Nagano Castle Update from ART Part III

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Nagano Castle Update from ART Part III

2022/03/30


Part III of ART's Nagano Prefecture castles are now available for consumption!


 

Saku Hanaoka Castle / 佐久花岡城

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The second stop on our miyagura tour in Saku, Hanaokajō is a fortified beacon site with a reconstructed miyagura. In front of the tower is a fire pit for generating smoke signals. This fort is quite well developed with many climbing terraced baileys all around the main castle mount. At the bottom of the mount toward the mountainside rear is a wide karabori (dry moat). Since the miyagura had a visitor's book I wrote in it about our miyagura tour and drew a quick and simple sketch of what I found at the Kokuzōsan-noroshidai.
 
Saku Hitomoshi Castle / 佐久火燈城

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Hitomoshijō, the third stop on my miyagura tour in Saku, is a fortified beacon site overlooking the beautiful Omika Falls. We appreciated the natural beauty cascading and flowing about us before making the steep ascent onto the hill above where there is a reconstructed miyagura. There are two ridge spurs beneath the main bailey where the yagura is situated, and these seem to have been used as part of the fort. Both spurs end in cliffs, with the lower spur overlooking the falls, which, though pretty, would be death to plunge into. In this way the fort space is naturally easy to defend and cuts a very impressive profile with its sheer, watery drops. To the rear of the bailey-keep are horikiri, trenches cut into the ridge to protect the mountainside flank of the earthen fort.
 
Saku Inariyama Castle / 佐久稲荷山城

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Inariyamajō was once a mighty stronghold. It was turned into a park, which usually isn't a bad fate as far as castles go, but in Inariyamajō's case much of the ruins were buried, obscurred or destroyed in order to landscape the park. The castle's lower parts were turned into housing plots, and major structures were demolished. Now the castle hosts a space-themed park and play areas, crowned by a huge observation tower in the shape of a rocket ship, which sure makes for a strange castle tower. The castle mount also hosts a shrine to fox god Inari. The layout of the castle can be nonetheless decently understood by looking at the various layers of the park which formed the castle's enclosures. That rocket tower also serves a purpose here. The shukuruwa (main bailey) is now barred to the public and is a water storage and / or treatment facility of some description. It's impossible for castle fans not to imagine a dry moat here separating it from a southern bailey wherein now stands the space rocket. There is a nothern bailey and western bailey also protecting the shukuruwa. To the east the mountain slopes off sharply to the Chikuma River below. I think the contours of the northern bailey retain much of their starkness, and beneath here is the Inari Shrine in what was likely a koshikuruwa (supporting bailey).
 
Saku Kaize Castle / 佐久海瀬城

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No ruins remain of this site which is now a large library and other public facilities. However, the vantage point on a clifftop is good and it's easy to appreciate why a fort would've been built here.
 
Saku Miyanoue Castle / 佐久宮ノ上城

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No ruins remain of this site which is now a high school.
 
Saku Mochizuki Castle / 佐久望月城

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Mochiźukijō is a relatively well preserved yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin in Saku. Features include dorui (earthen ramparts), kirigishi (carved slopes), horikiri (trenches), kuruwa (baileys) and even some quaint mini kabukimon gates someone has erected. There are integral baileys numbering five, the outer two being under plough and separated by trenches. The castle mount rises and the three inner baileys are tiered in terraces. Dorui surrounds parts of these. Beneath the shukuruwa (main bailey) many koshikuruwa (sub-baileys) can be seen.
 
Saku Teshirozuka Castle / 佐久手代塚城

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The main bailey of Teshiroźukajō is a small hill over-looking the Chikuma River. The main bailey complex consists of a few of baileys which taper along the hill. The most impressive thing was the sleek profile of the hill which with its steep sides looked very much like a hill fort should. In the gloom its mass was a shadowy outline cut out of the remotest black. The second and third baileys are separated by depressions which look like karabori, but wide and not very deep, at least not now, and both the depressions and baileys appear to be vegetable patches. These outer baileys are situated much lower than the main bailey. The signboard for the castle is in front of the second bailey, and the earthen embankments are clear as soon as one approaches the site. The third bailey is a little higher than the second and overlooks an adjacent road which swoops down beneath the castle mount toward the river. The third bailey is now a cemetery plot.
 
Sannou Yakata / 山王館

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I just passed by the site of Sannō-yakata. It was by my hostel in Nagano where I went and put my bag before continuing with my journey to Asahijō. There's nothing here except a sign attesting to some history in the area, mentioning a Sannō clansman but not the yakata specifically. The site is now a car park and tall buildings. Sannō-yakata could be translated as "the Hall of the Mountain King", but there were no trolls here and it was quite underwhelming.
 
Sarukoya Fort / 猿小屋砦

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Descending and rising as the dragon in flight, hoary pinacles of rock rise from the ridge like great spikes on the back of the beast. The brave adventurer - that's me - bestrode that soaring dragon, and returned with the treasure of another conquered mountaintop castle!

That's my version of events and I'm sticking with it. But actually the ruins of Sarukoya-toride were not easy to find or climb to. I probably could've climbed up straight from Kakiagejō, but I had the wrong co-ordinates, and so descended and re-ascended via another ridge. I searched high and low but found no ruins, and it was then I determined that I had got the wrong ridge and my marker was inaccurate. To reach the next ridge I could've descended or gone right to the top of the mountain which loomed above. I chose the latter option and it was well I did. My suspicion at that point was that the castle ruins may terminate at the peak, climbing from the ridge opposite Kakiagejō, but when I got to the peak I saw it was just the beginning of the long, undulating ruins of Sarukoya-toride. I knew that because I had a map so that I could identify which bailey I had arrived in. To reach the end of the castle I still had to traverse the ruins, but that was the fun part after so much slogging upward!

There are five groupings of narrow baileys straddling the ridge, and each is separated by either a trench, a drastic increase in elevation, or both. The fifth, lowest bailey has several sub-baileys beneath it, and a boomerang-shaped trench which is where I first recognised and entered the fort area. Impressive rock formations help protect the third bailey and much of the first bailey, and the latter bailey is the highest but smallest. Parts of the ramparts of the first bailey look also like they may have been augmented with stone piles, though mostly they are composed of the rock of the mountain itself. Between the fourth and third bailey is a trench which is quite wide as it slopes off down the mountain, and this seems to be augmented natural terrain. Between the third and second bailey, however, human hands have wrought a gigantic, fearsome trench*. At its centre is a sunken earthen bridge. I had not expected such impressive defences this high up; was nature not enough?

Sarukoya-toride, "Monkey Hut Fort", lives up to its name. As I said, it's both difficult to locate and difficult to get to. Castles called for monkeys are usually very high up, and so "monkey castles" because only monkeys can get to them ("demon castles" are likewise). Though "koya" means "hut", in reference to mountaintop castles it refers to a small, hidden redoubt. "Koya" is a misnomer here because the site is quite extensive. The use of "toride" for "fort" instead of "castle" is probably because, firstly, the baileys are quite narrow, and, secondly, Sarukoya-toride was a branch fort serving Kakiagejō (though overall it seems Sarukoya-toride covers a larger area).

  • Ranmaru-sensei says that there is disagreement about whether this formation is a horikiri or a kirigishi. The overall effect is of a gigantic trench, but the difference between those two features is that a horikiri, a moat cutting, would have to be dug from a level ridge, whereas a kirigishi, carved slope, would augment a pre-existing natural depression (could it be a mix of the two?). The exact manufacture would be important to determine to know how important the fort was considered, but since the end result is of a big trench, I describe it that way above. To be fair, I can see why Ranmaru-sensei and Lord Teipisu go with kirigishi: (1) there are other trenches along the ridge which are much shallower, (2) such a high position would be difficult to work extensively and perhaps that would be needless, and (3) the second largest trench also seems only partially processed to me. Ranmaru-sensei says he is in opposition to "god" here, and I presume he means Miyasaka Takeo, the renowned researcher of fortifications in Shinano.
 
Sengoku Utanosuke Yakata / 仙石雅楽助館

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No ruins remain of this yakata site near Haibara Shrine. It was the fortified manor hall of one Sengoku Utanosuke. I pinpointed the site to just south of Haibara-jinja across a small water channel. The foot print of the yakata is shown on a map of municipal historic sites as starting here but climbing a little to the east, encompassing farmsteads built on terraces with some stonework.
 
Shiga Castle / 志賀城

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Shigajō is a premier yamajiro (mountaintop castle) site in the Saku area of Nagano. Nature itself leant its immense might to the construction of this castle situated above cliffs of towering rock. Indeed, the terrain to the south is an invincible wall and the cliff face even overhangs in many places as though to repulse man, monkey and even demon. The terrain to the north is also rugged with boulders and cliffs in many parts. To the west there is a narrow mountain ridge, and the only readily accessible approach to the castle is the eastern side slopes of the mountain. Features of Shigajō include dorui (earthen ramparts), horikiri (trenches), kuruwa (baileys) and ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts). The piling method and block size used in the ishigaki differs drastically in the west part of the castle from in the east, indicating a later expansion of the castle to the east where the castle might’ve been more vulnerable. Beneath the castle was the kyokan (living area), now the site of Unkyōji. The trail up is from here. The castle’s layout could be described as renkaku-shiki (one bailey positioned after the other in a line) with spurs. Due to the castle’s extensive terracing, flat bailey spaces, deep trenches, and ishigaki hiding throughout, Shigajō is a fun and rewarding yamajiro to explore.
 
Shiga Yakata / 志賀館

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Shiga-yakata was the residence of the Kasahara Clan and the kyokan of Shigajō. It is now the temple Unkyōji. The temple has ishigaki (stone walls) and a stone stupa beneath which the head of Kasahara Kiyoshige is said to be interred. Immediately behind the temple the hill side is terraced and large stone blocks are used to line the sides of these terraces. Probably these spaces were cultivated in proto-modern and modern times, but the blocks used in the retaining walls are somewhat peculiar in their size and piling - looking quite antiquated - so I took some photos of them.
 
Shimoasama Yakata / 下浅間館

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Hmm, hmm, hmm! Asama-yakata is a term which relates to several possible sites. Shimoasama-yakata, or "Lower Manor Hall of Asama", however, brings us specifically to here where we find a stone marker for the site and an explanation board about it. This site, as well as another yakata site to the immediate northeast, are both referred to as Akazawa-yakata after the clan that ruled here. It's not clear to me whether both yakata existed in tandem or one replaced the other at a later date. Shimoasama-yakata may have been an extension or branch of the "upper manor hall" or vice-versa. At anyrate the site was abandoned following the Akazawa's move to Shinagura in the valley to the north.
 
Shimoyashiki Yakata / 下屋敷館

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This yakata (fortified manor) site is now rice paddies and apple orchards on the edge of the town of Matsumoto; no ruins remain.
 
Shinano Yamada Yakata / 信濃山田館

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I visited this site as part of a early morning adventure to visit the Aratojō fort complex. I was still on the castle mount at 9:00am, having made my way back down (quickly) from Shōjō to Wakamiya-Iriyamajō. I figured there was just enough time to see the site of the Yamada Clan manor halls to complete my tour of the Aratojō complex of forts before meeting up with the others for our tour of the reconstructed fort. I took a shortcut down a ravine to find a road which came out at the top of the valley in which the Yamada had sheltered. I galloped down the steep road there between apple orchards before arriving at the site of the Yamada-yakata, the fortified manor hall of the Yamada Clan, the clan which built Aratojō above for their protection. Of the yakata no ruins remain, and the site is today fields, rice paddies and a few homesteads.
 
Shou Castle / 証城

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Shōjō is situated much higher than the other forts in the Aratojō fort complex, just short of the 839m peak. The forestry road which takes one from Aratojō to Wakamiya-Iriyamajō turns off, and the trail along the ridge doesn’t last for long before disappearing, and so anybody climbing to this furthest milestone must do so by climbing the steep ridgeline unaided. I put my gloves on and went for it, grabbing onto trees and rocks for support. Since Shōjō is said to have been used as a noroshidai, or signal tower, I wasn’t expecting to find much at this hard to reach site. However, I was to be pleasantly surprised.

I finally came beneath a portion of the ridge that suddenly widened and struck up at sharp angle, indicating the manufacture of medieval hands. Sure enough, this was dorui (earthen ramparts), and I was delighted to see that it wrapped around almost all of the shukuruwa (main bailey), diminishing where gates were likely located. In addition to this I was most happy to find remnants of stonewalls around the outside parts of the dorui. The piling method here seemed to make use of flat stones stacked laterally, suggesting some continuity with the restored stone walls of Aratojō below, which was reassuring. There are a couple of lower baileys situated between the shukuruwa and the 839m peak. The second bailey has some residual stonework, and the third has significant portions of stone pilings remaining, including one segment which appears to climb the slope for a couple of metres (this may be due to subsidence).

From a gap in the trees near the third bailey wall I observed a vista which opened up out of a blanket of white between the trees and a sunny sky dome. Rising above the sea of cloud was the Katsuraojō castle mount.. I could also make out the site of Himejō poking out from the clouds like craggy rocks half submerged in sea foam.
 
Shoudai Noroshidai / 松台狼煙台

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This is the site of a noroshidai (fortified signal tower), used to send smoke signals to communicate over long distances such as mountain ranges. There are two peaks along the trail. Nariyama is the lower of the two (1060m), but has a shrine and the hiking trail to it is well maintained. Nariyamajō was here. There is a taller peak (1130m) found by following more dubious trails. This peak looks impressive from below but is covered in trees and so there's not much of a view. Yet this used to be the Shōdai-noroshidai. The were lots of mushrooms and fungi around here, and I began photographing all of the different kinds I could find on the mountain. At the noroshidai site there were no discernable ruins. There was a small sign hanging from a tree branch which read "Nameless Peak". Beneath it somebody had scrawled what looked like "小大山峰" as reproof. I didn't add my recommendation to the sign but I'd read it referred to as Shōdai, as in Shōdai-noroshidai. Maybe it has many names and people can't decide? Either way it's a very secluded part of the mountain and the trail is a dead end. Oh, we happy few that haunt these lonely peaks!
 
Suzuryuuyama Fort / 硯龍山砦

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There are many stone blocks strewn about the ruins of Kuzuryūyama-toride, but these are the result of stone quarrying in later times. One quarry eats into the ridge and looks almost like a trench cutting for a castle! The main bailey of the fort was also quarried into, and so its original contours have been obscurred. Even at a minor site like this we can see various historical layers, and it seems burial mounds were also built on the mountain ridge.
 
Taguchi Castle / 田口城

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The views of Tatsuokajō from Taguchijō are excellent, and Taguchijō is mostly known by way of association with its famous neighbour below, but in truth Taguchijō is a phenomenal in its own right. I had intended to climb up to Taguchijō from Banshōji the last time I visited Tatsuokajō, but the trail behind the temple was closed. Even before one arrives at the viewing platform for Tatsuokajō many baileys of the castle are evident terracing the castle mount.

Taguchijō has an incredible array of natural defence in the form of a wall of sheer rock which straddles the upper slope of the castle mount. This natural great wall runs all the way up from the terminus of the ridge on the plain. Most of this south-facing side of the mountain is impossible to climb because of these cliffs except for where a trail winds up between a gap in them. I briefly came down at the rear of the castle to get a look at a portion of these looming cliffs. Many parts jut out, and it wouldn't even be reasonable to try and climb them with hooks, ropes or ladders.

Taguchijō's structure or layout is of a type I may call "baileys everywhere", an uncountable jumble of baileys terracing the mountain at various angles and intersections. The castle structure is built up most extensively to the south where it overlooks the lethal cliff line. There is a central area and related enclosures, as well as significant portions to the east and west. Beneath these, northward, are many more baileys, with a prominent block to the north of the main area.

Features of Taguchijō include karabori (dry moats), kuruwa (baileys) and ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts). The site hosts a "Mountain Castle and Nature Research Club" house, and there is a forest road which leads up to it. The road leads one straight to the viewing platform for Tatsuokajō. To the right side of this road is the nishinomkuruwa (western bailey) and related baileys. The two central baileys, the shukuruwa (main bailey) and ninokuruwa (second bailey), are separated by elevation and both are surrounded by a large obikuruwa (ring bailey). To the east of here is a large karabori, with terraced baileys to the north and the cliff side to the south. To the east of the karabori are more ruins but this area is more overgrown and harder to scope-out. Ishigaki segments can be found throughout the whole site, and the central enclosures have prominent remains.

The castle's northwestern precincts are made up of a series of jumbled terraces. I got the impression that this area may have been altered in later times to facilitate agriculture. Master Yogo speculates that the mountainside was used to grow potatoes in the desperate times at the end of and after the war. Taguchijō's layered history and confusing layout complicate matters, but one is nonetheless unmistaken in appreciating here a huge citadel of earthworks and piled stone. The preservation is in a good state in general, and the impression of a mighty stronghold becomes clearer toward the core of the castle. In the outer areas this impression waxes and wanes with insensible gradations.
 
Takamatsuyakushi Castle / 高松薬師城

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Following the trail in Iwasū Park brings one to a towering ridge of stacked boulders. On top of this are the ruins of Takamatsuyakushijō, also called Yokodanijō. A trail to the right by-passes the ruins completely. The castle explorer would sensibly follow this trail and back-track to reach the ruins. I opted to climb up the rocks. Well, a bit of rock climbing in the mountains never hurt anyone! I quickly came to the ruins with only slight risk of death by misstep. The ruins are sign-posted! Features like karabori (dry moats) and a place for keeping horses are noted. The layout of the castle follows the natural contours of the mountain ridge with augmentations made by digging trenches and flattening land. The area of the castle is not so large. Following the ridge down will bring one eventually to Saruǵajō.
 
Takami Yakata / 高見館

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No ruins remain of this former fortified residence, and the site is now fields and a temple, Kōchōji.
 
Tatai Castle / 田多井城

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Tataijō’s ruins consist of a main bailey with a very tall earthen rampart segment to the mountainside rear. Beyond this are two trenches. Beneath the main bailey the ridge is terraced in multiple bands where it climbs. These micro baileys move up the ridge like a pair of footprints with one to the right and then to the left slightly above. Around the north side of the main bailey there are long, narrow koshikuruwa (straddling hip-baileys). I followed the instructions of an esteemed castle blogger, Osirozuki, to reach this site. The road had changed somewhat from his visit, as trees have been cut back and a fence to prevent animals entering into the village below erected. I was able to identify particular rocks and trees to confirm the right path. These directions only took me to the ridge though, and from there I had to find my own way up! The initial part was very steep so I climbed up like a drunk tanuki.
 
Tatai Yakata / 田多井館

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This was the fortified residence of the Tatai Clan. It is just fields today. There is a mound of earth in a front garden by the road which the Osirozuki blogger identifies as remnants of a moat system, but it’s hard to make out.
 
Tataifuru Castle / 田多井古城

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Tataifurujō, or “Tatai Old Castle”, is located next to a shrine and was built atop of a kofun (ancient burial mound). It’s not so high up and the kofun made building the small fort much easier. In the middle of the main bailey is a large depression where I suppose a burial chamber was unearthed. The kofun’s sides were carved into sub-baileys to ring the fort. To the rear side of the fort is a karabori (dry moat).
 
Tataijoumonomi Fort / 田多井城物見砦

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On an opposite ridge to Tataijō itself is this look-out fort ruin. It consists of one small, room-sized bailey with a trench to the rear and earthen bridge spanning that. There was a marker post but it looked like it had been hacked to pieces deliberately. Who would do that? The blogger I followed recommended starting at the bottom of the ridge but I followed a forestry road with a series of hairpins to arrive just below the fort site. The climb up from here is very brief and there was even a path which went to just below the bailey. It was super easy, barely an inconvenience. I’d recommend this route rather than going from the steep terminus of the ridge where I came down.
 
Tateishi Fort / 立石砦

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There is a park in Suwa called Tateishi. The Tateishi-toride ("Fort Standing Rock") site is near here. I found a terraced area which may have been a bailey, but that's about it. The site today is otherwise dominated by a large inn which now appears closed. The nearby Tateishi Park grants fantastic views of Lake Suwa.
 
Tatenouchi Yakata / 舘ノ内館

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Of all of the Nishina residence sites Tatenōchi may be the oldest, as it is thought that this was the initial main residence of the clan before they relocated to Tenshōji-yakata, also called “Nishina Castle”.
 
Tongari Yashiki / 尖屋敷

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There is little to see of the minor but interesting site of Tongari-yashiki as most of what ruins remain are located on private property. I went all around where I could freely go, descending into each of the steep gorges which hem in the fort site. Due to thick tree growth, however, I could see little from below. I went to the rear of the site and managed to get a glimpse of the former fort's main bailey area. The southern gorge is given over to rice paddies, gardens and nature, with some sheds and a quaint log cabin. The northern gorge is now a park. The fort site itself is a rural workshop surrounded by apple orchards. The term "tongari (尖)" refers to a tapering point. The top portion of the ideograph is "small" and the bottom "big", and this maps onto the site of the fort, which is situated between two meeting gorges, and tapers to a sharply angled terminus. This triangular extremity is split at the beak with a depression which separates two baileys, and the nothern bailey is thought to have been the primary bailey. This is a perfect area for a forward fort, since the two deep gorges which come from either side of the mountain meet here beneath Nakatō Village which sits between the yashiki and the mountaintop castle; the terrain, with the fort at its tip, is like a spear thrusting into the plain.
 
Tsukikanekubo Fort / 撞鐘久保砦

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Tsukikanekubo-toride was the site of a fortified signal tower. Due to the terrain there was often a dense mist, however, thrown up by the rapids below, and so the Tsukikanekubo-toride also made use of sound to convey warnings. Drums were beat and bells were rung to alert allies to the presence of the enemy. The name suggests a bell tower was erected here for that purpose; written materials elude to it, though it is also possible that the bell tower was part of a religious compound. No ruins remain. I found some stone-pilings, but they likely date to after the time of the fort, and in several instances I found concrete blocks atop of them, suggesting some modern utility was erected here, like a telephone wire, though who knows for what purpose. Now the site is a rocky ridge, quite beautiful in its way. The site begins after a large marker stone and religious statuettes at the bend in the forest road.
 
Uenodan Yakata / 上之段館

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Uenodan-yakata, the site of a fortified manor, is now fields and orchards adjacent to some shrines. The area is terraced and agricultural but the upper terraces are the former site of a fortified manor house. There is a small terraced space 20m long which could be considered the upper bailey, and below it a wider one, 80m long, which is the lower bailey. The sloped embankments here represent what's left of the earthworks which fortified the site.
 
Ushitate Yakata / 丑館館

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Of Ushitate-yakata, a medieval fortified manor hall, scant ruins remain, but there is what appears to be dorui (earthen ramparts) surrounding a hall to Yakushi – the site is now a temple – in the south, east and west. The west is naturally defended by elevation, but the earth there seems to have been rammed up in addition to this, though admittedly it’s hard to be sure. The name of the site, “Cow Hall Hall”, is odd because the same character for “yakata” is repeated twice. Japanese is not my native language so I am hesitant to make any generalisations as to why this may be. However, the “Cow” part is simple enough, I believe, as it indicates a direction, namely north-northeast. That then is the zodiac beast rather than any corporeal bovine. Ushitate-yakata is exactly north-northeast of the Nishina’s former main residence of Tatenōchi-yakata and so that would make sense enough. Or maybe 'cowshed' is just the old name for the area.
 
Wakamiya Iriyama Castle / 若宮入山城

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Further up from Aratojō and Aratoshōjō are the ruins of Wakamiya-Iriyamajō. I believe Wakamiya-Iriyamajō is so called to distinguish it from another castle called Iriyamajō some distance south. Wakamiya-Iriyamajō has a single principal bailey but also some minor baileys and koshikuruwa (hip baileys) terracing the mountain slope beneath it. There are also the remains of horikiri (trenches), particularly, most interestingly, in between large boulders that cling to the mountain ridge. Indeed the castle seems to have been built with using rocky outcroppings as part of its defences. Climbing above Wakamiya-Iriyamajō will take one to Shōjō. There is a flat part of the ridge between the two sites with what may have been eathworks, and this may have been an extension of Wakamiya-Iriyamajō. Noticing this, I photographed them, but I was unsure. This flattened area may have been used as a garrison point between the two forts.
 
Yamadaohshimo Yakata / 山田氏大下館

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Yamadashiôshimo-yakata is another yakata site of the Yamada Clan closer to the river. It was the lower residence of the Yamada. The site is now a farmstead and nothing remains apart from maybe some embankments situated above the road.
 
Yashimashi Yashiki / 矢島氏屋敷

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The site is now fields beneath the by-pass motorway and no ruins remain.
 
Yashiro Yakata / 屋代館

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The fortified manor hall of the Yashiro Clan is now the site of the temple Manshōji. Located at the foot of the Yashirojō castle-mount, the two sites formed a typical jōkan complex.
 
Yashirofuru Castle / 屋代古城

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The former site of Yashirojō, otherwise known as Yashirofurujō ("Yashiro Old Castle") was located here, but now the site is a big factory. Yashiro is an industrial town I gather from seeing many factories. It is part of Chikuma Municipality (千曲市), and is its largest settlement. Formerly it was part of a smaller municipality called Kōshoku (更埴市), which was a forerunner of the larger municipalities of the 21st century, being named for the two districts it spanned, Sarashina (更級郡) and Hanishina (埴科郡), with the Chikuma River dividing them. The Yashiro Clan were based on the Hanishina side.
 
Yoshiike Awaji Yashiki / 吉池淡路屋敷

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The site of the Yoshiike Clan residence was made up of a series of five terraces between two shallow ridges beneath the castle mount of the Yamazaki Fort. The remains of old wells can be found. On the northerly ridge is a small prayer hall. The path to the mountaintop fort goes by it. Yogo-sensei describes this site as a Yato-shiki jōkan (谷戸式城館). "Yato" describes a type of small valley ecosystem which proliferates amidst the hilly terrain of Japan, particularly in the east. These small valleys, carved over many millenia with the erosion of rain water, were once terraced and used as a convenient place to farm rice. I've trundled into many such landforms. When forests grow on the cradling ridges these areas become very shady and they are prone to waterlogging, in their natural states forming swampy areas where large amphibians dwell. With the end of the kokudaka system and the expansion of other more modern agricultural methods, the use of yato for growing rice declined. The yato here was used as a fortified residential space in the Sengoku period. It now has a small hamlet built within its snug confines, but it seemed to me that nearly every home in the micro-valley was abandoned.
 
Zenkaizu Castle / 前海津城

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Zenkaiźujō is now the site of the temple district of the jōkamachi (castle town) of Matsushirojō. I believe this is the original site of Kaiźujō, the castle which became Matsushirojō. It is therefore properly called Kaiźujō, but since many people call Matsushirojō "Kaiźujō" it is also called "Former Kaiźujō" to distinguish it from Matsushirojō. Funny, I thought, nobody ever calls Matsumotojō "Fukashijō" anymore! The site of Zenkaiźujō overlaps with the outer extremities of Matsushirojō where the town was subsequently built up. I was intrigued to find a long hillock hiding beneath funerary architecture in one of the temple's cemeteries. Could this random elevation be the remains of dorui (earthen ramparts) of the original castle? Dorui are indeed said to remain, and this was the only place that I could detect them. Otherwise the area has been re-developed since the Edo period as the centre of Matsushiro Domain.
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