Hanaokajō is said to have been built by the Hanaoka Clan who were a branch of the Aruga Clan who were a branch of the Suwa Clan. This may have been in the early 16th century, at which time the castle changed hands in confusing succession. It is not known for sure who the lord of Hanaokajō was but in 1567 it may have been Hanaoka Tobē, who is recorded as being in the service of Takeda Shingen at that time. Throughout the Sengoku Period it is possible that many different clans possessed Hanaokajō, including the Hanaoka, the Aruga, the Osaka, the Takeda and the Hama.
Hanaokajō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin. It has two principle baileys, between which is a horikiri (trench), and around which are earth-piled embankments. In particular, of the dorui (earthen ramparts) around the honmaru, the portion facing the second bailey is embossed like a fat lip to give extra height to the defences looming over the trench which intersects the baileys - an interesting feature. The main bailey is surrounded by terraces of sub-baileys which ring the mountain. The lower reaches of the mountin provide natural defence. It is especially steep on the lake front side. To the southeast Hanaokajō was bordered by Lake Suwa, and to the northwest ran the Tenryūgawa (Heaven Dragon River). Nowadays roads and some buildings separate the elevated castle ruin from these managed natural features. Nevertheless the castle site gives nice views of the river and lake. A portion of the castle mount projects outward from beyond the second bailey in the direction of town, and that now contains a shrine and torii-choked causeway to fox-god Inari (but which also features the onbashira (heaven-holding holy pillars) typical of the shrines of Suwa). I ascended here up a jagged and earth-sunken stone stairway to the shrine and then onto the castle. I descended on a path from the main and ring baileys. This path goes by a large temple hall which now dominates the hillside. The symbology and architecture of this structure seems wholly contrived and is likely a worship hall of some new age religion or other - or, cult, the kind of which abound in Japan. The castle has parking access and public toilets; it seems that it is a popular local cherry blossom viewing spot in that season. Nowadays it is mostly a nice park. It's probably best to appreciate this site in autumn or spring, but I enjoyed seeing the fat beetles and bees frolicking and picnicking among the hydrangea.
|English Name||Suwa Hanaoka Castle|
|Year Founded||Early 16th Century|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Local Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Access||Okaya Station on the Chūō Line; 20 minute walk|
|Visitor Information||24/7 free|
|Time Required||one hour|
|Location||Okaya, Nagano Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 3' 11.38" N, 138° 3' 2.84" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2019|
|Admin Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|