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Added four Sanada Castles in Nagano January 22, 2016

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Added four Sanada Castles in Nagano

  1. Matsuo Castle
  2. Sanadahonjo Castle
  3. Sanada Palace
  4. Tenpaku Castle

Today I've added four new castle profiles: Matsuo Castle, Sanadahonjo Castle, Sanadashikan, and Tenpaku Castle. These are all Sanada Castles from the Sanada Township area of Ueda. If you're in Japan and have paid any attention to the new NHK history drama (Taiga Drama) the 2016 story is about the Sanada clan. These castles are at the center of their power before they moved to Ueda Castle. Actually this area is really fascinating and I had no idea how interesting it was until after I came here to visit Matsuo Castle. Just to the east of Ueda Castle is a valley and township called Sanada. The valley is literally ringed with castles on almost every mountain. The Sanada clan was a comparatively small clan that was caught between the much larger major forces of the Uesugi, Hojo, Oda, and Tokugawa. They made sure their territory was well fortified with castles all around the plain and guarding the major roads in and out.

Matsuo Castle


Matsuo Castle had been on my radar for a long time and it came out to be my 200th lifetime castle visit. This was an amazing site. Despite visiting over 30 castles in 2015, I think this was my highlight. It vastly exceeded my expectations. While there are not many baileys or trenches/moats, the extent of stone ruins high atop this mountain is really remarkable. The climb up to the castle is not terribly difficult but the path is poorly marked and is covered in leaves and pine needles making it very slippery in parts. Once each way going up and down I mistook the path and went straight up the ridge making things more difficult than they should have been.

Sanadahonjo Castle


This is a fairly small castle site, but I think the structure is really interesting. It is situated on a long narrow ridge that sticks out into the plain with steep cliffs on three sides. The site has great views of the entire Sanada Township, the nearby castles and the Joshu Highway that runs in front of the castle. It would have been a perfect location to watch over and direct any battle to take place in the valley.

Sanada Palace


In the Sengoku Period we often see the combination of a lowland fortified residence and a mountaintop castle used for a lookout and also for defense in times of unrest. The Sanada Palace was the fortified home to Sandahonjo Castle. This was the main base for the Sanada before moving to Ueda Castle.

Tenpaku Castle


This castle is the mountain next to Sanadahonjo Castle and also situated near the Sanada Palace. It is a small site and may have been an extended fortification of Sanadahonjo Castle. It is well worth the trip if you have some time while visiting Sanada historic sites. It has a few stone wall remains, but the main point of interest is the huge trench across the ridge of the mountain.

If you don't have a car the best way to get around the Sanada historic sites in the Sanada Township area is by electric bicycle. Electric bicycles can be borrowed for free at the Yukimura Yume Kobo. This tourist information center also has all the maps and other information you'll need. I highly recommend stopping here before exploring the area, even if you have a car. During the peak tourism season there is also a local tourist bus that circles through all the major historic sites you're likely to see. If there is something not on this route, then try a bicycle too.

I was really pleased to find out about all the fascinating castles around Ueda on this trip. Keep an eye on my Facebook or Twitter and you'll surely see posts for Toishi Castle and others this spring.

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