56 New Nagano Prefecture Castle Profiles by ART

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56 New Nagano Prefecture Castle Profiles by ART


ART, the dauntless castle explorer, has added 56 new castle profiles from his journeys through Nagano Prefecture. If you haven't seen his Japanese Castles facebook page, check it out as well. All these photos and more have been posted there at some point.


Aragaito Fort / 荒海渡砦

AragaitoToride (2).JPG

There ruins of Aragaito-toride were the highlight of the toride (small fort) ruins I inspected that day. It was my first time to do a "toride tour", as usually there is not much to see at such minor sites. Aragaito had very clear trench ruins and dorui (earthen ramparts) segments though, as well as evident terracing of the slope, and even what might've been a former gate complex ruin. The main bailey is now an apple orchard.
Azumi Nishimaki Castle / 安曇西牧城

AzumiNishimakijou (8).JPG

I had originally tried to reach the ruins of Nishimakijō in October of last year. At that time I couldn't find the trail, however, and ended up running out of time, electing to visit Kameyamajō instead which is located at a much lower altitude (Nishimakijō is 946m above sea level with a relative height of 226m); Kameyamajō is also referred to as Kameyama-toride (see: Azumi Kameyama Castle), implying a small satellite fort of Nishimakijō. I paid close attention to trail markers this time around and had a much easier time of it. The ruins of Nishimakijō consist of earthworks: trenches, earth-piled ramparts and cleared kuruwa (baileys). Specifically there are karabori (dry moats), tatebori (climbing moats), kuruwa (baileys), koshikuruwa (sub-baileys), dorui (earthen ramparts), ido (wells) and koguchi ("tiger's maw" gate ruins). I passed through several minor baileys which terraced the mountain ridge, finding tatebori, embankments, gate and well sites. Then I came to the shukuruwa (main bailey). The ramparts here, carved from the mountain, are tall and steep, and it was not simple to climb up. On either side of the main bailey are large, deep dry moats. Beyond the shukuruwa is a secondary bailey. Beneath both baileys are lips forming sub-baileys. The shukuruwa has a prominent koguchi ruin.
Azumi Taya Castle / 安曇田屋城

AzumiTayajou (1).JPG

Exploring the ruins of Tayajō involved a difficult climb, starting from the Hachiman shrine in Taya Village, and working my way up the mountain via thin, zigzagging paths - game trails, I think - where I could find them, and crawling when I couldn't. Eventually I came to a ridge which I was able to follow to the top of the mountain, which was the center of the castle. Here I passed over some horikiri (trenches) and through some minor baileys before arriving at the shukuruwa (main bailey). The shukuruwa has a prominent koshiguruwa (sub-bailey) beneath it on one side, and a narrower one on the other, as well as a large karabori (dry moat) to the rear, separating it from the rest of the mountain. I also found what I took for ido (well) ruins.
Chikuma Takasu Castle / 筑摩高須城

ChikumaTakasujou (11).JPG

Not much here. I located a trench and the main bailey, as well as a signpost for the castle ruin.
Chikuma Takayama Castle / 筑摩高山城

ChikumaTakayamajou (8).JPG

Castle of the Goatelope. At the ruins of Takayama Castle I saw Kamoshika (Japanese Serow, or "Goatelope"). Although often seen alone, these two were a couple, and I've also seen a small family of them - that was at Hayashiôjō. I'd just made it to a terraced area of the lower slopes of the castle mount when I came across them. Running to high ground they watched me for about ten minutes as I slowly made my way up the mountainside. I was able to get within 10m of them. And, in fact, they were standing on the narrow path I needed to take to get to the castle's main bailey. I equipped a stick in the event that they would try to stop me from assaulting the main bailey, perhaps by butting me off the edge of the cliff, but when I was about level with them and only a narrow game trail across a precipice separated us, one - I think the male - made a sharp bleating noise, which presumably meant "scarper!" and they both leapt off into the forest. Takayamajō's ruins consist of trenches, earth-piled embankments, terracing and a flattened area at the top of a small mountain which was the main bailey.
Chikuma Ueda Castle / 筑摩上田城

ChikumaUedajou (4).JPG

Ueda Castle in Chikuma District is not to be confused with the more famous Ueda Castle, also in Nagano Prefecture, in Ueda City (formerly Chiisagata District). This Ueda Castle is a much more humble yamajiro (mountain castle) overlooking the town of Ono (split administratively between the municipalities of Shiojiri and Tatsuno, with the castle ruins being on the Shiojiri side, technically "Kita-Ono"). It consists of small shrine structures and the castle's upper terraces, as well as its main bailey, crowning the site. The main bailey is surrounded by dorui (earth-piled ramparts) and they are most impressive when entering the enclosure from the koguchi ("tiger's maw" gate complex). I exited via another path which took me over bumpy earth which represented the deformed remains of sub-baileys and horikiri (trenches which perforate the ridge line). Coming down I passed long, neat terracing. This may have been part of the castle originally but it's hard to tell as the site was obviously developed in modern times as a cedar plantation.
Chikuma Uenoyama Castle / 筑摩上野山城

ChikumaUenoyamajou (2).JPG

Uenojō is a yamajiro (mountain castle) ruin on the outskirts of Shiojiri Municapility, near to the end of the valley encompassing Matsumoto at the point where the Suwa District starts - I mean to say it was a strategic area. Ruins consist of a shukuruwa (main bailey) surrounded by remnants of trenches. The main bailey is now the site of a shrine and a communications array. I affected a short but steep climb to the site from Saifukuji, a temple at the foot of the castle mount. There was an information board about the castle in the main bailey but it was heavily faded. Luckily someone has transcribed the text onto their blog page and I was able to find that online. The sign says there is a second bailey in addition to the first, but I couldn't find that; perhaps it is where the forestry road is today? I did identify a koshikuruwa (sub-bailey) skirting beneath the main bailey, however.
Haba Castle / 羽場城

Habajou (11).JPG

Habajō is an interesting ruin featuring tall dorui (earth-piled ramparts), deep, wide karabori (dry moats) and kuruwa (baileys). The castle consisted of two principal baileys, the shukuruwa (main bailey) and the ninokuruwa (second bailey). The ninokuruwa was an outer bailey wrapping around the shukuruwa in the west, east and south. To the north the whole castle was bounded by the Tenryū River. Segments of dorui which surrounded the ninokuruwa can still be seen too, now amidst rice paddies. The Japan Rail Iida Line runs through the ninokuruwa. In the northeastern corner of the ninokuruwa is a mound of earth, now containing hokora (mini-shrines), which looks like it could've been a yaguradai (tower platform). The shukuruwa is now the site of a shrine.
Haranomoto Castle / 原ノ元城

Haranomotojou (3).JPG

One of the many "cliff castles" bordering the plain of the Ina Valley, Haranomotojō is evident through remains such as dorui (earth-piled ramparts), karabori (dry moats) and kuruwa (baileys). The land is now given over to farming.
Iida Fort / 飯田砦

IidaToride (2).JPG

The remains of this fort, Iida-toride, are small but remain in decent condition. Essentially the ruin is a forested space enclosed by dorui (earthen ramparts). The entrance to the site is a path running between vegetable patches called the ôte (main road), indicating the original entrance to the fortification. Probably there were originally moats either side of this path but they have been filled in for farmland. The site is otherwise borded by a water channel, rice paddies, a road, and a house with a dog that barked at me. Iida-toride is also called Iida-yakata. It is a municipal designated historic site.
Ina Akasu Castle / 伊那赤須城

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Akasujō was the first site on a castle walk which ended up encompassing sixteen different castle ruins. I had already visited two castle sites in Ina City early that morning, and I would visit two more in Ina City later that evening, all in all visiting twenty castle ruins that day! I was pretty chuffed at the end of the day, and, getting back to my (dirt cheap) hotel, thinking back to visiting Akasujō seemed like so long ago! The castle consists of several kuruwa (baileys) divided by karabori (dry moats) situated along a cliff top overlooking an alluvial plain. The shukuruwa (main bailey) is in the middle, between the ninokuruwa (second bailey) and outer bailey. The shukuruwa and ninokuruwa are easy to identify because they are perforated by karabori either side of the road which runs through them. To the north of the promintory were two more baileys, the deguruwa and soguruwa (添郭). Along the cliffline spreading outward from the fort were minor fortifications (minor baileys and trenches) and samurai homes. I came via the top of the cliff and descended into the river plain by taking the karabori beneath the ninokuruwa, and from here the scale of the earthworks was evident.
Ina Inamura Castle / 伊那稲村城

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Very little to see at this one unfortunately, although I identified some trench work. Most of the site is now farmland.
Ina Joumura Castle / 伊那城村城

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Jōmurajō, which means "Castle Village Castle", is paired with Jōmurafurajō, which means "Castle Village Old Castle". The two sites are very close together but Jōmurajō sits on a cliff overlooking the older ruin. Jōmurajō is a more complicated construct, featuring two integral baileys, karabori (dry moats) and dorui (earth-piled ramparts). The embankments in the second bailey appear to have been excavated or dug into. I'm not sure if they were originally that height or not.
Ina Kasuga Castle / 伊那春日城

InaKasugajou (3).JPG

Kasugajō in Ina, not to be confused with Kasugayamajō in Echigo, is a well maintained park and castle ruin not far from Ina City Station. It features three principal kuruwa (baileys), dorui (earth-piled ramparts) and karabori (dry moats). The castle is situated along a promintory overlooking the plain, built in a simple but effective ladder-style layout (梯郭式縄張), with the third bailey at the start of the castle furthest out, followed by the second, and then with the main bailey at the head of the promintory. The second bailey partially wraps around the main bailey forming a sort of "P" shape. In between the third and second, and second and main bailey, are deep, impressive dry moats, running from one edge of the peninsula of cliff to the other. Beneath the shukuruwa (main bailey) is a koshiguruwa (minor bailey), forming a sort of lip in the cliff. The path to the castle today brings one to the karabori inbetween the ninokuruwa and sannokuruwa. Probably a karabori also existed beyond the sannokuruwa to the castle's rear but it has been filled in now. I had a big day ahead of me so I came to Kasugajō early at around 6am. It had already gotten quite light out. At the castle site I was surprised to hear how loud nesting herons were, since usually they're eerily silent when out and about. There is no information about the castle on site, other than the name.
Ina Kitano Castle / 伊那北ノ城

InaKitanojou (4).JPG

Kitanojō ("North Castle") is a scenic site featuring dorui (earth-piled ramparts), karabori (dry moats) and kuruwa (baileys). The shukuruwa (main bailey) is surrounded by earthen ramparts which still rise quite tall. There is a ditch to the east. To the north and west the Heaven Dragon River flows by, and the castle ruins sit atop of fabulous rockfaces bordering the fast-flowing waters. Kitanojō is paired with Ina Shimono Castle ("Lower Castle"), located across a small river. Why "Lower Castle" and "North Castle" go together and not "North Castle" and "South Castle" or "Upper Castle" and "Lower Castle" I don't know, although it may have been part of a network of fortifications which also included such castles as "Main Castle", "Middle Castle", "Upper Castle", and so on. "Lower Castle" makes sense in reference to the Tenryū River which flows southward.
Ina Kiyomizu Castle / 伊那清水城


After Takagiuchi Castle I climbed to the site of Kiyomizujō. There aren't really any ruins. There is a forested patch next to a cemetery which used to be the fort's main enclosure and that's it. I found a golf ball though and began rolling it down empty stretches of country road for my amusement en route to the next site.
Ina Koide Castle / 伊那小出城

InaKoidejou (1).JPG

The ruins of Koide Castle are located on a clifftop overlooking a river. Ruins include kuruwa (baileys), dorui (earthen ramparts), karabori (dry moats) and tatebori (climbing moats). The castle was divided into three parts: the middle castle, east castle and west castle. Most ruins are to found in the middle castle. It is a municipal designated historical site.
Ina Korin Castle / 伊那狐林城

InaKorinjou (1).JPG

I did have fun scowering the hillside for possible remains, even though it was futile. I was at peak castle explorer. I looked down the side of the shrine hall to see a tatebori, but I couldn't make it out. One apparently existed here but now it must be quite deformed. Other hori (moats) existed beyond where the shrine stands, helping to divide the jutting cliffspace into defensible portions, but they have long been filled in and built over.
Ina Matsuo Castle / 伊那松尾城

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Matsuo Castle's ruins consist of kuruwa (baileys), koshiguruwa (sub-baileys), karabori (dry moats), tatebori (climbing moats), ido (wells) and what looks to me like a yaguradai (turret platform) in the shukuruwa (main bailey). Matsuojō is located near to Suzuokajō; they're on opposite mountain fronds with a steep valley betwixt. I took a footpath between the two sites, coming to Matsuojō after Suzuokajō. Instead of entering Matsuojō through the main path which winds up through the karabori beneath the shukuruwa, I took a dubious approach which brought me out at the karabori beneath the ninokuruwa (second bailey). I didn't go further northwest beyond this point, although the castle's footprint extends into what is now fields and homes (the map of the site shows the "old castle" to the north); as it was getting on, I kept to the park boundaries, proceeding onto the shukuruwa.
Ina Oguro Castle / 伊那小黒城

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Ogurojō ("Little Black Castle") is located further along the cliff which overlooks the plain from Ina Kasuga Castle. It is now a forested area with a small shrine. Dorui (earth-piled ramparts) are evident around the compound. The site overlooks the cliff to the east, and to the north and west is a karabori (dry moat). To the south is a road which climbs through a break in the cliff line. Following the earthen ramparts around the main bailey I saw some suggestive piles of stones here and there.
Ina Ohkubo Castle / 伊那大久保城

InaOhkubojou (2).JPG

Ôkubojō is now the site of a house with a large garden, which is private property. On either side of the plot trenches are evident but they are overgrown and hard to see. The road runs in what was formerly a dry moat. The white blossom shown marks the castle's second bailey, which is now a field.
Ina Omotegi Castle / 伊那表木城

InaOmotegijou (7).JPG

Omotegijō's ruins include dorui (earth-piled ramparts), karabori (dry moats) and a shukuruwa (main bailey). The layout of the castle is a simple square. In modern times the rear ramparts of the ruin were demolished to build a railway track. The karabori dip down toward the rear and disappear into concrete tunnels which go under the railway. I went through one of the tunnels and found a tatebori (climbing trench) on the otherside. The main bailey is somewhat overgrown. Outer baileys are now under plough.
Ina Shimono Castle / 伊那下ノ城

InaShimonojou (4).JPG

Shimonojō is separated from Kitanojō by a stream which I crossed by first shimmying along the slippiest log I'd ever chanced and leaning as far as I could, sort of falling and catching myself really, between two dry islands of rocks, and then hopping above the water. Anyway there was a bridge. But at least I didn't fall in. Shimonojō's ruins are now a forested area alongside the fearsome Tenryūgawa. The rocky cliffs which border the river protected the castle. Ruins include dorui (earth-piled ramparts) and kuruwa (baileys).
Ina Sokura Castle / 伊那曽倉城

InaSokurajou (1).JPG

Not much remains it seems of Sokura Castle. I identified dorui (earth-piled ramparts) and karabori (dry moats). Most of the ruin is now on private property, and so my investigation was necessarily limited to the roadside. The dorui shown here extends across the preamble of a protrusion in the cliff line and is fronted by a moat, making for a very basic construction. Sokurajō is one of many cliffside castle sites in the Ina Valley.
Ina Suganuma Castle / 伊那菅沼城

InaSuganumajou (1).JPG

Suganumajō overlooks the alluvial plain in Ina County. Features at this hilltop ruin include a shukuruwa (main bailey), koshiguruwa (minor baileys carved into the hillside beneath major baileys), an obikuruwa (ring bailey) around the shukuruwa, and karabori (dry moats). There is a wide karabori between the shukuruwa and ninokuruwa. Parts of the ruin are forested or under plough. I found chocolate vine but had to watch out for burrs (chestnut burrs have hurt me more than bears)!
Ina Suzuoka Castle / 伊那鈴岡城

InaSuzuokajou (1).JPG

The ruins of Suzuoka Castle are now part of a large historical park. It features sweeping earthworks, such as deep karabori (dry moats), horikiri (trenches) and dorui (earthen ramparts). Baileys number at least four: the honmaru (main bailey), ninomaru (second bailey), demaru (projecting (rear) bailey), and sotokuruwa (outer enclosure). Impressive moats run between. It seems they may be restoring some dorui at the site.
Ina Takada Castle / 伊那高田城

InaTakadajou (6).JPG

Now a small and pretty park, Takadajō features dorui (earthen ramparts) and what looks like a trench next to a yaguradai, although the latter may just be wishful thinking on my part. Either way, there is a mound of earth here with a monument stone on top reading "Old Castle". There are blossoming trees here which would surely be very lovely at full bloom.
Ina Yasuoka Castle / 伊那安岡城

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Yasuokajō has a simple rectangular layout with earthen ramparts.
Inamurafuru Castle / 稲村古城

Inamurafurujou (1).JPG

Inamurafurujō is paired with Ina Inamura Castle (old and new castle) very close by. Unfortunately little remains of either castle, and so this pair represents the low point of my castle walk that day. Inamurafurujō has a very steep cliff edge protecting it. I'm not sure but I think Inamurafurujō may also be pronounced "Inamurakojō". The castle site today is farmland.
Inuinofuru Castle / 乾ノ古城

Inuinofurujou (1).JPG

I found (the remains of) a karabori (dry moat) and a tatebori (climbing moat) around what was presumably the main enclosure of the fort. Some deformed dorui (earthen ramparts) can be found. The site is now a forest.
Itousakaue Fort / 伊藤坂上砦

ItousakaueToride (11).JPG

The ruins of Itōsakaue-toride are located on a small promontory of earth which overlooks the plain below. Beyond an apple orchard there is a forested area with horikiri (trenches) dividing the elevated peninsular into increasingly narrow segments. Itōsaka-toride was a simple fort which made deft use of terrain with some earthworks to enhance its defensive capabilities.
Joumurafuru Castle / 城村古城

Joumurafurujou (1).JPG

The ruins of Jōmurafurujō can be taken in in a single glance since the single bailey appears as a mound arising out of rice paddies. Jōmurajō, the new castle, is built into the cliffline and is visible from here. The main (and only) bailey is now a field with a few tombstones at the end.
Jounoue Fort / 城ノ上砦

JounoueToride (1).JPG

Jōnōe-toride's ruins are farmland now and have been cleared of undergrowth, so the shape of the old earthworks are easy to see from the roadside. The site offers views of the plain below, as it has since the time of the Nishimaki Clan, which is nice.
Kaibai Castle / 貝梅城


A large memorial stone stands here to indicate the site as the former location of Kaibai Castle, but unfortunately there are no identifiable ruins. The site is now the Hotaka Meeting Hall (formerly it may have been the Hotaka Town Hall before the town was merged into the municipality of Azumino). The Oito Line railway also runs through the site. I came here as I had some time before getting the train back from Hotaka to Matsumoto.
Kamimakifuru Castle / 上牧古城

Kamimakifurujou (2).JPG

Kamimakifurujō, also called Shirobayashijō, is now a park named for the castle. The ruin is situated on a promontory overlooking the alluvial plain of the Ina Valley. The shukuruwa (main bailey) is located at the terminus of this peninsula of cliff, and horikiri (cuttings into the ridgeline) create moats separating three baileys, although these trenches are hard to make out today. What is easier to see is an obiguruwa (ring bailey) wrapped around the shukuruwa.
Koide Muraoka Castle / 小出村岡城

KoideMuraokajou (1).JPG

Murokajō is an earthworks fort ruin with features such as dorui (earthen ramparts), hori (trenches) and terracing of the hillside. I saw a tanuki here.
Koiwatake Castle / 小岩嶽城

Koiwatakejou (1).JPG

Koiwatakejō is a Sengoku Period yamajiro (mountain castle) located in an idyllic forest-suburb of Azumino Municipality. It is split into two parts: the mountaintop redoubt and a lower terraced area where the day-to-day activities of the castle would've been carried out. There are minor pocket baileys leading up the mountain between these two areas. The main bailey is the topmost area of the lower reaches of the castle, and features huge boulders. Climbing sub-baileys use the boulders as retaining walls, which is unique, and there is a cave beneath one of the boulders which I imagine was dug out during the castle's time, perhaps to be used as a storage area.

Koiwatakejō has several reconstructed structures, which is always a precious gift at Sengoku Period sites! The structures, which were probably constructed for the benefit of tourists who come for the cooler alpine summers, consist of a yaguramon (turret-gate), gate, and palings with spiked tops. Further up the mountainside is a reconstructed miyagura (watch tower) (or, noroshidai (signal tower)) which serves as a viewing platform for hikers. Its ishigaki base is a bit "meh" but the wooden construct is otherwise impressive.

Furthermore, there are the usual earthwork ruins, including dorui (earthen ramparts), karabori (dry moats), and terracing. As the terracing climbs the moat beneath it seems to get deeper. The main route to the main bailey features what looks to me like a koguchi ('tiger's maw' gate ruin).
Kurita Castle / 栗田城

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Since I had time to spare in downtown Nagano I went on a little castle walk, going from site to site. Kuritajō was the best and last, possessing the most substantial ruins, although only a portion of the original castle remains. Kuritajō's layout was square-like; in fact, almost a parallelogram. It had tall earthen ramparts and mizubori (water moats) around the main bailey. An outer enclosure also existed, surrounded by the moat system. Now only the northwestern corner segment of dorui (earth-piled ramparts) survives, but it is still very tall. There is now a shrine built atop, and the remaining ruins are part of the shrine's grounds. The shrine is called the Minochi-sōja Hiyoshi-jinja. The flat ground at the foot of the dorui which is now parkspace is the moat which has been filled in. The stone platform shown here is a modern one built for the shrine's kami house.
Minochi Aiki Castle / 相木城

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The earthly remains of Aikijō / Ainokijō consist of lonely clump of piled earth in the corner of a girls' school. Probably this was part of a segment of dorui (earth-piled ramparts). There is a small shrine and a marker for the castle on top. I came here because I had some time to kill in Nagano City.
  • Note on reading: if "Ainoki" then the "no" is unwritten or rendered ノ, the possessive particle.
Minochi Hirabayashi Castle / 水内平林城

NaganoHirabayashijou (1).png

The former site of Hirabayashijō is now an insutrialised area and a temple built in the very unfortunate shape of concrete blocks. There is a stone marker showing the site of the castle.
Minochi Kirihara Castle / 水内桐原城


The site of Kiriharajō is now a residential area, shrine, Kiriharamaki-jinja, and temple, Seirinji. No ruins remain. I came here as part of my impromptu Nagano City castle walk.
Minochi Masugata Castle / 水内枡形城

MinochiMasugatajou (3).JPG

I visited the ruins of Masugatajō after going to Ohmine Castle. If one takes the mountain road from there, which is now closed to vehicles, it goes by Masugatajō and comes out at the top of Jitsukiyama Park, which is the place where I descended the mountain. The ruins of Masugatajō consist of two principal baileys, dorui (earthen ramparts), and various trenches. Some maps of the castle seem to indicate that the road was formerly a trench too, which is perhaps why a bridge was built over it leading to the castle site? This path is quite overgrown now, which is unfortunate since I ignored the sign post and tried to take it. There is another path indicated by sign posts which is better maintained. There are signs up throughout the site to indicate features, and an explanation board and map in the shukuruwa (main bailey). Indeed, Masugatajō is being much better maintained than Ôminejō! "Masugata" means "box-shape" or "square". Since it indicates the layout of the fortification, there are several castles with this name: this is the second Masugatajō I've been to, the other being Musashi-Masugatajō. "Musashi" refers to the province and "Minochi" refers to the district. Nagano is vast with many, many medieval castle ruins and so I've been cataloguing smaller castle sites by district. Most of Minochi District is now the City of Nagano.
Minochi Nakazawa Castle / 水内中沢城

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I came to the (former) site of Nakazawajō as part of my afternoon castle walk in Nagano City on the way from Minochi Hirabayashi Castle to Kurita Castle. No ruins remain.
Minochi Oshigane Castle / 水内押鐘城

NaganoOshiganejou (1).JPG

Nothing remains of Oshiganejō. On the site is a small park called "Honjō", as in "Main Castle". There is a small mound at the back with graves atop.
Misonoko Castle / 御園古城

Misonokojou (1).JPG

Misonokojō was the final and twentieth castle visit of the day! By the time I got there dusk had already set in. I was able to get off a few pictures before my camera battery finally died, and by that time it had already gotten too dark. It was now past 6pm and time to go back to my hotel. I allowed myself a bit of a lie-in the next morning and, due to awkward time trains, decided to visit more local sites in Ina, and I ended up walking by Misonokojō again so I took some new pictures for daytime. There's only really the one large mound to see so this only took about ten minutes.
Nagasakaue Fort / 長坂上砦

NagasakaueToride (1).JPG

The last and least of my "toride tour" that day, the ruins of Nagasakaue-toride ("Fort upon Long Hill"), are on private property. As such, even though I had anticipated maybe finding trench remains, I could only see this site from the road side, which was disappointing. The site is now forest and apple orchards. The construction of a road has likely obliterated many earthwork traces.
Nakatou Castle / 中塔城

Nakatoujou (1).JPG

Castle of Monkeys and Toads, the ruins of Nakatōjō belong to the animal kingdom now. This site is not easy to explore and I might recommend it only for experienced castle explorers. Early on I encountered a large toad, the biggest amphibian I've encountered in the wild; who knows what rock it had been sleeping under. I came to an area with a pylon, situated half way along the ridge that the ruins occupy. I heard things moving in the forest up ahead - and the occassional strange call. I climbed a little up a leg of the pylon to try to get a good look but couldn't see anything through the trees. As I continued on trapsing through the medieval earthworks I realised there were monkeys climbing up the ridge ahead of me. Slowly I gained on them. I came particularly close to one. It seemed to move as I did but not look directly at me. At first I thought it hadn't seen me, but it proved to merely not react to my presence with any sense of urgency. As I came very close it moved a couple of branches higher in the tree it was in and went about its monkey business. I was directly below it. I took some pictures and moved on with my castling. There is no hiking trail at Nakatōjō. The ruins are the trail! A forking configuration of climbing moats allow access to the ridge. These continue up to a series of minor baileys terraced into the ridge. Just after my encounter with the monkeys I found a large horikiri, a trench cut into the ridge to create an impediment of rock and earth. More climbing trenches streak below the ridge as well as up along it, passing now by increasingly evident terracing. The largest baileys are at the top of the ruins, and after so much climbing the relative flatness of the ground here is an incongruent boon. I continued on here until I saw that the ridge had narrowed once again and I came to one final trench. From here the ridge sweeped up again to the top of the mountain but I saw that the earthwork ruins were at an end. In a fraction of the time it took me to ascend I was able to fly down the mountain. Or, I might say, it wasn't flying, it was falling with style.
Ohmine Castle / 大峰城

Ohminejou (3).JPG

Ôminejō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin consisting of earthworks such as trenches, earthen ramparts and kuruwa (baileys). Aside from these real remains of the fortress, there is also a big, fat folly, which I suppose we could generously call a faux reconstruction. I'm not against it per se, although earth piled-up at the rear of the tower I don't know whether is part of the original ramparts or heaped there as a result of clearing enough space for the tower. Concrete castle towers which are either speculative or don't represent any structure proven to have existed historically are called, in Japanese, mogi-tenshu (模擬天守), "faux keeps". Lots of them were built in the post-war boom period. The one at Ôminejō is unfortunately a rather poor jobby, featuring a large garage-like entrance with rusting shutters, and "windows" in the stone base. There are two balcony areas which appear fantasian, and some strange design motifs. A faux gatehouse is also located at the base of the shukuruwa (main bailey). Ishigaki (stone-pilings) can be found throughout the site but it appears to have been built as part of the "reconstruction", and so is modern. It looks okay in some places though. Well, it's not the worst attempt at a reconstruction I've seen but it's still on the worse side, and if it was done better I might even be able to approve of it, ahistorical though it may be. Needless to say, this tower is no longer open, and has started to become dilapidated, which little pieces falling off here and there. Probably it will be demolished at some point, so I'm glad I visited before then. I've actually been to a site expecting to find a mogi-tenshu only to find it already demolished before (Mutsu-Iwasakijō (Mutsu Iwasaki Castle))! The tower can actually be seen from Zenkōji, but it's small and easy to miss; I didn't even notice it the first time I came to Nagano.
Sakurazakaue Fort / 桜坂上砦

SakurazakaueToride (6).JPG

The site of this former fort, Sakurazakaue-toride (Fort-upon-Cherry Blossom Hill), is now farmland. There are two trenches cutting into the carved slopes which delineate enclosures.
Seirin Fort / 西林砦

SeirinToride (1).JPG

To the side of the road there is a long lateral trench, and the earth is rammed up here, overlooking the cliff. If there are ruins of Seirin-Toride ("East Woods Fort") here, this is probably it. A foot path leads down to the road below through the former site of the fort, which is now wooded slopes and farmland.
Shimomakifuru Castle / 下牧古城

Shimomakifurujou (1).JPG

Shimomakifurujō is a clifftop castle ruin containing a large mound, which was likely part of a large dorui (earth-piled rampart). The shukuruwa (main bailey) is now farmland.
Takagifuru Castle / Takagifuru Castle

Takagifurujou (4).JPG

After finding nothing at Kiyomizujō I went to Takagifurujō (just marked as "Old Castle" on Googlemaps), and didn't find anything that I could be sure of. After going through a sort of timber collection area in the woods I came to a patch of forest which was supposed to be the location of the former castle. There was a marker here but not for the castle. I saw suggestions of what could be degraded earthworks but I couldn't be sure. I took a short cut out by coming directly down the hillside and came across what looked like a lateral trench, though I wouldn't be confident in claiming this as part of the castle. This attempt was a little frustrating and overall disappointing, but walking through the stretches of (mostly flat) forest was interesting.
Takagiuchi Castle / 高木内城

Takagiuchijou (1).JPG

This is a clifftop castle. I could see several depressions in the cliffline which I suspected may be trenches or the remnants of dry moats. I couldn't get close to them though because imbetween them was farmland and private property. The part of the castle nearest the road was the main bailey, but this is also under plough. The road may have formerly been the site of a climbing moat. Takagiuchijō was made up of four integral baileys separated by dry moats. The main bailey was much larger than the others. Apparently there is a small marker for the castle somewhere but I didn't see this - I might've even walked passed it! Perhaps I could've got more out of the site if the trenches were more clear.
Takamifuru Castle / 高見古城

Takamifurujou (2).JPG

Takamifurujō consisted of two integral baileys surrounded by earth-piled ramparts. A segment of dorui remains today, but half of the main bailey has been wiped out by the collapse of the cliffside. Not too far away from Takamifurujō is Takamijō. The "furujō" in Takamifurujō means "Old Castle" and so presumably this site was an earlier site used by the builders of Takamijō, though few details are known about its history.
Tonojima Castle / 殿島城

Tonojimajou (3).JPG

The ruins of Tonojima Castle are now a park. Features include tall dorui (earth-piled ramparts) and karabori (dry moats), which eventually slope off down the cliffside which the castle was built upon. From pictures I'd seen online it looked like a gatehouse had been reconstructed but actually it's more like an entranceway with the name of the castle atop in the vague shape of a yaguramon; it doesn't even have any windows! So that's unfortunate and I won't count it as part of the castle's assets. When I came some young teens were playing a game with - I think - airsoft guns, and they wore goggles and black gear. I could detect one hiding behind the gate and I knew he'd heard me approach; he nearly mistook me for one of his friends but luckily I know the Japanese for 'don't shoot'. Since the castle's shukuruwa (main bailey) was the boys' arena, they called a ceasefire whilst I plodded around. I felt kind of bad for them so I stuck to the ramparts and then descended into the trenches to inspect the earthworks from below - so that the boys could merrily shoot each other again. Nice to see kids playing outside.
Yanagizakaue Fort / 柳坂上砦

YanagizakaueToride (6).JPG

The site of this former fort, Yanagizaka-toride (Fort-upon-Weeping Willow Hill), is now an apple tree orchard. This area is nowadays famous for apple production. There's little in the way of ruins of the fort. I thought I might've identified some climbing trenches, but they are very deformed now.
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