Saruga Castle (Azumi)

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Saruǵajō was a mountian redoubt used by the Nishina Clan who had their residences on the plain below. Saruǵajō was likely built during the Sengoku period, and used as an emergency shelter during times of conflict. There was a noroshidai situated above the fort. Watchmen in the mountains could signal to the plain below, giving advanced notice of any incursions. Saruǵajō could be considered a satellite foritfication or tsume-no-shiro (mountaintop redoubt) of Nishinahonjō on the shores of Lake Kizaki below.

Visit Notes

Saruǵajō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin. Saruǵajō means 'Monkey Castle' or 'Monkey's Castle' (which is why I use the diacritic to denote the possessive ヶ). Another 'Monkey Castle' in Nagano! This one in Ômachi Municipality, or historical Aźumi County. I've already been to the one in historical Chikuma County (Matsumoto Municipality). There are others... These sites are so called because they are very high up and generally inaccessible, the inference being that only a monkey could climb to them. Castles named for tengu and oni (demons) follow a similar convention.

However, in this case the climbing was minimal, as there is a mountain road called 'Salt Road' after an older mountain trail (still maintained). It just goes up the mountain chain and comes down, and the few vehicles that use it mostly go to the paragliding jump-off area. This area gives the most fantastic views of the lakes and basin below. The castle site, unfortunately, is surrounded by trees and so there are no views from there. Since I had rented an e-bike from the station in town, I was able to cycle all the way up the mountain road to a hairpin bend where there is a trail which goes down to the castle site. I stopped off at the paragliding jump-off for the views and also saw a monkey there! It moved along the slope right in front of me in no apparent hurry. This was very auspicious considering where I was going. After a chat with some friendly locals who praised me for cycling up the mountian, I went to the castle ruins.

Saruǵajō is a single bailey complex featuring earthworks, such as horikiri (trenches). On the rear ridge there is a nice horikiri, and there is a double set just behind the main bailey with dorui (earthen ramparts). This chain of trenches constitutes the most prominent ruins at this site. The main bailey has dorui and what I took for a koguchi ('tiger's maw' gate) ruin, but it was quite overgrown. The signboard about the castle has also fallen down and split into two. I went to the descending side of the main bailey. It seems to be terraced. Castle-explorer Takeshite Hanbē, who leaves reviews of obscure yamajiro ruins on Google Maps, says there also tatebori (climbing moats) and terraced baileys, but without a map I wasn't sure if he meant the ruins I had already encountered or other ruins.

I didn't descend beyond the main bailey, but it's possible to hike up to this site from below, past a cave, and this is also the best way to hike to the old trail, rather than following the modern road (a map for the trail promises splendid views, but the trail may not be maintained, as someone had childishly defaced the sign with their complaints about not being able to see anything). I made use of pedal power, however, so I had to retrace my steps. The noroshidai (beacon tower) site is located above the castle proper, located along the trail between it and the road.

  • Double trenches

Castle Profile
English Name Saruga Castle (Azumi)
Japanese Name 安曇猿ヶ城
Founder Nishina Clan
Year Founded Sengoku Period
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Artifacts Dorui, Kuruwa, Horikiri, &c.
Features trenches
Visitor Information
Access Shinano-Ômachi Station on the Ôito Line; rental e-bike; or, hike from Lake Kizaki
Visitor Information 24/7 free; mountain
Time Required 60 minutes
Location Ômachi, Nagano Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 34' 57.47" N, 137° 49' 46.96" E
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Added to Jcastle 2023
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Jōkaku Hōrōki

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