Furumiyajō was designed and constructed by Baba Nobuharu under the orders of Takeda Shingen in 1571. Tsukude was controlled by the Okudaira Clan who fell under the suzerainty of the Kai-Takeda. They bordered on Imagawa and Matsudaira territory. In 1573 Takeda Shingen died and the Okudaira conspired against Takeda Katsuyori with Tokugawa Ieyasu. The betrayal caused chaos in Furumiyajō, and, during the Battle of Furumiyajō, the Okudaira, reinforced by Tokugawa forces, rushed the castle, sacking it, and burning all of the buildings to the ground. The castle was thereafter abandoned.
Furumiyajō, a hilltop earthworks fort ruin in Tsukude Village, Shinshiro Municipality, was the highlight of my tour of castle ruins in the valley. It seems to have drawn the attention of castle-enthusiasts in recent years, and with good reason. It is a vast complex of impressive earthworks, featuring dorui (earthen ramparts), dobashi (earthen bridges), masugata (square gate complex), kuruwa (baileys), karabori (dry moats), tatedorui (climbing dorui), and more. The structure is highly advanced – in my estimation at least, and I could see the evolution from medieval into the vast Edo period castles taking shape before me.
As far as earthworks castle ruins go without buildings, this is a top site. The only downside is that the whole hilltop is covered in a cedar plantation. The monocultural forest makes lighting gloomy, and obstructs what would otherwise be a flawless view of vast medieval fortification earthworks. In person it’s easy to see around and between the many trees, but it’s tough to take panoramic photographs. There is clearly a lot of interest in this site, and I wish the trees would be cut down. Once a hilltop is removed of trees it takes more maintenance to keep back the bush, but I think an unfettered castlescape here would really put it and Tsukude on the map. Tsukude in general has done a wonderful job of promoting its historic fortification sites, and so if this one were cleared and maintained like Kameyamajō, it’d be even more amazing – perfect – and I’d go back in a jiffy. Kameyamajō seems to be prized as the village’s main castle ruin, but I was more impressed by Furumiyajō. Going by reviews on Google Maps and castle blogs, I’m not alone in this.
The layout of Furumiyajō is vast and complex, or seems vast due to its complexity, and I was surprised to read after wandering around the site that the dimensions are only 200m east-west by 150m north-south. The hilltop is cleft in twain by the ôhorikiri (great trench). These two halves, west and east, are connected by a dobashi and their layout is different. The western portion consists of a bailey perfectly ensconced with beautiful dorui. Beneath this hilltop bailey is row after row of trenches and embankments encircling the hillside. At the deepest place there are five layers of these defences. In parts the dorui and karabori fork off, creating a complicated array of ramparts and dead-ends. The two largest karabori are at the top and bottom, and in the middle the topmost sits above the bottommost, divided by towering earthen embankments. The topmost karabori is ‘U’-shaped, curving around the central bailey of the western castle. The bottommost karabori stretches around much of the bottom of the western castle. It is eventually enveloped by a northern extension of the middle great trench. The outermost moats of the castle are swamp moats and are difficult to enter.
The eastern castle is defended at its lower reaches by moats both dry and boggy. Terracing climbs the hillside and lower baileys are divided by half-man-height dorui (likely for water level control). One of the terraced baileys had a sign indicating it was used as a prison. One of the most interesting features of the eastern castle is that it has radiating spokes of tatedorui, climbing earthen ramparts, which reminded me of an earthworks version of flying buttresses of some great cathedral of earth. The eastern main bailey, the centre of the whole castle, is heavily fortified with tall dorui and a masugata gate complex. It is not difficult to see in the mind’s eye here yaguramon (gatehouses) and yagura (keeps) which would not look less than fitting for an Edo period castle. One of the rampart segments overlooking the gatehouse courtyard now hosts a huge zelkova tree.
I wish I had more time at this site, appreciating it from all angles as I ferret my way through every trench and atop every rampart. I had to be a bit more selective on this my first visit as I only had a couple of hours, but I think it could take many hours to exhaust. I would happily go back, dedicating more time to the easternmost and outermost ruins.
|English Name||Furumiya Castle|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Next 100 Castles, Local Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Artifacts||Dorui, Horikiri, Kuruwa, Mizubori, Tatebori, Karabori, Masugata, &c.|
|Features||water moats, trenches|
|Visitor Information||24/7; Free; Mountain|
|Time Required||150 minutes|
|Location||Shinshiro, Aichi Prefecture|
|Coordinates||34° 58' 21.47" N, 137° 25' 40.08" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2023|
|Admin Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|
|Friends of JCastle|
|Nippon Shiro Meguri|