Added 3 castles in Tochigi: Nishikata Castle, Manago Castle, Nijo Castle

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Added 3 castles in Tochigi: Nishikata Castle, Manago Castle, Nijo Castle

2020/05/23


Today I've added three new castles from a day trip to Tochigi. All are quite interesting and worth visiting, but Nishikata Castle especially is one of the best Kanto type earthworks castles for both the structure and the good signage. There are many other castles in the area, but these are actually the most accessible. From Twitter I've seen that they cleaned up Nijo Castle last fall and have conducted some excavations so now would be a great time to visit before it gets weeded over again. I would be very curious to know if they found anything interesting or could confirm more of the history, such as whether it was originally a satellite fortification of Nishikata Castle or not.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of golf courses around here that have destroyed parts of both Manago castle and Nishikata Castle. If it weren't for the golf courses, they could make a nice hiking trail connecting these three. As it is, you need to waste some time going around them especially from Manago Castle to Nishikata Castle.


Manago Castle / 真名子城

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There is a community bus (Manago Line) that goes through Tochigi Station, Shin Tochigi Station, and Tobu Kanasaki Station, that stops at the Manago Chuzaisho Minami (真名子駐在所南) bus stop which is about 450m from the trailhead (small cemetery at the end of the ridge). Along the roadside there is a large sign and map. From here the castle is easy to find, just climb the trail. There are only 8 busses per day so you need to plan carefully. The nearest train station you could walk to is Tobu Kanasaki, about a 90 min walk. It would be possible to take the bus to Manago Castle, walk about an hour to Nishikata Castle and then walk the last 30 mins to Tobu Kanasaki Station. This was basically the route I took, but I added in Nijo Castle (Tochigi) after Nishikata Castle. The castle itself is an interesting site. Hiking up the trail, there are some smaller baileys and horikiri. The main baileys around the top offer some interesting earthworks and nice views of the area. The north ridge drops steeply from the bailey and there are 2 horikiri you can see but much of the north/northeast castle ruins were absorbed by the golf course. If you go down this way you'll have to come back. The west side longer ridge has a trail marked on the map but I could not find the trail nor a sign pointing to it from the top. The slope was heavily overgrown and steep and slippery in the early morning. I tried to travel down some but decided to give up and move on to Nishikata Castle. It might be easier to go around the side of the mountain and try to find the trail going up rather than going down.

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First of all, this site is severely overgrown. Even in winter the weeds were over my head in some areas but it was still a fascinating castle to visit. As you climb through the weeds you can find some very large trenches. The structure is basically one big main bailey with high steep sides and then some smaller side baileys and trenches around the base. The main bailey is pretty obvious once you see it but there is no trail going to the top. I just picked a spot that looked relatively easy and scaled the side with my trekking pole and gloves. The main bailey is amazing. It's quite large and encircled by a mostly in tact embankment. The original embankment was also fortified with stone walls which have mostly crumbled by now but you can still find some places with nice stonework remaining.

Secondly, this castle is moderately difficult to find, but hopefully my description and photos (see those at the end and the map locations) will help future explorers. If you visit Nijo Castle, it is likely to be as a side trip from Nishikata Castle. On Google Maps it looks like you should be able to get there from Nishikata Castle through the woods, but I could find no such comments on other blogs and when I was at Nishikata Castle, I couldn't be sure where to go to possibly reach Nijo Castle. Regardless, it may have been too overgrown or treacherous to get to anyway. You need to return to the main road (with the bus stop) from Nishikata Castle, go a few blocks south (~10 mins) until you find a sign for Kaizan Fudoson (開山不動尊) and just follow this sign to the temple. Off to the side of the temple you'll see a trench with a little white wooden sign for 二条城 (Nijo-jo) this is the entrance to the castle. See photos below.

Once I got back to the station, I ran into a fellow castle explorer who asked where I disappeared to after Nishikata Castle (he saw me at both Manago Castle and Nishikata Castle). Apparently he could not find Nijo-jo. Also, when I posted my photos to Twitter I got other people asking for directions too so it's understandably difficult to find. Part of the problem comes from the tunnel under the highway which looks like it's closed off, but there are some cinder blocks there for you to climb over the fence (at least I think that's what they're for). There were several wild boar traps on the other side so I assume the fence is just to keep the animals out of town.

I have seen some recent Twitter posts that they've significantly cleaned up the site recently so I would really like to go again before it's weeded over.
Nishikata Castle / 西方城

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The castle is behind the Chotokuji Temple and you should easily find the signs once you reach the temple. This is a fantastic site, one of the best in the region. It's a typical Kanto style earthworks castle with lots of complex trenches and embankments and baileys. What makes this site particularly good is that it actually has clear trails and is well signposted. The signs have some good illustrations to teach you a lot about the castle structures. I would highly recommend this for any Kanto area castle fans. You can also visit nearby Nijo Castle (Tochigi) and Manago Castle in a day.
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