The Hirase Clan built Hirase Castle - at some point. The Hirase were a branch of the Inukai Clan and they both served the Ogasawara Clan. In 1551 the armies of Takeda Shingen besieged and conquered the castle, killing 204 defenders. The Takeda then used the castle, putting Hara Toratane in charge. Hirasejō was abandoned in 1553 following the pacification of Chikuma.
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.
|English Name||Hirase Castle|
|Year Founded||Medieval Times|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Artifacts||Kuruwa, Horikiri, Dorui|
|Access||Nearest Station is Shimauchi Station on the Oito Line. I cycled.|
|Visitor Information||24/7 free|
|Time Required||Three Hours|
|Location||Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 17' 13.49" N, 137° 56' 52.26" E|
|Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|
|Added to Jcastle|