New castle contributions from ChrisG

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New Castle Contributions From ChrisG


Chris Glenn, also cleverly known as 豪谷 on Jcastle has kindly contributed several new castle profiles from the more or less greater Nagoya/central Japan area (with a little administrative support from fellow frequent contributor ART). Thanks Chris !!!


Furukawa Castle / 古川城

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Furukawa Castle,…the Clam Castle.

Unable to find an entrance or signs pointing to paths, I parked near a manure processing plant (Phew!) and started to climb from the northwestern base of the mountain. On the way up, I discovered a large defensive horikiri trench separating the castle from the mountain to the direct north. Taking the horikiri’s western section, and finally climbing to the northernmost bailey, I then discovered a small section of what appeared to be ishigaki, stone walling. (My belief was later confirmed by the information sign.) Above that was an obi-kuruwa, a narrow bailey surrounding the lower levels of the uppermost Shukaku, main compound. The obi-kuruwa is the result of creating kirigishi, increased embankments. Unable to climb the cliff-like kirigishi, I made my way along the northern edge of the obi-kuruwa to the compound below the main compound.

This lower centrally located bailey has a rudimentary uchi masugata koguchi, being a stone-lined indented “death-box” gate arrangement, by which intruders attempting to breach the gates can be trapped and fired upon from all angles. It also has a signboard with information on the castle layout, and the reason for Furukawa Castle’s other name being Clam Castle. It was so named because of an auspicious rounded stone about 50cm high discovered on the site, and covered in what looks like fossilized clams all around it. That stone is now housed in a small shrine-like hut in the bailey below the main compound, together with a recently erected sign and castle information board. This section is dotted with remnants of ishigaki stone walling.

The shukaku, main compound, is about 50m long, and 15m at its widest point. The northwestern section is raised about a meter higher than the rest, and is said to have been where the yagura watchtower was situated.

To the south is a relatively large baily with surrounding obi-kuruwa, and particularly the east facing the Miyagawa River are a number of larger and smaller baileys. The site features a number of horikiri trenches cut deep into the mountain ridges to prevent enemy approaches, and tatebori, vertical moats, to prevent lateral movement of attackers across the mountain. It is a mostly unknown site, not such a hard climb, and a great site for yamajiro beginners to look at and learn about the various defensive features.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Hagiwarasuwa Castle / 萩原諏訪城

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Hagiwara Suwa Castle is a flat-land castle located in Hagiwara-cho, Gero City, Gifu Prefecture. It is a Gifu Prefecture-designated historic site, and the remains include stone walls and a moat. Hagiwara Suwa Castle’s walls feature round river stones taken from the Hida River. The main castle site was square, around 60m per side, with the Otemon gates to the south and a koguchi gate on the west side. Surrounded by six yagura watchtowers, the Honmaru featured corridor-like Tamon Yagura along the eastern side. Remains of a corner turret platform can be seen in the northeastern corner, while a western central yagura watchtower base and ishigaki remains were discovered during the recent Heisei period excavations. Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Hirose Castle (Hida) / 飛騨広瀬城

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Hirose Castle – Beware of Bears and Nerds!

What an absolute ripper of a site! Hirose Castle is a Warring States period castle, located on a 620 m high mountain in Hida Takayama, Gifu Prefecture. It is the third largest castle in the Hida area after Takayama Castle and Matsukura Castle, and was the largest civil engineering work of its time, built by hand-carving up the mountain. The castle ruins make fine use of the U-shaped mountain ridges, and consist of 6 main kuruwa compounds. The Hirose Castle ruins were designated a Gifu Prefectural Historic Site in August 1970.

I parked the car at the local community center and walked to the first, northern most bailey. From there it is a short uphill walk south to the eastern most bailey. To your left is the protective mountain ridge, with some very impressive horikiri cut into them. Horikiri trenches were deep V shaped cuts made into the ridgetops, and down the sides of mountains to hinder the progress of attackers. Seen from below, these are enough to elicit a “Woa!” from the castle nerd…even if alone. The eastern bailey is defended on the eastern flank by 7 tatebori! Tatebori are vertical moats, used to prevent enemy from making lateral movements across the mountain side.

This is an exciting mountain castle to visit. Walking around the western most bailey, the nerd inside me squealed like a stuck pig! Had anyone else been in the vicinity, they would have been shocked! I surprised myself! Splaying out from the base of the compound, like petals on a sunflower, were 17 tatebori! Imagine building a sand-castle hill, then spreading your fingers wide, poke them into the sand at around the two-thirds mark, and drag your fingers straight down. The ridges left are like tatebori! Over 450 years old and these are still in very good condition. The problem was that trees and their shadows made it hard to get any reasonable photos. These tatebori are deep, and are interspersed with high dorui, earthen walls. Any attackers trying to breach the sides of the bailey would have to attack via these tatebori trenches. Being narrow V shaped trenches, the enemy could only approach along the trenches in single file, making them easy targets for the defenders. They would be watching their feet in the narrow crevices, not the defenders. Before they could get this close, they had to contend with a HUGE horikiri trench. Getting down to see this up close I climbed down,…(to be read “tumbled with grace,”…slipping on dead leaves) and found out the hard way just how effective some horikiri can be. Getting out of this one required an effort and a half!

The entrance to Hirose Castle is up the road in front of Jokaku-ji Temple near the Nabari bus stop. There’s a sign showing a map of the castle layout beside the narrow road. At the end of the residential area is the Gifu Prefecture Cultural Property Conservation Centre where I parked the car. From here, walk along the road beside the Protection of Cultural Properties Centre and follow the signs. Even the ones warning of bears.

Despite the many signs, I didn’t see any bears, but at one point lower down the mountain, near the northern bailey, a brazen tanuki racoon ran out in front of me, looked, yawned, and slowly waddled off. He wasn’t frightened by a castle nerd.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Komono Castle / 菰野城

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Part of the castle moats and a built-up area remain on the west and north sides of what is now the Komono Primary School. A small section of the clan residence garden remains in the south-west corner, where Komono Castle monument is located. The remains of a corner turret facing the Furiko River running south-west and part of the stone masonry remains can be seen to the east of that.

The town area where the clan’s samurai lived is still known as 'Hannai', and the remains of the north, south and east castle gates can also be seen by the road. Old maps of the area found in the former clan houses, give an indication of the scale of the clan residences, the division of the clan’s residences and the layout of the town.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Matsuoyama Castle / 松尾山城

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Matsuoyamajō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) in Sekiǵahara Township, Fuwa County. Ruins include dorui (earthen ramparts), kuruwa (baileys), dobashi (earthen bridges), horikiri (trenches), tatebori (climbing trenches) and a smart left-facing masugata (square) gate complex in the main bailey. The main bailey is ensconed by dorui, and a pond has formed beneath a corner of the ramparts. The views are commanding from here.

According to Chris Glenn, author of 'The Battle of Sekigahara: The Greatest, Bloodiest, Most Decisive Samurai Battle Ever', and related works, Matsuoyamajō is the largest castle site by surface area in Gifu Prefecture. Chris was nice enough to take a small part of us on a tour of Sekiǵahara's environs and jinsho sites, but we ran out of time for Matsuoyamajō. I had wanted to return ever since.

The hike up to the ruins takes about forty minutes. The layout of the castle is complex, and multiple ridges and peaks were fortified, which even created a distinctive 'saddle bailey' in between two of the fortified peaks. Climbing from the north route one comes first to a northeastern ridge spur. This bailey complex has a narrower profile than most at the castle, and the ensconcing dorui gives the image of a warship made of earth. There is what could be a turret site overlooking a trench toward the rear of this bailey.

Continuing on from here one comes to a point just below the main bailey, and its earthen ramparts bear down on the visitor. I explore castles by the 'main bailey last' rule, so I struck off to the right. This side path goes past a tatebori and leads to the aforementioned saddle bailey. It has a dorui partition in its upper part, and in its lower part there is a reservoir with a pond.

The bailey parallel to the main bailey is up next, and it has an interesting pit surrounded by dorui. The dorui is nice but a bit overgrown. It seems there was also a sunken gate here to protect the bailey. Behind the bailey is a trench and terrace; the horikiri is actually spanned by a dobashi, making me think there was perhaps another entrance to the bailey from the rear. The southwestern bailey is next, and the trench between it and the previous bailey could swallow a house. The southwestern bailey is long and winding, and terminated in a trench complex which would deliver a sequential right-left-right attack to any enemy trying to ascend the ridge up here.

South of the main bailey there are two bailey complexes; the eastern and south. The eastern is much like the northeastern bailey in that it is long and surrounded by dorui, though it is a bit overgrown and difficult to appreciate. The southern bailey complex contains a shrine and dorui. It has terraced baileys beneath, and a trench complex to the rear.

Matsuoyamajō is an expansive yamajiro. It is well maintained and signposted. I can recommend a visit to anyone who is interested in Sengoku period history and doesn't mind a little bit of a climb.

Profile updated by ART (2024). Gallery photos kindly supplied by ChrisG.
Mukade Castle / 百足城

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The castle is not well signposted, nor were there any information signage. I couldn't find the entrance, despite having looked at maps on-line beforehand, so I parked on the roadway running across its northern edge. It is an easy climb, and for its size, a very well planned castle. Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Obaraichiba Castle / 小原市場城

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The northwestern slope of Ichiba Castle has four or five rows of tatebori. dry moats carved vertically into the hillside. These numerous defensive tatebori were often used in Takeda clan castles, and rows of tatebori like this can only be found in Aichi at Ichiba Castle.

There are other tatebori along various slopes around the castle, and another impressive feature from older style castle, a deep horikiri, being a dry moat carved between a slope to prevent access. This horikiri is still in good condition. Most horikiri were a deep and had a distinct V shape, making it easy to slip into, difficult to walk along, and hard to climb out. You still see them in old mountain castle sites, but over the years, they have been have filled with debris, and so you don’t get to see how deep, and how very V shaped they were.

Another interesting point about Obara’s Ichiba Castle is its design. Covering around 200 square meters, the various baileys, or kuruwa, (also known as Maru) are larger than the average medieval mountain castle, and form a horse-shoe shape. The main Honmaru bailey is around 100m long north to south, and shaped a bit like an elongated gourd. The Ni-no-maru and San-no-maru ridges protrude from the northern and the southern sections of the central bailey. In the middle of this horse shoe shape, and protected on three sides by the various kuruwa is a small valley-like section known as the Sanza-batake, believed to be the main living quarters of important retainers.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Sakurabora Castle / 桜洞城

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The site is not well signposted. Seeking the actual site there was a nearby mountain to the south above the main road that I initially thought might have been the castle site. Perhaps it is the site of the suspected mountain castle facility, as it is the closest and highest point. Eventually I found the actual site with a small wooden signpost proclaiming it the site of Sakurabora Castle.

On the slopes above the JR Takayama Main Line tracks that pass through the site to the west is a large dorui (earthen embankment), overlooking a deep karabori (dry moat) running about 35m (my guesstimate) north south, with a 90 degree right turn at the northern end, and another 10m section of karabori. North of this, the site suddenly drops down towards the Sakuradani River. Along the path leading to the main site are traces of low ishigaki. The southern end of the karabori has what appears to be a yagura site. The raised corner section is littered with loose rocks which may have been ishigaki.

To the east of the karabori northern sections along the ridge above the Sakuradani River is a long section of dorui, with low ishigaki, probably serving as a retaining wall, along the base.

Although Sakurabora Castle seems to have been a large and important site, very little information and ruins remain.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Shinshiro Castle / 新城城

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Today, only a few parts of the dorui and dry moats remain, while the bulk of the land is used as an elementary school grounds. The largest section of dorui remaining is around 20 meters long on the southeastern corner. A tiny section of dorui and a small memorial stone remain on the southwestern corner behind the school’s swimming pool. Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
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