Fortified Manors on and 24 new profiles from ART

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Fortified Manors on and 24 new profiles from ART


In a collaborative effort with ART, I added a new castle category for Fortified Manors and a brief descriptive page to accompany the classification. ART helped kick off the category with 24 new profiles and helped reclass some of the former Flatland Castle profiles as Fortified Manor. I have a few of these from my own travels that I've debated adding to the site in the past, but they're now on my to-do list, once I finish off my other in-progress items.

Fortified Manors (居館, kyokan) are the fortified residences of powerful local leaders and samurai. They are typically simple rectangular fortifications with a moat and earthen embankment, or sometimes stone walls. In Japanese they are often called Yashiki or Yakata. Many of these Fortified Manors are from the Heian and Kamakura Periods, before castles enlarged and developed to include quarters for samurai and other powerful local lords. In the Sengoku Period you often see the pair of a fortified manor at the foot of the mountain for everyday use and a mountaintop castle for use in times of unrest.

There is a frequently used Japanese castle term 城館 (jokan), which includes the characters for both castle (城) and fortified manors (館) that clearly covers both. There are a few yakata in the Top 100 Castles and Next 100 Castles so this is a natural extension for Jcastle.


Choujayashiki Yakata / 長者屋敷館

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This is just a local residence ruin. I cycled here after work. I was quite surprised to find well-defined dorui (earth-piled ramparts) surrounding much of the site. There were even two baileys. The earthworks between the first and second bailey are heaped tall and wide, perhaps as a mound for a tower to be built on. Now there is a slide there for children. The site is a park, called Chōjahara-kōen, and community center.
Hanazawa Yakata / 花沢館

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Coming from Kumagura-yakata I crossed the Sai River and located the former site of Hanazawa-yakata. It was built on a clifftop overlooking the river. Nothing remains today and I found no marker or explanation board. The site is now residential. This was the fifth stop on my "Yakata Tour".
Hatakenaka Yakata / 畑中館


Hatakenaka-yakata is the ruin of a fortified medieval manor house. I wasn't too thorough in my investigation of the site as my actual destination was the nearby ruins of Chikuma-Uedajō and this site was merely on the way, but if I did miss anything I didn't miss much. What some say are the remains of moats can be found where the road and a water channel now run around a field. It didn't strike me that there were any obvious ruins here though. We might describe this feature as "moat traces". I found no marker for the site either.
Horigane Yakata / 堀金館

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These are the ruins of the fortified medieval manor house of the Horigane Clan. Unfortunately the ruins are now on private property and obscurred from view by a wall and hedgerow. Being a little tall... I could see over the wall and identify dorui (earthen ramparts) and karabori (dry moat) ruins. Getting a good view of them, however, was not possible. I saw also an old marker post on site identifying the ruins. Since the remains of the earthworks surrounding the manor house seemed quite well preserved, it's a shame they're not open to the public. Other private sites in the area also have ruins surrounding them (Toba Yakata, Yoshinohori Yashiki, &c.) and these remains are luckily immediately adjacent to the roadside and entirely visible. My luck finally ran out at Horigane-yakata. Horigane is also the name of the surrounding village.
Hotaka Yakata / 穂高館


No ruins remain. The site is now corn fields.
Houzouji Yakata / 法蔵寺館

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Hōzōji is a temple in the town of Toyoshina (now part of the Azumino rural municipality). It was built on the site of a yakata, a fortified medieval residence. In front of the temple is an old, deep well. There are two signposts for the yakata at the temple: one at the entrance and one next to the main hall. This was the seventh stop on my "Yakata Tour". It is a municipal designated historic site. The remains of embankments and moats can be traced around the perimeter of the temple.
Iwaoka Yakata / 岩岡館

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The ruins of Iwaoka-yakata were the first stop on my impromptu "Yakata Tour" that day. Cycling, I managed to visit thirteen former yakata sites on the Azumi Plain. Not bad for leaving the house at 10:30am. Iwaoka-yakata was the first stop, located just north of the Azusa River. I was able to locate a signboard for the medieval yakata, but there were no obvious ruins. The signboard shows pictures of relics, mostly ceramics, unearthed during the construction of what I think is a small water treatment station in the Late Heisei Period. There is little information about the history of the site but the sign says that the building remains unearthed were likley a storehouse.
Kamaenohaka Yakata / 構え之墓館

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This site has a curious name but there are no ruins here and the site is now a cemetery. There is a small marker post for the yakata erected by Azumino Municipality, although it refers to it as a yashiki. This was the eigth stop on my "Yakata Tour". Apparently moat ruins were identified here at one point but there was nothing much in the way of remains that I could see; there is a path at the side of the cemetery where the moat used to run but it doesn't look very moat-ish, having no depth, so this is a "hori-ato (moat trace)" I suppose.
Kamaian Yakata / 釜井庵館

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Kamaian-yakata was the fortified medieval manor house of the Mimura Clan, although Kamaian appears to be a modern appellation, named after the artisan's hermitage built on the site in 1783. Maybe it was originally called "Mimura-yakata". This was my second visit to the Edo period cottage at the site. It wasn't clear to me whether this yakata site shouldn't just be considered a part of Myōgi Castle, the ruins of which sit on the mountain immediately behind it, and that's how I treated it at first, but it appears that the yakata existed since the Kamakura period and the yamajiro (mountain castle) was built later - in the Sengoku period. Many manor lords were quite comfortable in their lightly fortified residences during peacetime but later began building yamajiro in order to protect themselves in times of war. Often yakata have a corresponding yamajiro. They are generally considered separate sites if there is some distance between the two, as there often is in the wide Matsumoto Basin, for example, with its extensive plains, but in the valleys which feed into it we often find yakata sites close to the feet of mountains.
Koumyouji Yakata / 光明寺館

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There were some earthen embankments on the temple grounds but I couldn't identify any ruins here for certain. These are mostly just pictures of the temple then.
Kumagura Yakata / 熊倉館

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Continuining with my "Yakata Tour" I came to Kumagura-yakata, the fourth of thirteen yakata sites I visited that day. "Yakata" refers to a medieval fortified manor house. There was no marker to indicate the site that I could find, although, according to pictures I found on line, as well as google maps, there should've been a stone one where a new structure has been built, and so perhaps it was taken down (I could've done with the information!). The site of the yakata, which was built on a small hill and ridge over the Sai River, is now that of several shrines, farmland and a cluster of dwellings. Next to the Kumagurakasuga-jinja is the site of Buppōji, a temple which I think existed alongside the yakata. There are marker posts and explanation boards here for the Kumagura Crossing, a water-crossing site adjacent to the yakata. Another marker indicates the former landing of Kumagura Bridge, which was built in the Edo Period, after the period of the Yakata. The river is wide and the bridge was 41-ken in length. The original crossing would've made use of small boats or even just men who ferried travellers across on their backs whilst wading through the river if the water level was low enough. I suppose the bridge must've been destroyed at some point because the ferry crossing was in place until the Early Shōwa Period! A modern bridge is located 2km to the north. Opposite the river is the castle mount of Hirasejō.
Machita Yakata / 町田館

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This was the sixth stop on my "Yakata Tour". No ruins remain and there is little information available. The site is now fields and homes.
Mamabe Castle / 真々部城

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Mamabejō, also called Mamabe-yakata, was the thirteenth and final stop on my "Yakata Tour" of fortified manor house sites in Azumi District. There is an earthen mound which is a segment of dorui (earthen ramparts) with a marker for the site on and an explanation board, which includes a map of the site and what it calls the Jōkamachi (surrounding town around the castle). Out of all of the yakata (medieval fortified manor house) ruins I visited that day, Mamabe-yakata is the largest with multiple baileys, and so it was also called a castle, though I still think "fortified manor house" best describes it. The ôte (main entrance area) was located adjacent to this mound. This is orientated in the opposite direction of the temple, Kinryūji, which now occupies the site. The castle site is a municipal designated historic site. The castle town, according to the map, formerly contained a shrine to Hachiman and a branch shrine of Togakushi.
Nakamura Yakata / 中村館

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The site is fields and houses today.
Nariai Yakata / 成相館

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The former site of Narai-yakata was the tenth stop on my "Yakata Tour". The only markers I found here indicated former school sites of the Edo and Meiji periods, and nothing for the yakata. I identified no ruins and the site is now houses and fields.
Ohtsuma Yakata / 大妻館

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At the site of Ôtsuma-yakata stands a large memorial stone. I found no ruins. The site today is agicultural land. Yakata refers to medieval fortified residences of the land-owning warrior elite of that time. This was the second stop on my "Yakata Tour".
Otaya Yakata / 於田屋館

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Note: only ruins today
Tada Kasuke Yashiki / 多田加助屋敷

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Tada-yakata, or the Tada Kasuke Yashiki, the eleventh stop on my "Yakata Tour", is famous as the site of the yashiki (residence) of Tada Kasuke. There are explanation boards, Tada family graves, and even a moat and embankment segment to behold. The site is now a shrine. Nearby is a large museum dedicated to the life and times of Tada Kasuke.
Toba Yakata / 鳥羽館

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Toba-yakata was the twelfth stop on my "Yakata Tour". The main enclosure of what was once a medieval fortified manor house is now a farmstead, not open to the public. However, it is partially surrounded by a water-filled moat and dorui (earthen ramparts), which was quite impressive in terms of the ruins I found that day, most yakata having long been developed, built and ploughed over. This site is likewise surrounded by fields and rice paddies. It is a municipal designated historical site.
Todoroki Yakata / 等々力館


Nothing remains.
Todoroki Yashiki / 等々力屋敷

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The Todoroki-yashiki is a large, rural bukeyashiki built in the Edo Period, with a history stretching back to the Muromachi period. "Bukeyashiki" here refers to a fortified manor house. In the Edo Period power was centralised in Daimyates, and so later bukeyashiki tend to be called Yashiki (屋敷), as they were subject to Domain control, whilst their earlier antecedents tend to be known as Yakata (館), based around local feifs developed out of the classical shōen system which itself contributed to the rise of the bushi class. This residence was at one point open to public tours but it seems like it may have been closed for a while. There is an old notice attached to the main gate saying that it is closed due to repairs. Part of an explanation board has collapsed. I can find no information about opening times or such online. The Nagayamon (combined rowhouse and gatehouse) is designated an important cultural property.
Tono Yakata / 殿館

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There is just a stone marker here. It's something at least. I was coming by this way and thought I would check out the site. That was last year. At the time I couldn't find any information on it. But I stumbled across a snippet of information involving the Wada Clan. The neighbourhood is called Tono.
Yoshinohori Yashiki / 吉野堀屋敷

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A moat and rampart ruin remains belong the roadside. The site is now a private residence. Google Maps indicates that the road passes the moat and goes by the house but to me it looked like the house's driveway. I looked from behind the site and this was a dirt track road between farmland. I concluded my investigations here as I was concerned about accidentally tresspassing. The current house is built in a traditional vernacular style surrounded by fields so it's quite fitting.
Yoshinomachi Yakata / 吉野町館

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At Yoshinomachi-yakata ruin there are the remains of a moat with embankments. The site today is now fields and also a large residence which appears to be the rightful inheritor of the original medieval manor house, and this occupied most of my attention. At the side of the road in a small grove is the well-hidden marker and explanation board for the yakata site. This would've been very easy to miss and I begun to wonder if I hadn't missed any other markers that day... This marker was the exact same shape as the other markers erected by Azumino Municipality, a sprawling rural municipality generously referred to as a "City" centered around the town of Toyoshina.
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