13 new castle contributions from ChrisG

From Jcastle.info

13 new castle contributions from ChrisG


Chris Glenn, the OG of castle adventuring, also cleverly known as 豪谷 on Jcastle has kindly contributed 13 new castle profiles (with a little administrative support from fellow frequent contributor ART). Thanks Chris !!!


Busetsu Castle / 武節城


Busetsu is a hirayama-jo, a mountain and flat-land castle, well situated on a hill overlooking the Busetsu Valley on the delta of the Kuroda River to the north and the Nagura River to the east acting as natural moats. The old Bukeyashiki, warrior residences were located in an area directly north east of the castle, with Chuma Kaido running between the samurai homes. The castles’ main gate, the Daimon, was to north east. The lower areas directly west of the castle was marsh land adding to the fortresses’ protection.

The castle ruins descend like steps with the Honmaru, Ninomaru and Sannomaru constructed one below the other in a line, forming a Renkakushiki formation. This suggests a weak formation, as the important Honmaru baily is exposed on three sides, however the area is surrounded by numerous kuruwa baileys affording adequate protection. Busetsu has 16 main baileys, and over 30 smaller baileys. A swordsmith forgery was located on the site of one of the lower baileys.

The amount of earthworks and the quality of the early 16th century manual labor is amazing. Having large numbers of baileys carved into the hillside means lots of kirigishi, artificially created cliffs and steep slopes. A large Karabori, dry moat, winds its way through the site, linked to smaller dry moats carved into the hill itself. These remain in form from over 500 years ago! The site of the monomidai tower and noroshi smoke signal tower above the Honmaru now houses a small shrine. The Honmaru bailey is vacant, but is used as the shrine’s carpark. The Ninomaru bailey is also vacant, but the San-no-maru is now a vegetable garden. One of the larger baileys has long been used as graveyard, another as a gate-ball field. Others are gardens and even private housing on the castle site. Most are now overgrown with trees and bamboo.

The site hasn’t been maintained very well, and although a road has been built leading to the Honmaru, although it does not follow the original path in and out of the castle. It is thought the original route led from the Jokamachi, castle town below, to the lower corner of the San-no-maru bailey.

The castle has not yet undergone any research excavations, and one of the reasons is because it is dubious much would be revealed. The Honmaru and Ninomaru are now vacant, but during WWII were used as potato growing fields, which appears to have been the reason for the important soseki building foundation base stones having been dug up and removed. I discovered piles of large stones, which appear to be both soseki foundation stones and possibly roof weighting stones in the Ni-no-maru bailey. On March 30, 1984, the ruins of Busetsu Castle were designated as a Toyota City (former Inabu Town) Historic Site, along with nearby Busetsu Kojo.

Profile by Chris Glenn.
Fukuzuka Castle (Mino) / 美濃福束城


A small marker stands on the remains of the castle. Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Hida Castle (Omi) / 近江肥田城


Today, most of the remains of the castle are gone, having been replaced by urban areas and rice paddies, but earthen mounds and the remains of a moat that once served as a waterway remain east and south of the site. A stone monument to Hida Castle stands at the Hida-cho Community Center, west of the Soutoku-ji Temple. Although usually not open to the public, the Soutoku-ji contains a large three tatami mat sized Edo period map of the castle and surrounding areas, and drawings of the castle. Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Hijiyama Castle (Iga) / 伊賀比自山城


Visited the ruins of the ninja castle, Hijiyama Castle in western Iga Ueno City, Mie Prefecture today. Hijiyama is a mountain castle. A very steep and high mountain castle that has not been maintained, nor cut back, nor properly prepared for visitors. Hijiyama is not easy to climb and without a guide, is difficult to access. My guide was the very capable Kasai San from Iga Ueno City. This was one of the roughest castle visits I’ve done!

All that remains of the castle are the original earthworks, dorui, or earthen embankments around leveled compounds, Horikiri trenches cut into the mountain to prevent enemy advances, and kirigishi, mountainsides shaved back to increase the angle and prevent infiltration. It is exceptionally overgrown, even in winter. This was real Indy Jones jungle tour trekking. We walked a total of 6km, but according to the health meter in my mobile phone we climbed the equivalent of 66 flights of stairs!

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Himega Castle (Mikawa) / 三河姫ヶ城

MikawaHimegajouGlenn (4).jpg

Himega Castle is listed as one of Okazaki City’s Top 100 Tourist Attractions. Before you get too excited however, there really isn’t much to see. A walking trail leads from the cemetery behind the Taizoji Temple. There is a car park to the east of the temple building. Many people (myself included) accidentally enter the neighboring property after seeing the Himega Castle Trail Entrance sign out front of the temple and taking the alleyway beside it, so be careful. As I mistakenly entered via the junkyard like neighboring property, I took a rather steep, overgrown, off the path, difficult, freestyle route, (let’s call it the “attacking warrior” route) aiming for the top.

It takes about 6 minutes by the proper stair lined route, 15 plus minutes if attempting to climb through the bamboo and trees freestyle up the steep side (i.e Attacking Warrior Route).

The main part of the castle at the top has been cleared of trees, and the view was good. The two main baileys are the Ni-no-kuruwa second bailey containing a small Inari shrine complex, directly above this, separated by dorui earthen embankments and a small koguchi entrance, the Hon-kuruwa, main bailey, about 30m wide. An obikuruwa, a smaller thinner bailey surrounding the mountain is supposedly found at some point, as well as a horikiri trench however I could find no trace of either. The Hon kuruwa has a small marker stone stating “Historic Site Himega Castle”. The Tomei Expressway can be seen directly below, and beyond that, a fine view of the Mikawa and Okazaki area.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).

Update by ART (2023):

I took an early morning cycle to the site of Himegajō in the Hobo Township of Okazaki Municipality. This yamajiro (mountaintop castle) site is chimeric. How old are the ruins that castle fans note here? The top of the mountain, which is cleared and has benches and some views, is presumably the main bailey. But the terrain is bumpy and basically unlevelled. The lower secondary bailey has nice levelled ground and embankments both above and below, which look like fortification remains. But here there is a small shrine building, and so one naturally wonders if the neat earthworks in the second bailey aren’t the result of the maintenance of this shrine. The earth has been piled up both around and above the second bailey. From below this looks like a typical fortification remnant. Looking at the upper ‘dorui’, however, it seems to have been piled from earth dug out of the upper rather than lower bailey, and the sloping is quite gradual. It’s hard to know why this was done (to deter boar pigs?); it’s a curious site.
Kaminogou Castle / 上ノ郷城


Update (2023) by ART:

Kaminogōjō is a hilltop fort site in Gamagôri Municipality. The site features earthworks such as dorui (earthen ramparts) and kuruwa (baileys). The main bailey is made from the flattened hilltop and is quite large; large enough to accomodate a residence or barracks. The rest of the hillside is terraced into various baileys and sub-baileys, including the second bailey and eastern bailey. The second bailey is surrounded by thick dorui, and the entrance is a koguchi ('tiger maw') complex with a dobashi (earthen bridge) with karabori (dry moats) either side. A stone marker for the castle can be found atop of the dorui overlooking the koguchi. The dorui appears to climb onto another earthen platform, on which I found a hidden hokora (mini-shrine).

Approaching the main bailey one finds an angled bend which is another koguchi ruin. There is some ishigaki (stone retaining wall) here, and it looks old, but it's doubtful that it's 16th century. The main bailey has a large sign ontop proclaiming the castle site. Some explanatory boards can also be found alongside views of the town. Here is where the residence of the lord was located.

Much of Kaminogōjō is now private property used as mikan orchards* (a famous product of Gamagôri), making a full exploration not possible, but there is enough to see to warrant a castle-explorer's attention. I would highly recommend stopping by the Gamagôri Seibu Community Centre where there is a small display for the castle centred around a really fetching model of what it was like back in its day. I had a nice chat with the gentleman manning the hall.

  • 'Mikan' is a Japanese citrus fruit like a small orange. There are many variants of such fruits, and they appear to be named for whence they come: tangerines (Tangiers, Morocco), mandarins (China), and satsuma (Japan). 'Satsuma' is a province in Japan. Where I'm from (Norf uv Inglund) we'd probably call a mikan a 'satsuma (sat-soo-maa)'.

Gallery photos and ninja anecdote submitted by Chris Glenn (2022). Updated by ART (2023).

For more information on the related site of Kamakata Castle / Shimonogou Castle, see the profile on Kamakata Jin'ya.
Mibuno Castle (Iga) / 伊賀壬生野城


Mibuno is a hirayamajiro (hill and plains type castle) at a relative height of 20 ⅿ located in Iga Ueno City’s Fukada, Kawahigashi region. The remains include earthworks, a large koguchi gateway, dry moats, water moat, and the possible site of a turret or noroshi smoke flare pit. The main kuruwa (compound) is a square shape of around 50 meters. To the north is a large 70 by 50 meter field, believed to have been a possible bailey. Between that and the main castle complex is an L-shaped mizubori (water moat) surrounding the north and eastern sides. The main sections’ koguchi entrance is on the lower southeastern corner.

One of the most fascinating points of interest regarding this castle are the 2-4 meter high, thick dorui earthen walls surrounding it. Most Sengoku period castles have the same earthen embankments piled up to make the protective walls, however Mibino castle’s dorui feature large gaps — almost like battlements — around the top. Exactly what these V-shaped spaces were for, remains unknown, although speculation includes “stone dropping” and teppo matchlock firing spaces.

My own thoughts are that there may have been low wooden shield-like walls along the upper, outer edge to allow firing positions for gunners and particularly archers, with their longer bows standing in the sunken sections to remain partially covered, but be forward enough so as not to be hindered by the walling. Again, this is only my speculation. On the north western corner is a slightly thicker segment of dorui. This is slightly hollowed out with a 60cm deep, 2 meter diameter dish, and it has been suggested that it may have been the noroshi-dai, or smoke flare base.

Mibino Castle is currently undergoing preservation works by the Iga Ueno City Culture and History division.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Momochi Tamba Castle / 百地丹波城

MomochiTambajouCG (3).jpg

Momochi Tamba Castle consists of four main kuruwa, running diagonally north west to south east. The lowest and western most kuruwa is currently the site of the Seiun-ji (青雲寺) temple, the Momochi clan’s bodaiji, family temple. Surrounding that, to the west of the castle was the Marugata Pond, acting as a water moat.

East of the temple is the shukaku, or main enclosure, which forms an L-shape with koguchi gates to the north and south. The kuruwa is around 70m long, and 40m wide, This kuruwa is surrounded by high, thick, well preserved dorui (earthen walls), about 4m high and 5 to 10m thick. The tops of these thicker dorui are flattened into spaces that could have supported basic yagura, or monomidai watchtowers. These earthworks are very impressive. The remains are almost complete, and the main enclosure’s surrounding earthworks, moats, wells, etc. are quite spectacular.

The northern koguchi gateway is a 15m long and narrow path between high dorui, while the larger, wider southern koguchi appears to have been the main entranceway. To the east of the main kuruwa is another small gap in the dorui where a wooden bridge once probably crossed the deep, 5m wide karabori dry moat running north-south.

This karabori separates the main kuruwa from the larger, flatter, square shaped B Kuruwa around 50m long and 40m wide, which is overlooked by a smaller, 30x30m square shaped A Kuruwa a little further up the hill. Most people wouldn’t realise there is more to the castle than the main kuruwa, and the other sections are a little overgrown.

Some people consider this a toride, a fortress rather than a castle, but looking at the scale and the amount of work put into the creation of this site, I’d say it is a castle, more so than a simple toride fortress.

The castle site is most impressive, and exploring the area is also enjoyable. When you do go, remember to always be on the lookout,….you never know where a ninja might be hiding!

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Nishiohhira Jin'ya / 西大平陣屋

NishiohdairaJinya (5).jpg

If you’ve ever watched the evening (now afternoon re-run) jidaigeki samurai drama series Ooka Echizen, you may be surprised to know he was a real person. Ooka Tadasuke (1677 – February 3, 1752) was the wise Magistrate of Edo, the Chief of Police, Judge and jury. Although he was based in Edo, his ancestral lands were located in Mikawa's Nishi Odaira where they were masters of the Jinya there. Jinya were fortified mansions and local government administrative offices for daimyo too low in pay scale or rank to be awarded a proper castle.

Located opposite Senkou-ji Temple in Okazaki, the site of the Nishi Odaira Jinya now contains an Inari Jinja shrine. The gates and walls have been recreated, but unfortunately no other structures have been rebuilt.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Oka Castle (Mikawa) / 三河岡城

MikawaOkajouGlenn (5).jpg

Not much remains but part of an impressive large L-shaped dorui earthen mound and the dry moat on the southern side, which, looking at maps, appears to be part of the innermost gate complex. There is a small stone monument to the Oka Castle (erected in October 1940). The Oto River flows on the north side as a natural moat, and it appears as though some earthworks were undertaken to strengthen the riverbank, by digging out the lower section, forming a small kirigishi, cut embankment. The castle’s east side is protected by a cliff about 4m high, although difficult to see as it is now filled with towering bamboo. Other parts of the castle site are now fields, and private buildings.

There is next to no signage. The road leading to the actual site is too narrow for a vehicle, and there is no parking or U-turn space either. Along the road to the south of the site is a nagayamon (long gate) like farmhouse structure, there is room for cars to park opposite this, and it’s a short walk to the site. First you’ll see a small shrine and explanation board to your left and the previously mentioned forest of bamboo filling the 3-4m drop to your right. Proceeding behind the houses, one will see the dorui and former baileys amongst the tall bamboo.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Okayama Jinjiro / 岡山陣城


There are various types of castle, Yamajiro are mountain castles, Hirajiro are plains castles,

Hirayamajiro make use of both a hill or small mountain and the flat lands around its base. There are also Jinya, small castle like defensive positions held by low-ranking Daimyo and high ranked Hatamoto, and there are Jinjiro, literally “fortified battle camps”. One of the largest Jinjiro was Okayama Jinjiro in Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture.

Unfortunately, the main kuruwa was used by Ogaki City to situate a mains water supply tank, while the other kuruwa baileys are used as graveyards and farmland. Some of the moats and dorui, as well as some sections of kuruwa can still be seen to this day, although the aforementioned water tanks and graveyards have changed the site and damaged historical earthworks.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Unuma Castle / 鵜沼城


Unuma Castle is not far from Inuyama Castle. (These pictures) I shot while flying over Unuma Castle. The site is now Off Limits to the public.

The castle ruins are located on a small rocky hill (Shiroyama) near the Inuyama Bridge on the Meitetsu Line. There used to be an inn and restaurant called Shiroyama-so, but it was closed due to a major fire in December 1972 in which a number of people were apparently killed. The ruins were removed in 2002. The mountain itself is owned by Kakamigahara City, and plans are underway to develop it into a park by 2023, but the foot of the mountain is currently private property and cannot be accessed.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Yamanaka Castle (Mikawa) / 三河山中城


The total area of Yamanaka Castle covers about 400 metres east west and 200 metres north south on a 120 metres high mountain, surrounded by two streams which form a natural moat. The Honguruwa (main compound) is about 30 metres long and 15 metres wide, with Ni-no-maru area, about 50 metres long and 20 metres wide, built at about a meters height difference. These baileys are surrounded by thick dorui earthen walls. These earthworks have been eroded somewhat over time and in the past would have been much higher and more prominent.

To the east and below the main and second baileys is the 20-metre-long square shaped Higashi-guruwa bailey, which is key to the castle’s central defences. Below it, on two ridges stretching to the north and east, are terraces of baileys. Each line of terraces has dry moats at the choke points and twisting paths to form enemy obstacles on approach.

Just below this eastern bailey is a semi-circular Umadashi! Umadashi were an effective defensive barrier and compound complex built in front of castle gates, used as a screen to facilitate cavalry charges and attacks during times of siege. Like a barbican gate system, the Umadashi worked like an airlock for a castle, allowing attack parties to sally forth and safely return, without letting the enemy in.

They served as a first line of defense, protecting the main gates. It’s only a small Umadashi, but to see it used in such a position, and so high up the mountain was fascinating!

Yamanaka Castle’s multiple (at least 8!) northern facing tatebori, vertical trenches up the side of the mountain, and horikiri, deep V shaped trenches preventing enemy advances across mountain ridges, (lost count of how many) are quite impressive.

Like most yamajiro, Yamanaka Castle makes very good use of the natural defences of the mountain, augmented and strengthened by the ingenuity of the samurai and their earthwork skills. Naturally, the top of the mountain was cut flat to form a circle.

Parts of the mountainside are also cut away to form Obi-kuruwa, like flat paths around the mountainside. These were created not only to create more space, but also to make the hillside steeper and more difficult to climb. These steep slopes, called a kirigishi, are a most important defensive feature. Most people only see the obi-kuruwa baileys without realising that they are the result of a kirigishi being formed. At Yamanaka Castle, the easily recognisable Obi-kuruwa are very visible. Walking around the narrow ring like paths, you can see how difficult it would be to climb up the bank and how easy it would to shoot arrows and matchlocks in defense from above.

Yamanaka Castle has played an important role in history and boasts links with the Matsudaira, Tokugawa, Imagawa and Sakai clans. It is easily accessed, relatively easy to climb, is being maintained slowly but surely, and being the largest mountain castle site in Aichi Prefecture, it’s a must-see.

Profile by Chris Glenn (edited by ART).
Loading map...

Add your comment
Jcastle.info welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.