20 Chubu Region Castle Profiles from ART

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20 Chubu Region Castle Profiles from ART


ART's next contribution is 20 new profiles from the Chubu Region.

If you haven't seen his Japanese Castles Facebook page, check it out as well. All these photos and more have been posted there at some point or will be soon.


Akechi Osayama Castle / 明智長山城


There are several "Akechi Castle" sites, of which this (might!) be one, and so it is also known as Osayamajō to distinguish it. There are many baileys, some of them deformed, but few other features to see, unusual for a site of this size. Castle researcher, presenter and author, Chris Glenn, tells us that it might not even have been a castle site! I did feel somewhat confident about a horikiri (trench) and koguchi (gate complex) ruin near one of the lower baileys though. Restored features include sakamogi (abatis), fences made from tree branches, and babōsaku (anti-cavalry palisade).

Anyway, I was more interested in the historical narrative of the apparent castle than the features. Considering the dearth of interesting structural features, it's fascinating that this site is cherished, maintained well, and promoted as a tourist destination. An old man rolled up whilst I was waiting in the carpark and sold us a commemorative seal. If only every middling castle site was so well loved! But, of course, the castle is notable for its historical associations more than anything else.

Let me ask you something: was Akechi Mitsuhide a traitor? English language materials often present him as such, generally being disparaging. I think this is unfair. You couldn't trust a samurai as far as you could throw him. Did Toyotomi Hideyoshi prove any more loyal? The focus on Akechi as a traitor derives from a tragically romantic notion of samurai being otherwise very loyal, but this was the exception and not the rule. There was no bushidō and each man was out only for numero ichi. The amount of times the samurai would back stab and lie to each other is a testament to that. Even so, I thought the mayor's message inscribed on a plaque next to a large statue of Akechi trying to present Akechi as an ambassador for love and world peace was a bit laughable. By all means lionise the local historical leader but let's not project our own image onto his, eh?

(At the castle I saw a kamoshika (idiot goat), and chased it up the mountainside. I moved like a spider on my toes and hands up the cliffside but the beast bolted so quickly that it crashed through the forest, bleating, rising much ruckus, and got clear away from me. I only wanted to love him!)
Chimura Yashiki / 千村屋敷


The Chimura-yashiki was the fortified residence of the Chimura Clan, located at the foot of Kukuri Castle. There is a themed restaurant nearby based on the yashiki... which was a new one on me. A signboard explaining about the Chimura-yashiki can be found at the nearby Kani Local History Museum. Some short ishigaki (stone walls) remain. The residence's gardens are also located nearby, though they are in need of some pruning.
Gouda Fort / 郷田砦


This earthworks fortification ruin is now overgrown with bamboo and other vegetation, making exploration inadvisable. Groping like a blind man through the dense flora, I nonetheless was able to identify various features and get an approximate idea of the layout of the fort. Features – ruins – include kuruwa (baileys), koshikuruwa (hip baileys), obikuruwa (belt bailey), dorui (earthen ramparts), dobashi (earthen bridges), hori (trenches), and koguchi (gate complexes). Since the foliage obscures everything, it was not easy to photograph – meaningfully – said features. The castle mount is called Masugatayama, though this probably refers to the shape of the mountain more so than any castle feature.
Ibikitagata Castle / 揖斐北方城


Of Ibikitagatajō there are no ruins left of this fort apart from some baileys. It seems that it was chiefly used as a signal tower and not a full defensive bastion. The view is good and one can reach basically to the very top by car. The main bailey is full of cisterns of some kind which reminded me of Super Mario's land.
Ikeda Castle (Mino) / 美濃池田城


I had some time left before my train back to Matsumoto so I decided to check out Ikedajō in Tajimi. The site is now a shrine complex called Ikeda-Fudō. The fort ruin consists of some earthworks such as a kuruwa (baileys), koshikuruwa (sub-baileys), and horikiri (trenches). I saw a huntsman spider. It was a small specimen but still large enough for me to immediately see it moving down some stone retaining walls at the shrine.
Ima Castle (Mino) / 美濃今城


Having seen it referenced at the Sengoku Yamajiro Museum, we came to Imajō. It's a well maintained little ruin with such features as dorui (earthen ramparts), karabori (dry moats), and kuruwa (baileys). Effort has been put into making this site into a nice park, though some parts are restricted to walkways, and the site suffers from mosquito infestation.
Kaneyama Castle (Mino) / 美濃金山城


Mino-Kaneyamajō is another fantastic site with the name Kaneyama / Kanayama. It's almost like that name is a pure gold... oh, wait... Kaneyamajō in Mino Province is an epic yamajiro (mountaintop castle) site featuring ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts), dorui (earthen ramparts), many kuruwa (baileys), masugata (box-shaped gate complexes) ruins and even a tenshudai (platform for a donjon). The most stalwart ishigaki segment is actually now found in the castle's demaru (projecting bailey), which is where the carpark is. Ishigaki remains are found throughout the site, indicating that much of the mountain citadel was formerly stone-clad.
Kukuri Castle / 久々利城


Kukurijō is a fantastic yamajiro (mountaintop) castle site which is nonetheless very easy to access, requiring very little climbing to explore. It has such interesting features as kuruwa (baileys), dorui (earthen ramparts), masugata (box-shaped gate complexes) and horikiri (trenches), including a large double moat system. The site is split into two parts with the main castle in the south and a subsidiary wing situated along another ridge to the north. The main portion is very well maintained, and a path with rope-guides and signs even extends to the forested northern ridge, bringing one back down the mountain that way. This is luxury for yamajiro fans! Please be aware that bears have been recently seen at the castle.
Kurono Castle / 黒野城


Kuronojō is a major hirajiro (flatland castle) ruin located northwest of Gifu City. It has tall dorui (earthen ramparts) around the honmaru (main bailey). Formerly it had water moats but these are now more like swamp moats (numabori?). The site used to be much larger and some remains of the outer moat and wall also remain.
Moriyama Castle (Owari) / 尾張守山城


Owari-Moriyamajō is like a smaller version of Suemori Castle today, both in terms of the features of its earthly remains, and also in terms of the limited access available to visitors. Much of the site is on private property and cannot be accessed. The karabori (dry moats) are rank with dense thickets of bamboo and also littered with rubbish. A portion of piled-up earth has a marker for the castle on, and visitors can ascend here. Adajacent to a moat, this embankment may have been a corner segment of dorui (earthen ramparts), part of a bailey, or even a platform for a small tower.
Nagaoka Castle / 長岡城


Nothing remains of Nagaokajō, but a donjon complex has been "reconstructed" off-site, putting it in the same category of mogi tenshu as Echizen-Katsuyamajō or even Fushimijō. First we went to this mogi tenshu which is located in Yūkyūzan Park (悠久山公園). The site is actually related to the castle via the Aoshi Shrine (蒼紫神社), established by the lords of Nagaoka Domain. It's a nice park. The mogi tenshu serves as a folk museum but it's been closed since the Wuhan Flu outbreak. It doesn't look too bad. The "ishigaki" the superstructure sits atop is clearly a concrete-glued mock-up, but, heck, I've seen worse. The donjon (called tenshukaku (天守閣)) features the usual modern mogi conceits, such as doors buried in the tenshudai (donjon platform), and a fairytale balcony. The donjon complex further includes a sub-keep (called "kaku-yagura (角櫓)") connected via a tamon-yagura (corridor turret, but called "hashiri-yagura (走り櫓)"), which actually reminded me of Aiźu-Wakamatsujō. Even though the stone blocks used in the "ishigaki" are obviously modern, the shadow of the rooftiles cast onto them, producing an optical illusion which made them look like they had been hewn traditionally. I inspected the actual castle site too, of course. The main bailey is now the site of Nagaoka Station, which is at the centre of a city, and, although there is a water feature and marker to commemorate the site, the former castle has been completely crushed under the modern city. I also found a marker to the castle's second bailey. So then I didn't make the mistake of not visiting the castle's actual site like I did the first time I visited Echizen Katsuyama Castle and Fushimi Castle.
Nitchu Castle / 日中城


Nitchūjō, also called Nitchū-toride (toride = "fort"), is a (sort of) satellite fort of Yuminoshōjō located across a river on a cliff line. It has karabori (dry moats) and a dobashi (earthen bridge). At the rear of the site the karabori slopes down the cliff line as a tatebori (climbing moat). The small enclosure is surrounded by dorui (earthen ramparts). Nitchūjō was a small fortification in a simple square layout. The site is now a cemetery.
Noguchi Yakata / 野口館


Noguchi-yakata is great for a yakata, having dorui (earthen ramparts) and karabori (dry moat) all the way around the main enclosure, and so it is in a miraculous state of preservation, considering. Visitors can only appreciate the fortifications from without because the main bailey is now a private residence. Strangely enough the modern residence possessed an actual castle gate, called the iron gate because it had iron plating all over the doors. This Edo Period gate was said to have been relocated from Kanōjō, but, after an investigation, was found to have originally been from Ôgakijō. I'm not sure but it may be the only original structure from Ôgakijō. This was revealed in 2008 when the gate was purchased by Kakamigahara Municipality and transferred away from the Noguchi-yakata site. The gate is now located at Machiya Hall in Unuma-juku. Since the gate is not originally from Noguchi-yakata nor currently there, this site should be listed as "ruins only".
Ogawa Castle (Owari) / 尾張緒川城


I had planned to visit Ogawajō at the same time as Kariyajō, but this never happened so I decided I should go back this time after visiting sites in Nagoya. There was much less than I expected though. The ruin consists of a portion of large dorui. It is fenced off. At least though it had been cleared of vegetation when I went. This dorui used to be very extensive, but now only a single segment remains; perhaps it was the largest portion and hosted a tower but I don't know. I found one relocated gate from the castle at the nearby Odai Park (於大公園), which was some consolation. The gate is attached to a temple, Kenkon'in, which was the clan temple of the Mizuno, lords of Ogawa Castle. The gate's relation to Ogawajō, however, is based on oral tradition and whether or not it actually stood at Ogawajō has not been verified.
Saraki Jin'ya / 更木陣屋


Saraki-jin'ya is a well maintained jin'ya site (as Hatamoto Tokuyama Jin'ya Park), though ruins mostly consist of low dorui (earthen ramparts). A small gate has been reconstructed.
Shinjou Castle (Etchu) / 越中新庄城


We swung by Shinjōjō in the dying day, having saw a poster about the site at the Yasudajō museum. The site is now a school but was extensively excavated in recent years. There is an information board about the former castle, though no ruins remain above ground.
Suemori Castle / 末森城


Suemorijō, now the site of a shrine, is a remarkably well preserved earthworks castle ruin for being so close to central Nagoya. Unfortunately much of the ruins are fenced off and one cannot fully explore the deep and impressive karabori (dry moats). There are earthworks both around and behind the shrine which visitors cannot access. There are early Shōwa Period buildings nearby, one of which is a dōjō, and one is a large structure which reminds one of the city hall on a smaller scale. This building is now abandoned... I hope it doesn't get demolished. Features at Suemorijō include kuruwa (baileys), karabori, and dorui (earthen ramparts).
Terabe Castle / 寺部城


Terabejō is a former Sengoku Period castle and Edo Period jin'ya site with the foundations of several buildings preserved, including of storehouses and a teahouse. There are also many wells. The site also has earthworks such as dorui (earthen ramparts), but most of these have become overgrown with bamboo and trees. The site is now a small history park and the site of a minor shrine dedicated to Watanabe Moritsuna, the famous warrior and founding patriarch of Terabe-jin'ya. A survivng structure, a shoin (drawing room), of Terabe-jin'ya is now located at nearby Koromo Castle. Note: This is Terabejō in historic Kamo County (analogous to modern Toyota Municipality), not to be confused with Hazu-Terabejō in Hazu County (analogous to modern Nishio Municipality), both in Aichi Prfecture and Mikawa Province.
Yamada Shigetada Yakata / 山田重忠館


Here a yakata (fortified manor house) site is associated with the historic figure of Yamada Shigetada, but of this nothing remains. There are markers but the site is now a child hive / nursery. I passed by incidentally after missing a train and going to another station.
Yuminoshou Castle / 弓庄城


Yuminoshōjō hasn't much left in terms of ruins but it has a local history museum attached with models of the castle. On the mountain behind the castle site is a mock-reconstructed miyagura (watch tower).
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