Chiba Castle

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Chiba Tsuneshige built a large scale castle around this site in the 1100's. His descendents ruled over the area from this castle until the 1400's. In 1455, Makuwari Yasutane, a relative of the Chiba, attacked the castle and defeated the Chiba. Makuwari took the name of Chiba and built a new castle (Motosakura Castle) in nearby Sakura abandoning Chiba Castle.

Visit Notes

This reconstruction is very misleading. This castle never had such a magnificent main keep. The castle is from well before such large keeps were even built. I avoided posting this castle on my site for a long time because of this, but it is an actual castle site and many people ask me about it so I finally visited it on my way back from Otaki Castle.

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  • earthen embankments
  • earthen embankments

Castle Profile
English Name Chiba Castle
Japanese Name 千葉城
Alternate Names Inohana-jo
Founder Chiba Tsuneshige
Year Founded 1126
Castle Type Hilltop
Castle Condition Reconstructed main keep
Designations Local Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features main keep, stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Honchiba Sta (Sotobo Line)
Visitor Information
Time Required
Website top.html
Location Chiba, Chiba Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 36' 16.96" N, 140° 7' 36.44" E
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Added to Jcastle 2009
Admin Year Visited 2009
Admin Visits June 20, 2009

(11 votes)
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4 months ago
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Chiba Castle, Japan's Most Controversial Castle?

For those knowledgeable of castles and history, so-called "Chiba Castle" may be a target of derision. Or, perhaps we should say it is controversial. But why is this? This castle has many mysteries.

Inohanajō, which is a more historically sound name for the castle, has a long history, being established almost nine centuries ago. It was, however, abandoned before the Edo Period. The mogi tenshu (faux reconstructed main keep) seems influenced by the historical keep of Odawarajō, which was built in the Edo Period. The use of an Edo Period style donjon for a castle built long before that time is jarring to many castle fans.

The remains of the historical castle are earthworks found at the tip of the plateau, in baileys traditionally numbered one through three, with the first being the narrowest at the very tip. The mogi tenshu was erected in the third bailey, and these three integral baileys form the Inohana Historical Park, centred around the mock castle tower.

The historical castle is supposed to have had two very large outer baileys. What is strange about this is that if the smaller three baileys were the core of the castle, they are considerably under fortified, and so it may be that the supposed outer baileys were in fact the castle's main baileys, of which only a small spur of fortifications near the plateau tip remain. It's hard to know which because the outer baileys were developed over by the expanding modern city, chiefly by Chiba University. The remains in the park are somewhat well preserved considering the intense urbanisation surrounding them, but they nonetheless may have been considerably altered, as their forms differ from what we may expect. One dorui (earthen rampart) segment appears too wide for its height, and may have been partially excavated. Another piece of dorui by the castle's koguchi (gate complex) is wide enough to suggest the base of a tower. What appears to be a well preserved segment of dorui is lacking a karabori (dry moat), but this may have been filled in. Because the castle's ruins have been modified over time, it is difficult to dissever castle features from what may have been potentially later constructions.

The historical incongruities above give some idea why castle fans may be frustrated by the site and its claims. However, the castle's history itself is heavily contested, with problems here and there. As per the castle's common name, Chibajō, it is thought that the castle was for a time the main base of the Chiba Clan before their move to Honsakurajō in the 15th century. However, the actual main base of the clan at such an early time going as far back as the 12th century would've been on the surrounding lowlands, not the plateau. Yet the name Chibajō comes from the belief that the site of the castle itself was the clan's headquarters, which is misleading. According to historical documents the castle was called Inohanajō. Even the site's name is contested! And, according to some experts, the castle was in fact built by the Hara Clan. The question of whether the castle was actually the home of the Chiba Clan hangs over it like gloomy weather.

Indirect evidence in favour of the presence of the Chiba is found nearby, but this is inconclusive. A fortified site at the base of the plateau's tip but on the other side of the Miyako River is presumed by some to be the Chiba's original fortified manor house, or yakata. Old maps show dorui around the site which is now the Chiba District Court. The name of this area was referred to as "goten-ato" or "Site of Old Palace". Yet this nomenclature is by no means exclusive to yakata or even castles. "Goten" may refer to a lodge used by the Shogunate. If this is the origin of the name then the site is much more recent than Inohanajō. Still, if the yakata was used by the Chiba then it is a fairly safe bet that they made some effort to fortify the elevation across the river that would become Inohanajō.

Another problem is the proposed scale of the castle, which is probably exagerated. From what little remains there is no suggestion of such a large castle as built by the Chiba Clan. Inohanajō is proposed in "Castles of Bōsō", a book produced by the Castle Research Society of Chiba, to have been constructed by the Hara Clan to protect surrounding settlements alongside Takashinajō. We would expect a castle as expansive as the one claimed for Chibajō to have been in use until the end of the Sengoku Period, but the engimatic Mr Yogo, whose blog I'm primarily referencing in this article, states that Inohanajō is located far too close to Ikumijō (about 3km away), the second most important castle of the Hara after Usuijō, to have been of such significance, as the man power required to garrison two such large castles so close together was too great. It would make more sense in this context that Inohanajō was a smaller stronghold, either based around the remains which we see today as those are very narrow and confined, or somewhere nearby. Mr Yogo says that a larger area to retreat to in times of war may have been maintained for townsfolk, and that it's possible a large fortification complex existed at the site but that it has been lost to urbanisation. In other words, since we don't know, grandiose claims should be taken per grano salis.

Where was the centre of the castle, when was it built and used, and who built it? What was the castle's structure and what was its function? These are the enduring mysteries of Chibajō / Inohanajō, perhaps Japan's most controversial castle.



60 months ago
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In 1126 Chiba Tsuneshige built a castle here. However, this is not that castle. In 1455 the Chiba were defeated and the site was abandoned. A new castle was built at Motosakura to replace it, of which today only earthworks remain. So actually Chiba City built this generic early Edo period castle in Inohana park to replace the Sengoku period one built by Chiba Tsuneshige in 1126. The castle is on a small hill within only a small park. There are no earthworks obvious or moat. Some say it's out of place, historically misleading and a waste of the tax money of the citizens of Chiba. I say "Eh meh gerd, it's a castle."

Kiddus i2003Gunshi

107 months ago
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Looked good, but closed on the day I arrived.


129 months ago
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If I weren't passing through Chiba City on my way back to Tokyo from Sakura Castle, I would not have bothered with this castle site. It is quite disappointing. Having sussed out what others have said, I was mentally prepared for a fake concrete reconstruction where that was no such castle keep in its day. However, they could have had a much better museum inside this fairly big reconstructed castle keep. There was hardly anything in the castle museum about its design and history. No wonder it cost only 60 yen to get in. This is barely a one-star castle site for me.

Anonymous user #1

130 months ago
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Not worth visiting. As said the reconstruction is unfaithful and the look of the just looks wrong and aritificial. This big tower plonked in the middle of a drab urban residential area. The grounds surrounding it are tiny and pretty standard fair of a few trees and open spaces. Inside the castle looks to be offices or somesuch before the doors remained closed to me.

One humerous thing about this castle is they've built a modern viewing platform in front of it, in a position that should be rather good for viewing it....though they've planted a bunch of trees between said platform and the castle. Your tax money at work people of Chiba!

Anonymous user #1

148 months ago
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Downtown Chiba, collocated with Ward office and theater. An interesting urban setting with many older buildings surrounding.