17 new castle profiles and 14 samurai residences from ART

From Jcastle.info

17 new castle profiles and 14 samurai residences from ART


ART, the tireless castle explorer, has added 17 new castle profiles and 14 samurai residences from his journeys through Western Japan. I'll have another update soon for even more Nagano area profiles. I think it's particularly nice to get the Nijo Castle related sites in Kyoto cataloged here.

If you haven't seen his Japanese Castles Facebook page, check it out as well. His castle adventures are updated in a much more timely manner.

My apologies that it has taken so long to get these updates posted. I haven't had time to go through each in detail so if there are any mistakes you can blame ART ! :)

New Samurai Residence Profiles

Thanks in large part to ART, I think this is becoming one of the most comprehensive catalogs of extant samurai residences in English or Japanese.

  1. Uchiyama Residence
  2. Tamura Residence
  3. Nishi Residence
  4. Mori Residence
  5. Akai Residence
  6. Irimajiri Residence
  7. Iwami Takahashi Residence
  8. Muneoka Residence
  9. Miyake Residence
  10. Yanagihara Residence
  11. Katou Residence
  12. Abe Residence
  13. Kawashima Residence
  14. Kinoshita Residence

New Castle Profiles


Bingo Kouyama Castle / 備後甲山城

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Bingo-Kōyamajō consists of about seven integral baileys at the top of Mount Kōyama, and several "spokes" of sub-baileys and terracing along the mountain's ridges. The ichinokuruwa (prime bailey) is split neatly in two by a segment of dorui (earthen embankment), which is a curious arrangement. The ninokuruwa and sannokuruwa (second and third baileys), wrap around the elevated ichinokuruwa, though there is a shift in elevation between the two, with the sannokuruwa being lower, and adjoining about a third of the ichinokuruwa's southern perimeter. Beyond the ninokuruwa is the higashikuruwa (east bailey) and kitakuruwa (north bailey). The sannokuruwa is connected to the nishikuruwa (west bailey), which is in turn connected to the minamikuruwa (south bailey). There are a few remains of earthworks, but this central portion of the castle seemed to have chiefly relied on the climbing elevation of the mountain for its defences. Ruins also include dorui, horikiri (trenches) and tatebori (climbing moats). The castle's extensive terracing is larger than the main area of the castle. The temple Entsūji, located below and partially surrounded by the castle, was built in the Sengoku Period as the Bodaiji (funerary temple (of a particular clan)) of the Yamanōchi Clan.
Honshouji Castle / 本證寺城


Honshōjijō is both a castle site and a temple, a rare example of a fortified temple, the temple in this case being Honshōji. The temple-castle consisted of a system of moats, inner and outer, as well as dorui (earthen ramparts). Today the outer moat is mostly lost, but the inner moat fairly well preserved, ringing most of the temple. The front gate of the temple is accessed via a bridge spanning this moat, and here there is a drum tower with adjoining walls. The drum tower, a designated cultural property, is built like a yagura (turret) on an ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) base, and so we see a typical castle vista, albeit on a more compact scale.

A network of dorui is located behind the temple's main hall. I could glimpse these ruins from the roadside but this area of the temple is not open to the public. When I visited, the temple's waterways - that is the former castle's moats - were busy with wildlife, including humungous toads which barked at me and ran up and down the banks. These black-skinned, football-sized critters may have been bullfrogs (non-indigenous to Japan).

The drum tower, an Edo Period reconstruction of a tower first erected in the Sengoku Period, dates to 1760. All structures at the temple date to the Edo Period (Hondō: 1663, Shōrō: 1703, Kyōzō: 1823, gates: around 1700), as they were each in turn rebuilt after becoming dilapidated. The structures adjacent to the moat have connections to the site's fortified past and this is evident in the looking, especially with the drum tower, but the current structures date to after the temple ceased to function as a fort, so perhaps calling them extant castle structures is improper, but they appear to qualify as reconstructions of castle structures, albeit proto-modern rather than modern! So, to clarify, I consider these castle structures, but not strictly original. That won't really matter to most people anyway. I recommend visiting this site if you're looking for something new in the area. I went expecting very little, so to see these castlesque buildings and toad-ruled moats was an unanticipated, enthralling adventure for me.
Iwade Danjou Kyokan / 岩手弾正居館

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I came here as it was very close to the Takenaka-jin'ya and I had read that the Takenaka Clan had displaced the Iwade Clan.
Joujou Castle / 上条城


Jōjō Castle, or, in full Japanese: Jōjōjō - what a name! - is a castle ruin with the remains of earthworks. Unfortunately the castle is quite overgrown with creeping ivy which covers every inch of the ruins, obscuring some remnants of stonework. Chris Glenn informed me that this stonework might not date to the time of the castle, however. I wouldn't know because I couldn't see it! The site is blocked off so even if I was inclined to go wading through the choking mesh of vines, which I wasn't, I wouldn't have been able to. I was able to look over the fence in some parts and see the remains of karabori (dry moats), dorui (earthen ramparts), and the tenshudai (platform for main tower). Profile and photography by Adam Robert Turner (ART); History by Chris Glenn.
Kikkawa Motoharu Yakata / 吉川元春館


This is a special yakata (fortified manor house) site because of the large stone blocks used in the ramparts which were quarried on-site, and also because some simple buidlings, kitchen structures, have been reconstructed. I had not ancitipated such impressive stonework at so provincial a site, so I was very pleased with the Kikkawamotoharu-yakata.
Kyotoshin Castle / 京都新城


Fellow castle / history / arthictecture enthusiast RonS and I (ART) spent the day touring the Imperial palaces. Recently remains of a newly discovered castle (the castle had been known of but its location went unidentified until recently) known as Kyōtoshinjō, 'New Kyōto Castle', were unearthed in the Sentō Palace grounds. We tried to get a glimpse of these remains as we made a guided tour of the Sentō Palace (by appointment), but all I could see through the trees as we trundled around the guided path was some disturbed earth where the ruins were uncovered, which, as we confirmed with our guide, meant that the remains, consisting of ishigaki and a moat trace, had already been re-buried to preserve them. Apparently they were re-tombed the day after the media were allowed to look! In terms of a castle visit this wasn't so enthralling, but touring the Imperial palatial complexes with Ron made for an incredible day. These pictures show Imperial Palace structures; behind this stretch of wall the ruins of the old castle were unearthed.
Mikawa Hime Castle / 三河姫城

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Nothing remains, not even a marker, and the site of Mikawa-Himejō is now a residential area. This site was literally thirty seconds out my way en route between Honshōjijō and Sakuraijō so I came to check, but found nothing. The picture shows where the marker on Googlemaps indicates and that's all. The grave (or, haka) of Naitō Kiyonaga is located at Seiganji temple in the same neighbourhood, which apparently was also the site of a fortification, but I didn't visit there.
Nijoko Castle / 二条古城


RonS and I (ART) found traces of the 'Old Nijō Castle' near the Imperial Palace. The castle, which was bounded by ishigaki (stone ramparts) and hori (moats), extended from just within the grounds of the palace out to the west. A marker indicating the site is to be found at the Heian Women's University building. The remains of the castle were unearthed during the construction of underground rail several decades ago and some stone blocks have been relocated and dubiously "restored" on the inside of the Imperial Palace embankments. Here you see a scattered pile of them held in place by concrete. The better put together stonework by the gate is an Imperial Palace structure which looks like it could be a Meiji Period restoration effort. It's curious to see these stone platforms either side of the gateway; one wonders if they weren't intended to support a larger edifice. It seemed to me that the embankments which are now covered in trees may have originally supported earthen walls.
Ogawamatobaoka Castle / 小川的場丘城

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Matoba refers to an archery range, which is interesting, and "oka" means "hill", although this area is quite flat. "Jō" of course means "castle", at least in the Japanese sense of a general fortification, but it seems that this site was a yakata, or fortified manor house, rather than a castle per se.
Ohga Castle / 大桑城

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The castle features ishigaki, kuruwa (baileys), koshikuruwa (sub-baileys), terraced baileys like a staircase, though now quite deformed, and I'm sure I identified a dobashi (earthen bridge) at the topmost bailey. There is a curious novelty awaiting brave adventurers at the top of the castle too. It is a mini mock castle tower! The diminutive proportions of the model I found to be very quaint, and this was easily worth the hike up. The views are also spectacular and it's possible to spy Gifujō atop of Mt. Kinka in the distance.

I brought my bear bell and found bear scratchings but because there were a fair amount of people around this proved unnecessary. The out-of-the-way yamajiro's surge in popularity owes to the recent taiga drama about Akechi Mitsuhide. Those poor bears have been put-out by the TV show! I can imagine them sitting around and discussing the sudden human activity on their mountain and being like, "Yup, it's that taiga drama, I told you". The base of the mountain has a new toilet for guests, so fresh I could still smell the wood, and extra parking spaces, as well as signs and materials, so they've really played up to their local tourist boom! Nice to see such appreciation for this nifty little site.

The plains surrounding the mountain citadel were divided by at least three large moat and embankment systems. Before it got dark I was able to find one, the Shikokubori (four province moat). Although the signposting is good, it's all in Japanese. Only one sign at the start of the trail I saw had any English, and it was a very general summary. Not a big concern for me but I suppose they aren't expecting many foreign visitors. Speaking of signs, the ruins are dotted with quizes about the castle's history put there by schoolchildren. It all makes for a lovely hike.
Ohmori Daikansho / 大森代官所

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The famous Iwami Ginzan (Iwami Silver Mines), a World Heritage site since 2007, were of great economic significance to the Shogunate and thus fell under its direct control. But actual administration fell upon the Daikan (Shogunal Representative) who ran things from here. The site consists of original structures: the nagayamon (row house and gate house combined), built in 1815. The main hall, which now serves as the Iwami Ginzan Museum, was built in 1902 as the Nima District Hall. The latter's architecture, though evidently Meiji Period, is the inheritor to a form typical to daikansho (as seen at the Mizuhara-daikansho, for example), but I don't know how similar it is to the original main structure. I'm sharing this also to contextualise the Kawashima-bukeyashiki (samurai residence), also found in Ômori. The museum features exhibitions on rice, old face masks (Fukumen), silver mines, a map of silver mines in Japan, a map of daikansho and jin'ya in the Edo Period, and information about the daikansho, such as a complete list of office-holders and schematics of the site's floor plan.
Owari Gakuden Castle / 尾張楽田城

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Gakudenjō is located on the same railway line as Komakijō and Hagurojō, and is close to the station. If it were not for that I don't think I would've bothered coming here as there's nothing to see except a marker and an explanation board. The site of the castle is now occupied by a school which is currently being partially demolished. Watching the machinery from a small hillock which was perhaps once a part of the castle's defences was more interesting than the site itself to be honest.
Owari Haguro Castle / 尾張羽黒城


Haguro Castle is on the same train line as Komaki Castle. It is a ruin featuring earthworks such as karabori (dry moats), dorui (earthen ramparts) and kuruwa (baileys). I was greeted by an explanation board about the castle, but soon found that within the tangle of trees and bamboo was little more than a fetid mosquito den. Although the dorui was quite tall, I wasn't able to enjoy the site due to the summer conditions. I'd hoped that the site, being at the edge of a residential area bordering rice paddies, would be somewhat maintained, but it seems to be used as a bamboo grove by farmers. Next to the ruin is the temple Kōzenji (興禅寺), at the back of which is a segment of dorui, showing that the castle's footprint used to be larger than just the remaining ruins. Although it is referred to as a castle, Hagurojō was more akin to a yakata (fortified manor house).
Sakurai Castle / 桜井城


Sakurai Castle is a minor site consisting of a few ruins, a reconstructed kabukimon (a threadbare gateway) and what looks like a dwarf-sized watch tower model. A hillock with a commemorative marker atop is a dorui (earthen ramparts) segment. The site is now a park with modern ishigaki.
Shimosaka Yakata / 下坂館

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Yakata refers to a medieval fortified manor house. Shimosaka-yakata is exceedingly precious because it contains faithful Edo Period reconstructions of the original Sengoku Period structures. I had initially come at the beginning of last month but it wasn't open at that time. It's now open to the public on weekends. I was able to enter the omoya (main residence) and get a good look at the dorui (earthen ramparts) and hori (moats) surrounding the site. There is also a koguchi ("tiger's maw") gate ruin.
Yamashiro Imamura Castle / 山城今村城

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The site of Imamurajō, the main base of the Imamura Clan, is now that of a shrine, Takio-jinja (滝尾神社). Of the castle there are no ruins remaining and nor are there any markers.
Yamashiro Ryuuga Castle / 山城龍臥城


I had some time after Nijōjō so I went to this non-ruin in Shijō, Kyōto, which is the former site of Ryūgajō, a fort built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. There is nothing to see in terms of castle ruins, unfortunately, and I couldn't even find any marker or explanation board. Half of the site of Ryūgajō is now the temple Bukkōji, so please enjoy my photo of the temple. The back of the temple hall is vaguely reminiscent of something castle-like, perhaps? The most castle-ly thing about the temple is that its surrounded by tall walls and storehouses like an old urban compound residence of the bygone days of yore. The wall at the back of the temple is actually made of brick.
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