easy to understand why.

This castle is huge. Look at the map for an idea of the scale and the dozens of small interconnected baileys. It took me over 4 hours to visit everything. I think I walked all the groomed trails and some areas that aren't. You probably can’t get into most of the ungroomed areas, the brush is too thick.

My impression is that the castle is loosely split into 3 main areas. If you follow the maps and signs you are most likely to visit the second area first. It is the Second and Third Bailey group. This area is about halfway up the mountain in an area of roughly similar elevation. Of course it's a mountain so there are some steep areas and ups and downs but not like the top of the mountain. There are a couple big trenches and some smaller ones and there some stone wall ruins around the Otemichi road and main gate ruins.

Next, is the top of the mountain which is the Main Bailey grouping. You start walking up a steep path to the top of the mountain. There is a huge tatebori running up the mountaintop and a few more baileys of various sizes about 2/3 of the way up the mountain trail. These baileys are worth exploring. Some have foundation stones and/or dorui embankments. At the top is another great Yokobori trench around the Honmaru Bailey.

The third main area of the castle is lowest on the mountain just marked as the “north baileys” and “Moriuji's Residence”. I'm calling this the third area because there are no signs noting where it's at so I decided to stop by "quickly" on my return trip. Using the map linked above, I guessed the correct route from the road into the brush. There are no signs and no visible trails. Actually, this area was as equally interesting as the rest of the castle. There are several large interconnecting trenches, plus there are some well defined embankments around these baileys. I really don’t know why these are so underdeveloped. Maybe it will be more developed some day or at least better signposted.
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