30 new profiles for Nagano Castle by ART

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30 new profiles for Nagano Castle by ART


ART has added an amazing 30 new profiles of castles, all in Nagano Prefecture. Nagano Prefecture now has far and away the most profiles on Jcastle. In fact, I had to make some changes to how the prefecture profile pages work to accommodate them all. As of this update, ART has now contributed an incredible 200 profiles, a feat I will be hard pressed to keep up with !

Reading through the histories and visit notes of these new sites will take you on a journey through Nagano history and ART's journeys from abandoned rail roads to Edo Period torture devices.


Arashi Castle / 嵐城

Arashijou (10).JPG

Arashijō is was one of three castles located on the same mountain, located in the middle position between the other two, Iinawa Castle at the bottom and Nishijou Castle at the top. I actually came to Arashijō first because I was exploring a section of disused railroad nearby and found a convenient trail leading straight from the end of the line. I then climbed to Nishijou Castle before descending back through Arashijō down to Iinawa Castle, after which I found more disused rail (it was part of a switchback system and so following it brought me back to where I had started several hours earlier). The ruins of Arashijō consist of horikiri (trenches), dorui (earthen embankments) and one central bailey. The largest segment of dorui and corresponding trench is located at the back of the main bailey. I found unworked stone blocks here and they seemed to be positioned in rows along the trench and so I don't know but it seemed like they may have been part of the castle. As I mentioned I came through Arashijō twice and both times I saw deer running near the ruin, probably the same group. Other nature includes a pretty birdy and a tree scratched by a bear and bleeding sap. Bonus: I found Shelob's Lair.
Aruga Castle / 有賀城

Arugajou (3).JPG

The ruins of Aruga Castle consist of four baileys climbing like a staircase up a mountain ridge to the fifth and final bailey, the shukuruwa (main bailey). The main and second bailey are separated by a deep trench and a multilayered trench system also extends beyond the shukuruwa, protecting it in the rear where it was most vulnerable. The main and second baileys are also surrounded by dorui (earth-piled) ramparts. The dorui at the rear of the shukuruwa is the largest and most impressive segement of all the earthworks, and it looms over a karabori (dry moat). Beneath the climbing stairway of baileys a yokobori (lateral trench) runs, and a tatebori (vertical trench) protects the exposed lower reaches of the shukuruwa. And so Arugajō has lots of the features typically associated with yamajiro (mountaintop castles), most of which were formed primarily from earthworks and making deft use of natural terrain. The start of the trail which leads to the castle site is marked by a reconstructed kabukimon (a type of simple gateway).
Fukuyo Castle / 福与城城

Fukuyojou (1).JPG

Fukuyojō is a large Sengoku Period hirayamajiro (hilltop castle) ruin set in the foothills of the Ina Valley. It is a prefectural designated historical site. The castle is large enough to be divided into clusters of baileys in the north, center and south. The shukuruwa (main bailey) in the honjō (central area of the castle), rises tall above the surrounding ruins and is surrounded by karabori (dry moats) on three sides, and the hill slope to the east. The moats also separate the major areas of the castle. The deep moat to the south is spanned by a dobashi (earthen bridge). The northern area of Fukuyojō contains the castle's largest bailey. The southern area contains many terraced fields which were once the site of yashiki (residences).
Hanishina Terao Castle / 埴科寺尾城

HanishinaTeraojou (5).JPG

I had just enough time left after visiting nearby Kanaiyama Castle and Kasumi Castle to visit Teraojō. Situated on a nearby mountain, Kanaiyamajō can be seen from Teraojō. Teraojō is a simple fort with several kuruwa (baileys) carved ascending into the mountain ridge. The shukuruwa (main bailey) is the highest point of the ridge. In several parts horikiri (trenches cut into the ridge) protect the baileys. I found the crumbled remains of stone pilings here and there about the shukuruwa, indicating that the castle's ramparts had once been stone-clad. Only tumbled stone blocks remain today. Soon, no doubt, even these will be gone, scattered and buried in the dirt. It fills me with a sense of urgency when exploring these smaller sites, and a sense of loss. What will be in five years? What would these ruins have been like twenty years ago? Maybe there would've been much more to see. But slowly with time and the movements of the earth the castle's definition has been eroded and has become blurry.
Iijima Jin'ya / 飯島陣屋

IijimaJin'ya (1).JPG

Iijima-jin'ya, reconstructed in 1994, gives us a rare opportunity to appreciate what jin'ya were like. The style of architecture is vernacular, built in the honmune-źukuri style. The distinctive roof crest on the main building is known as suzume-odori, or "dancing sparrow". Tours are guided and in order to enter the premises one must telephone ahead and make an appointment. Then someone will come down from the Board of Education offices for one's sake and open the place up. My tour guide happened to be a nice young lady who charmed me into doing the various "activities" on offer, such as being forced to kneel on a wooden grate as a criminal, making calculations on a soroban, reading a scroll in kanbun kundoku ("Chinese writing, Japanese reading"), lighting the hearth with a flint and tinder, and posing as a hatamoto.
Iinawa Castle / 飯縄城

Iinawajou (1).JPG

Iinawajō is one of three castle sites located on the same mountain. It is the lowest of the three, the other two being Arashi Castle and Nishijou Castle. It is also the most extensive ruin in this network of fortifications, consisting of five integral baileys arranged in a "Λ" formation covering two diverging ridges of the lower mount. The top of the "Λ" is the shukuruwa (main bailey) where the two legs join up. From here I decided to take the ridge to my right, since I had to return in that general direction, passing through three more baileys and several terraced sub-baileys, as well as three horikiri (trenches dug into the ridge). I could see koshikuruwa (hip baileys) covering the mountainside to my left, on the inside of the "Λ". In the end I didn't have the chance to explore the other leg of the castle ruin, but it is made up of a stair-like row of many terraces from the top-down, followed by a large lower bailey protected above and below by a trench system - according to maps. The temple Jikōin now occupies the site of the Kyokan, which was an area at the foot of the mountain where the lord's residence was located.
Ina Kurata Castle / 伊那倉田城

InaKuratajou (1).JPG

Kuratajō is a clifftop castle ruin. I took the road from the station up to the top of the hill. Exploring the tree line at the back of several fields I found trenches cutting in from the cliff face in two places. There were more trenches further along but I ran out of time to explore them all. It was quite difficult to climb down into and see them at any rate. In the second trench I descended into I saw a fox flitting through the trees.
Ina Minowa Castle / 伊那箕輪城

InaMinowajou (5).JPG

The ruins of Minowajō are quite well preserved and consist of earthworks such as trenches, ramparts and baileys. The castle's main bailey is now a cemetery. The castle is set upon a cliff. To the back there are dry moats and toward the cliff face these slope off into climbing moats. The main bailey is surrounded by dorui (earthen ramparts) which still rise about 4m tall. The ruins are a municipal-designated historical site.
Ina Nakagome Castle / 伊那中込城

InaNakagomejou (3).JPG

The ruins of Nakagome Castle were a little tricky to explore. They are situated on a clifftop and at first I walked up the road to their vicinity. The area is now suburban residences. I found a ploughed field and a cleared park area which were once the castle's baileys, the small park being located in what was once the castle's main bailey. The road itself was likely part of a dry moat network which separated them. Feeling that my castle walk had reached its lowest ebb, I carried on looking around and found a very useful signboard about the castle situated in what was once the castle's outer bailey. The map showed the former location of two moats which ran across the promontory, dividing the castle into three bands. Although now mostly built over, I was able to find the remains of these trenches to the north where they cut into the hillside. The outer moat is just a fraction of its former length but the inner moat still cuts into the hill quite a way. This exploration of the trenches, though very tricky due to all of the flora, somewhat redeemed this site for me.
Ina Tanagi Castle / 伊那棚木城

InaTanagijou (7).JPG

The ruins of Tanagi Castle straddle a narrow hilltop overlooking the river plain of the Tenryūgawa. Ruins consist of trenches and baileys, the latter of which are now farmland. I actually climbed up from the base of the cliff via one of the trenches. It continues on the otherside of the road. To my right was the former castle's rear bailey. There is a small marker here for the castle.
Ina Tanaka Castle / 伊那田中城

InaTanakajou (1).JPG

Nothing remains of Tanaka Castle except for a small, sorry segment of earth which was once an earth-piled rampart, "dorui" in Japanese. There is a signboard explaining about the castle ruin. Being a hirajiro (flatland castle) situated in a river plain, the site was quickly developed over after its ruin, first by plough, and then by retail and industry.
Izuki Jin'ya / 伊豆木陣屋

IzukiJin'ya (1).JPG

Izuki-jin'ya is a very special site because it contains an original palatial structure built in 1624. The shoin (drawing room) was the most important part of what was once a larger complex of structures. This shoin is especially precious because it is built in the "hanging style", supported on a lattice work of pillars and beams, hanging over the hillside. Izuki-jin'ya also has notable castle features such as ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) and a yaguradai (a platform which once supported a tower). Tours of the shoin are guided. I went around the whole building twice but my elderly guide never left me, although he did have new things to say on the second lap. Artifacts in the shoin include palanquins, one of an unusaul and antiquated design purportedly used by Takeda Shingen's daughter, and jars for holding zeni (coins). The kugikakushi (nail hiders) in the shoin take the form of giant coins. I recognised these coins as based on Qing "Silver Dragon" coins.
Kita Majino Castle / 北真志野城

Gongenzawajou (1).JPG

On my way between Aruga Castle and Minami Majino Castle I came, by complete chance, upon a sign indicating the former site of Gongenzawajō. Around the sign was just fields and orchards. Gongenzawajō is another name for Kita-Majinojō, which would twin the site with Minami-Majinojō. One castle explorer's blog indicated that "the general shape" of the castle could be appreciated in a nearby park, but I didn't see where. It was quite difficult to work out where the site was referencing maps, and so in the end all I had to go on was the sign I had come across. Of course, simply stumpling upon a new site whilst going between two others was a welcome accident, even if I didn't find anything in the way of ruins.
Minami Majino Castle / 南真志野城

MinamiMajinojou (1).JPG

Getting to the ruins of Minami-Majinojō ("South Majino Castle") was no mean feat. I had to do some free climbing without using trails. Eventually I was rewarded with the evident ruins of the castle's shukuruwa (main bailey), topped with dorui (earthen ramparts) and protected in the rear by a large karabori (dry moat). I descended via the castle's sub-baileys which terraced the mountain ridge. The mountain itself also had some interesting features like large, sacred boulders and old stone-pilings at the base which I supposed might be from the later Edo Period (after the castle's time).
Oh'ide Castle / 大出城

Oh'idejou (1).JPG

The ruins of Ôidejō, which was a stockades and earthworks castle, consist of dorui (earthen ramparts), karabori (dry moats), a kuruwa (bailey), koshikuruwa (sub-baileys), and an obikuruwa (a sub-bailey ringing a larger bailey). The site is quite compact and is adjacent to a stonemason's. In the main bailey is a signboard about the castle. The ruin appears from the roadside as a small hill or tumulus.
Oh'idefuru Castle / 大出古城


I passed by here, the former site of Ôidefurujō, or Ôide Old Castle, on the way to the ruins of Oh'ide Castle. Presumably this was the site of a fortification which existed before the more substantial Ôidejō, which is located down the road. There's not much here other than the shape of the terrain, which is a sort of cliff pocket - trenches on either side. The site today is now fields. Ôidefurujō is paired with Oh'ide Castle.
Ohguma Castle / 大熊城


Ôgumajō amounts to a small but well-maintained earthenwork ruin situated on the hillside. The site is now a flower garden and agricultural space and so, with all the trees cut down, we can easily get a sense of the castle's scale from a distance.
Sarashina Inariyama Castle / 更級稲荷山城


There are no ruins here at the former site of Inariyama Castle, and only a commemorative stone marker stands in a patch of grass. Merrily there is also an information board.
Sarashina Osaka Castle / 更級小坂城

SarashinaOsakajou (15).JPG

I decided to hike from Shiozakishin Castle to Sarashina-Osakajō. This way took me through a flattened area guarded by two boulders. I don't know its purpose. The name on signboards was inconsistent (佳馬平・桂馬平). The trail went to the peak of Osakayama and then descended. It seems like the path from the peak to the castle ruins was abandoned at some point and I lost it. But using my phone as a compass I went toward the castle site. I came across a gigantic staircase carved out of the mountainside. These terraces were quite overgrown, and so hard to photograph, but impressive "in person". A map online I found shows this place as part of the castle's outer defences, but the map I found on-site didn't. I descended here and then had to scramble back up after crossing a stream.

Eventually, after some difficult climbing, the castle ruin came into view. In the shape of the earthworks along the ridge I could see its rear baileys and a large trench. An abrupt "V"-shape in the ridgeline like this was very easy to appreciate from a distance. Beneath here was a small kuruwa which I descended into and then climbed once again from there to reach the castle's rear baileys. They are small enclosures separated by trenches. These trenches are mostly filled up now but can still be made out. Then I came to the large trench mentioned above. It was about 8m deep. Beyond it is the honmaru (main bailey). Beneath the honmaru are a group of minor baileys terracing the mountainside. It is here that the ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) can be seen in at least six bands, though collapsed and overgrown in many parts. The terracing is made up of about eight tiers, and the lowest tiers are widest. Very small pocket baileys exist below that.

This ruin is overgrown and in places covered in rusted old junk, like old barrels. In the honmaru there is collapsed structure which looks like it has sunk into the earth. There is a concrete pit here. I saw some bear scratches on a nearby tree and wondered if any bear would be unlucky enough to fall in and get trapped. Due to all of the plant growth it was difficult to follow the ishigaki ruins. However, after a vicious climb, finally coming upon the old ruins and finding so many ruins was very exciting, so I mostly enjoyed the adventure. The map in the honmaru of the castle only shows the main area, not showing the neighbouring terraced area I came by or the lower reaches of the castle I exited via.
Shiozaki Castle / 塩崎城

Shiozakijou (1).JPG

The ruins of Shiozakijō, a yamajiro (mountaintop castle), feature earthworks such as dorui (earthen ramparts), kuruwa (baileys), koshiguruwa (sub-baileys), karabori (dry moats) and tatebori (climbing moats), and ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts). The castle's layout is fairly simple: the terracing follows the ridge up, creating a ladder-like formation. The shukuruwa (main bailey) has a large dorui to the rear with a deep cutting into the mountain ridge beyond that. The remnants of ishigaki are modest but for me were a highlight of the site.
Shiozakishin Castle / 塩崎新城

Shiozakishinjou (1).JPG

The ruins of Shiozakishinjō, also called Akasawajō, are tough to explore and replete with mystery. I ascended the castle mount directly where the road ended, pulling my way up the slope through the bush without a trail. Emerging from this slog I immediately beheld a scene of desolation. The mountain is crowned by hoary rockface, beneath which is spread the chaotic aftermath of collapsed masonry. Scrambling over these rocks I came to a cutting into the rock which formed a stolid trench. The castle's lower baileys were to the left. To the right, beyond some deformed earthwork trenches, was a forboding climb to the top of the cliff face. This bailey of the castle is now overgrown and difficult to access. Beyond here is a system of double trenches.
Suwa Imori Castle / 諏訪井森城

SuwaImorijou (1).JPG

The ruins of Imorijō were quite impressive owing to the ten or so obikuruwa (ring baileys) terracing the mountain on the way up to the shukuruwa (main bailey), the only integral bailey of the castle. The extensive terracing reminded me of some tremendous tumulus, but of course the castle was carved out of an existing mountain. Climbing it is like ascending a gigantic staircase. The shukuruwa is now overgrown with trees, as is the rest of the site. Although fairly interesting “in person”, it was hard to catch the sense of scale with my camera.
Suwa Kaneko Castle / 諏訪金子城


Although historically noteworthy nothing remains of Kaneko Castle today. There is a signboard with information about the site. The former hirajiro (flatland castle) is now houses and some fields.
Suwa Osaka Castle / 諏訪小坂城


There's not much to see at the site of Osaka Castle but I stopped by on one of my "castle walks" en route to Aruga Castle. Osakajō's most obvious ruin is a trench at the foot of the castle mount. It was the first site of the day for me and so, having plenty of energy yet, I persevered, searching further up the mountain than was necessary. I thought I identified some terracing and sub-baileys in parts but it seems like much of the ruin has been demolished in the construction of a motorway which passes below.
Suwa Owa Castle / 諏訪大和城

SuwaOwajou (1).JPG

The ruins of Owajō were fun to inspect, being fairly intact. The trail starts before a small dam, and then follows a ridge up past a small shrine. Owajō consists of a single main bailey, the shukuruwa, but is surrounded below by many koshikuruwa (sub-baileys) which stretch around the main bailey in a ring, tapering off toward the castle’s rear. The shukuruwa is surrounded by dorui (earthen ramparts), which, as expected in this region, are piled up the highest at the bailey’s rear. Beyond this point several horikiri (trenches) were dug into the mountain ridge to protect the castle’s rearside. Remnants of stone-pilings (sekirui) are to be found throughout the site, and particularly around the shukuruwa there are lots of stone blocks to be found, although the largest remaining piling is found beneath one of the terraced koshikuruwa. As with at Takagijō, there are ishigaki remains at the foot of the mountain, but these were likely for terraced fields in the Edo Period.
Suwa Takagi Castle / 諏訪高木城

SuwaTakagijou (1).JPG

Takagijō is a small ruin. It consists principally of two integral baileys. The ramparts around the shukuruwa (main bailey) are still impressive. At the rear of the shukuruwa, toward the mountainside, dorui (earthen ramparts) in this region were piled particularly high, and that is very evident at Takagijō. Usually this would be the end of the castle, aside from trenches, as the shukuruwa would be situated at the highest point, but it seems, perhaps due to the shape of the mountain, that a second bailey was created beyond the shukuruwa here, although it is situated beneath the shukuruwa and likely would’ve been the first place invaders would’ve attacked if they did not directly assault the front. Between the two baileys was a horikiri (trench), but it is largely filled up now and hard to identify. I was particularly happy with the dorui here. Because utility pylons have been erected here the space is nice and clear. Indeed in the shukuruwa now stands a pylon. I came up to the castle from the north but to the south is the main trail which I took down. This trail takes one past several small stone-pilings, but these would’ve been made by farmers as the mountainside was subsequently cultivated, although it has largely returned to nature today. When I entered at the base of the ruins I heard a sharp call and saw a pair of deer flit off up the mountainside in front of me.
Suwa Takei Castle / 諏訪武居城

SuwaTakeijou (1).JPG

Takeijō is an interesting and fairly well maintained yamajiro (mountain castle) ruin. It consists essentially of a terraced mountain ridge with stair-like minor baileys running up to the main bailey at the top. Toward the bottom of the ruin are what look like gate ruins and trench works. The Ôte (main approach) is sunk into the ridgeside. At the base of the mountain is the Jinchōkan Moriya Historical Museum which features quaint architecture by Fujimori Terunobu.
Takashimako Castle / 高島古城

Takashimakojou (1).JPG

Nothing remains here of the “Old Takashima Castle” but it was on my way to other more interesting sites so I checked it out. There are a couple of signs indicating the former castle site and an explanation board. The site itself is now an old, grim danchi (a complex of apartment buildings), whose remaining tenants are likely elderly. The ancestor to today’s somewhat famous Takashima Castle was built here on a hillside overlooking the lake. When "Takashima Castle" is mentioned in reference to the Sengoku Period, it probably means this one. The Edo Period Takashima Castle (or its modern reconstruction at least) can be seen from points on this hill.
Todoroki Castle / 等々力城

Todorokijou (1).jpg

Ruins of Todoroki Castle include a koguchi ("tiger's maw" gate complex), yaguradai (turret platform) and dorui (earth-piled ramparts). The former bailey is now farmland. Nearby there is the Todoroki Residence which is preserved from the Edo Period and designated as an important cultural property. The Lord of Matsumoto used to stay there apparently. It contains vernacular architecture and a large nagayamon (row-gatehouse); I might go back and see it at some point.
Uenotaira Castle / 上ノ平城

Uenotairajou (1).JPG

The ruins of Uenotairajō, an earthworks castle classified as a hirayamajō (hilltop castle), consist of dorui (earthen ramparts), karabori (dry moats) and kuruwa (baileys). The castle is situated on a long, projecting foothill with baileys arranged sequentially from the second bailey at the tip of the promontory, onto the first in the center, up to the fourth uphill at the back. Each bailey was separated by a dry moat, but today the first and third moat systems are best preserved. The third moat is how I entered the castle. In the middle it forks off and climbs uphill past the third and fourth baileys. The castle is bordered to the east by mountains, to the west by the plain, and to the north and south by rivers, the Chikusawa and the Terasawa respectively.
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