Tohoku Castle Tour Part I - Castles

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Tohoku Castle Tour Part I - Castles


At long last I can make the first update to my Tohoku trip from last May. With a renewed interest in samurai residences, the main purpose of this trip was to re-visit and document the samurai homes of Kakunodate. I took advantage of the weekend after Golden Week when there are typically far fewer tourists so I could take photos with as few people as possible. There were some great homes in Akita and Kanegasaki as well. I'll update those soon, but for now here are the castles visited on this three day tour.


Akita Castle / 秋田城


This is quite an interesting castle to visit. I was pleasantly surprised. There are plenty of signs and maps to describe the site. There are foundation stones were different buildings stood and you get a good feel for what the site was like. I would not have wnated to be the poor souls living near the toilet, however, no matter how unique it was!

There are a few different busses from Akita Station that will take you near the castle. It's best to ask at the station which is best based on the time. You can easily visit Akita Castle, Kubota Castle and the nearby Kurosawa Residence in a day.

See also Taga Castle, Shiwa Castle, and Hotta no Saku for similar josaku fortifications.
Kakunodate Castle / 角館城


The castle is about a 20 minute uphill walk from the stoplight at the end of the samurai quarter. It is not a difficult climb, but is a climb nevertheless. It is well worth your time to visit the top of the mountain and castle site simply for the stunning views of the valley and the town below. It looks like the castle originally was well developed with many small baileys around the mountain and side baileys (koshiguruwa) and stepped baileys, but many areas of the map say "unsurveyed" so it may have been even larger than what is known today. In the town, there are a lot of old "looking" houses and old houses in the castle town but only a handful of original samurai homes, only 6 of which are open to the public. See the individual samurai home pages for the details of each. There is also one original gate that has been relocated in the town. See the photos and map below for details.
Kanegasaki Castle (Iwate) / 金ヶ崎城


There is not much to see of the castle but the samurai homes and historical district are certainly worth spending some time to enjoy. It has not been commercialized much except that a couple of homes have been made into cafes or restaurants. They could certainly use some more complete books or materials about the homes. Several homes are still lived in or have been until recently so they have been remodeled and modernized to some extent and are not open to the public. Regardless, given the number of extant homes it was worth walking around to see them from the outside and enjoy the atmosphere of an old castle town. The museum is also very good and highly recommended. It seems that the town does not get many visitors so some homes are falling into disrepair and have been abandoned.
Kubota Castle / 久保田城


The castle is well known for being mainly built from large earthen embankments. There is very little stonework and that os mainly to fortify some foundations. The large main keep looking building is a museum and is not an accurate representation of an Edo Period yagura. The Omotemon Gate however was faithfully reconstructed in 2001. The Omonogashira Gobansho (guard house) is the only remaining original structure on the site. The castle was much bigger and more interesting that I expected. The earthen embankments around each Bailey are in interesting feature and I tried to highlight them in some of the photos here.
Minato Castle / 湊城


There is nothing to see here except a couple of signs, but since it's so close to the station it makes for an easy stop when you visit Akita. It's actually one of the "Three Famous Ando Castles" in Akita including the two mountaintop castles Wakimoto Castle (Next 100 Castles) and Hiyama Castle. Originally I had plans to visit all three but heavy rains lessened the appeal of mountain castles.
Morioka Castle / 盛岡城


If you are in the area, Morioka Castle is highly recommended. There are few such vast Edo Period castles in the Tohoku region. As you will see from the photos, the walls are immense and well preserved.
Shiroishi Castle / 白石城


The stone foundation of the main keep is nozurazumi style, using nearly natural stones with little shaping. The smoothness of them makes me think they may have been from a river, but unfortunately the guides at the castle could not answer that question. The nearby Koseki Residence, a samurai home is also a must see if you are in Shiroishi. It is one of the best samurai homes I've visited. There are also two original gates from that castle that have been repurposed at temples in the city. They are uniquely designed and well worth a visit if you have time.
Tonomi-no-saku / 鳥海柵


You may see the name in English as Tomomi Palisade but I don't think palisade is an accurate description for such sites. Almost nothing remains of the actual castle today. The castle included a large natural waterway as a trench which remains but otherwise the castle has been developed over by roads, farming and residential areas. By itself, Tonomi-no-saku is not worth going out of your way to visit, but combined with nearby Kanegasaki Castle (Iwate) (and the nearby samurai homes), Isawa Castle, and the Mizusawa samurai homes or a trip to Morioka Castle you could make a worthwhile day trip in the area.
Yokote Castle / 横手城


The "main keep" is just an observatory and museum shaped like a castle keep. There was never a keep like this on the site. The Satake had a palace only, much like they did at Kubota Castle. The Akita Shrine is a branch of the main Akita Shrine devoted to the Satake Clan.
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