31 new contributions from ART

From Jcastle.info

31 new contributions from ART


This is the last in the series of contributions from ART . I put together all the Nagano Prefecture updates together and these now cover a variety of prefectures from Kyoto to Niigata Prefecture. See the castles and map below for details. If you haven't seen his Facebook Japanese Castle Group yet I highly encourage you to do so. There are contributions from a variety of members, discussion and news about castle developments and discoveries.


Amidagamine Castle (Yamashiro) / 山城阿弥陀ヶ峰城


Amidaǵaminejō ('Castle of Amida Peak') is now the site of a mausoleum for Toyotomi Hideyoshi centred around a large gorintō (five-tier stone stupa). The castle ruins are easily accessed by a long stone stairway which climbs in a straight line up the mountainside. Features of this castle include chiefly dorui (earthen ramparts) and some bailey spaces. There are remnants of dorui around the gorintō, and a large segment of rammed earth beneath the peak, to the right of the gatehouse to the mausoleum when ascending. By the way, from the peak one can see beautiful views of Kyōto, especially of Gion and Kiyomizudera. (ART 2022)

One of the 36 Peaks of Higashiyama, Amidagamine Castle originally held a small castle that controlled one of the routes between Kyoto and Yamashina. Today the castle is mainly known as a mausoleum for Toyotomi Hideyoshi and some fantastic views of Kiyomizudera and the Kyoto basin. As you climb the steep stairs to the castle, your first respite will be a flat area with a large gate. This corresponds to the Second Bailey of the castle with the first bailey at the top. There are some large earthen embankments around this bailey, but is it unknown how much is original to the castle versus what was levelled for this gate. On the right side of this area, just over the embankment is actually the third bailey. At the top of the mountain where you find the first bailey there are some slight remains of more embankments too. Just to the right of the stairs at the top is actually a hiking trail that will take you down the side of the mountain to the third bailey bypassing the stairs. Actually, a normal hiking trail is easier on the legs than all those stairs too! From the back of the third bailey there is another trail that supposedly goes around the mountain to a fourth bailey but for me at least the trail seemed to fade away into thick brush so I gave up. I was originally hoping to get some nice photos of the valley in full autumn colors from the top, but it was a hazy misty day and so after waiting about an hour I gave up and spent the rest of the day walking around Kyoto enjoying the red leaves at Shinnyodo, Kodaiji, Tofokuji and more. (Eric 2022)

Photos mostly updated with Eric's Nov2022 visit
Aoki Castle (Sakata) / 坂田青木城

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This fortified manor hall of the Aoki Clan is now the site of the Yamatsuteru Shrine, Aoki Shrine, and the temple Zenshōji. Fortifications exist on the ridge of this temple. There is also a fairly sizable kofun (ancient burial mound) here of the keyhole variety, or zenpōkoenfun form. I covered a fair bit of ground here, much of which is unlevel terrain, but unearthed nothing definitive unfortunately. A plaque attests to the history of the site.
Chouzenjimae Jin'ya / 長禅寺前陣屋

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I was surprised to find out that there was a jin'ya site here so close to Kōfujō. The site is often called Chōzenjimae-jin'ya owing to its location near to the temple Chōzen'ankokuji. Though nothing remains, the site, formally known as the Kōfu-daikansho, has its own wikipedia article. It seems that for much of the Edo Period actual control over the domain was exerted from here. There is some definitional overlap between "jin'ya" and "daikansho", and Kōfu-daikansho was also called Kōfu-jin'ya. Daikansho refers to the base of a hatamoto, or bannerman of the Shōgun, usually acting as a Daikan, ruling in place of the Shōgun as his direct representative. Jin'ya has a broader meaning in that it can refer to non-Shogunal holdings too (id est, discontiguous territories of daimyō, &c.). In 1872 the site became Fujikawa Primary School; this closed its doors in 2011, and now the site is that of a nursery and a community centre.
Genji Yakata (Kai) / 甲斐源氏館


I came here after walking to the Daimon Hirin Park in Ichikawa-Daimon, which is history park centred around reproductions of historical Chinese stelae. The park boasts Chinese traditional ornamentation and architecture, though some of it is quite cheaply erected, and so it was like "mogi China" for me. Near the park is the site of the manor hall of Minamoto Yoshikiyo, which is now a shrine. Nothing remains of the proto-medieval structure of the fortification, the former base of the Kai-Genji. See also: Minamoto Yoshikiyo Yakata
Higuchi Castle (Omi) / 樋口城

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No ruins remain of Higuchijō. This picture is of an old house on the site. See Sakata Kadone Castle for more information.
Ichigousan Castle / 一郷山城


Behold, Ichigōyamajō! This is a mogi man's mogi, to be sure. The mogi tenshu (faux reconstructed keep) was built in 1989. The castle itself was real, but there are no remains. Now, the folly isn't the only thing on the mountain; there is a communications array, and a shrine and stuff, but it looks like the tower is built in what was once the centre of the castle. I sort of assumed there had been very little to see of the castle's ruins originally and that it was a small fort used as a beacon tower and look-out, but, according to maps I found online, this fort was well developed with several integral baileys and many smaller baileys separated by trenches along the ridge. The undulating ridge has been flattened to build a road, and the main bailey, which was in two parts connected by an earthen bridge, is now a carpark (this picture doesn't show the cars parked below). In other words, the real castle ruins were destroyed to build this fake castle. Is it worth it?
Ichikawa Jin'ya / 市川陣屋

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The site of Ichikawa-jin'ya is very close to Ichikawa-Honmachi station so, since I had ten minutes before my train came, I quickly checked it out. There is a sign post to mark the site but otherwise nothing else to see related to it. Next to the empty plot which marks the centre of the jin'ya - and looks like a brownfield site - there is a small park. Opposite is a lovely old house.
Itoigawa Jinya / 糸魚川陣屋

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Nothing substantial remains of Itoigawa-jin’ya. The site of the fortified administrative space at the start of the Salt Road is found to be elevated on the coastal side. The site today is homes, an allotment for vegetables and flowers, and a comely art gallery, which perhaps can be said to inherit the essence of the jin’ya. If one looks down in the small lane that runs by the allotment one will see a curious shape made from four stones and a clearing of concrete. This sad trace represents an old well.
Kadone Castle (Omi) / 門根城

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The site of Kadonejō is now that of a shrine to Hachiman atop of a hill. There is also a berm on the opposite hill immediately south and this may also be part of the castle but no one is sure. I visited the shrine. It seems the embankments on the hill there were piled for clearing space for the shrine, and the same can be said of terracing of the hill side, and so I cannot positively identify any castle ruins here. The exact structure of Kadonejō remains unclear.
Kai Ueno Castle / 甲斐上野城


The castle of Takeda Shingen's younger brother, Nobutatsu? Let's check it out. No actual ruins remain of this site, which historically was more of a fortified residence than a castle - especially not the kind of castle with the grand tower which we see today. Even though the site is historically important, and a locally designated historical site, the structures we see today are all faux reconstructions, or 'mogies', as I call them affectionately. The site, now a hitory park, is a whole complex of mogies, in fact. The epicentre of the historical fortress may be considered the place where a small shrine now stands (蹴裂神社). There is a large castle tower adjacent which now takes up the mantle of Kai-Uenojō. This is a latter day mogi, constructed in 1994. It is modelled after Nagahamajō's mogi tenshu, itself a faux reconstruction, built in 1983. In front of the tower is a play area. Here there is a childrens' play fort. It struck me that this play thingy looks more historically attune to what the actual fortress would've looked like! It's less of a mogi than the keep, haha. The donjon is attached to an annex of structures which all give off strong mogi vibes. There is another building next door which is also very mogi. Also there is a storehouse in the vague shape of a castle turret. This is a prime mogi site! Less mogi but still traditionally inspired is the kabuki museum next to the park. I went here since it's on the same ticket as the castle tower. I was the only guest each time. The town's kabuki heritage owes to it being the birthplace of Ichikawa Danjurō, a famous kabuki performer. An interesting tidbit is that Danjurō's great-grandfather, Horikoshi Jūrō, was a vassal of Ichijō Nobutatsu, the founder of the castle! This is my 500th castle contribution to jcastle.info!
Kanayama Castle (Echigo) / 越後金山城

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Kanayamajō in Echigo Province is a respectable mid-sized castle site with a host of features typical to yamajiro, including kuruwa (baileys) of several kinds, dorui (earthen ramparts), koguchi (gate complexes), horikiri (trenches), and tatebori (climbing moats). The ridge beyond the shukuruwa (main bailey) is perforated by five impressive trenches cut through earth and rock into the ridge. Before the shukuruwa is a series of terraced baileys with dorui and what I guessed was a gate site. From the shukuruwa one can get a good view of the interior valley and the mountain range where Fudōyamajō is located on the one side, and the Nihonkai (Japan Sea) on the other. Kanayamajō is a little difficult to find. There is a sign on route 8 to the west of Kajiyashiki Station which indicates the direction of the castle. Follow this road and go underneath the by-pass, but before passing beneath the shinkansen railway turn left. This forestry road winds up to the castle. It’s possible to go all of the way to the beginning of the castle and park with a capable vehicle. I took the road beneath the shinkansen at first because it looked like it went close to the castle mount but this only ended in a dead-end in a valley.
Katsuyama Castle (Echigo) / 越後勝山城

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The layout of Katsuyamajō I had to map out myself, finding no map beforehand. From my crude sketch I can relate that there is some terracing with boulders along the winding, steep route up to the castle site. The shukuruwa (main bailey) has dorui (earthen ramparts) to the rear, as well as a sign post for the castle. There is a view of the Japan Sea with a pine tree at the side of the bailey. Behind the shukuruwa is a horikiri (trench), and then a sort of lower sub-bailey beneath the ridge which extends beyond there. The ridge shelters this middle enclosure. Beyond that is the furthest bailey, which is also quite large, and has dorui formed from the ridge around the north and west sides. Protecting the rear of this furthest bailey is a nijū-horikiri, or double trench system. With dorui, horikiri, and kuruwa, Katsuyamajō is a typical Sengoku period yamajiro (mountaintop castle), and a good example of a medium sized one. Katsuyamajō was a far flung coastal shijō (branch castle) of Kasugayamajō.

Itoigawa is famous for being the location of Japan's "Jade Coast", and is the site of the world's oldest known ornamental jade culture. Although the town centre itself chose to destroy its beach with a by-pass in the 1970s, the coast north and south of town is made up of beaches of colourful pebbles, of which jade rocks are numerous. This is part of the "Itoigawa UNESCO Global Geopark". I descended onto the beach to get a good look of the castle mount of Katsuyamajō from below. There was a ball of something covered in barnacles. The barnacles were large and had gaping, fanged mouths with black, lolling tongues. The sand was as black as soil. Pebbles were strewn in long piles all along. My hometown is on a peninsula, and I am not unfamiliar with beach ecosystems, but, with the notable exception of the Tottori sand dunes, this was my first time visiting a beach on the Japan Sea, and I found it quite alien.

The trail to Katsuyamajō is very steep - but there are stairs and ropes - with many switch-backs. Anyone of reasonable health could struggle up though I think. It was quite unusual as I methodically plodded upward to have to my side not some dark forest or rural vista, but a clear canvas of grey and blue. I had the sensation of being much higher up than I was. The salty air which rose up was invigorating.
Kiyosaki Castle (Echigo) / 越後清崎城

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Kiyosakijō is now the site of Itoigawa City Hall in the west, and a religious complex in the east which includes the Nunakawa-jinja and Ichinomiya Park. Seasoned castle explorers will be able to detect the presence of historical fortifications here but I suppose they are by no means obvious to the casual visitor or pilgrim. The earthworks ruins are found chiefly in the north of the shrine’s precincts where there are the remains of dorui (earthen ramparts) and a mizubori (moat). The mizubori runs either side of the shrine’s causeway and torii, disguising itself as a pond. It becomes a karabori (dry moat) a bit further along where the road climbs. It is this northern portion which most resembles a castle ruin. The mizubori is thought to have ran where the shrine’s causeway now is, and the earth on each side here is heaped up, forming a funnel. In that case there would’ve been a bailey on both sides of this causeway. The shrine itself has some beautiful architecture, including the thatched roof honden (main hall), and is worth a visit when in Itoigawa. There is an ishigaki platform in the middle of the shrine grounds before the honden. It’s built for the shrine, of course, but looks sort of like a diminutive tenshudai (donjon platform), which amused me. There’s nothing on it now and I don’t know what it was for. Any ruins to the west have been crushed beneath the modern town hall building.
Matsudai Castle (Echigo) / 越後松代城

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Matsudaijō shares its written characters with the much more famous Matsushirojō (both rendered 松代城), and so as not to confuse the two sites the province name of Echigo (越後) should be prefixed in clarification. I figured this site for a boom era forgotten mogi-tenshu and didn't expect too much, but Matsudaijō offers a lot and is surprisingly easy to get to. Essentially the site is in two parts; the modern mock reconstructed castle tower, and the actual ruins of the medieval mountaintop castle.

Matsudai Castle is located in Matsudai Town, incorporated into Tōkamachi Municipality since 2005, and is known for its beautiful terraced hillsides of rice paddies, particularly at Hoshitōge. Railway came to Matsudai in the 1997 with the construction of the Hokuhoku Line, which, being a modern line, cuts rapidly beneath many mountains and is mostly tunnels connecting coastal Niigata with the Shinano River valley area. This helped develop the town as a travel destination with small markets and an art gallery near the station. It has also attracted the attention of the international art community, it seems, and between the castle and Matsudai Station are many large pieces of modern art and sculptures in the so-called Nobutai ("Field Stage") park which mixes rice paddies and "art". This made the hike up quite interesting, though I appreciated the rice paddies and trails much more than some of the art pieces intergrated into (or should I say segregated within?) them. I'm not sure when the park was developed. Some plots and trails are overgrown now, and some art pieces may have been removed or lost their details, but generally speaking things are in good shape. I arrived in Matsudai at 8:30, but from about 10:00 it's possible to get a shuttle bus or take a rental bicycle between the gallery and the castle. The bicycles I think are free and are also eletronically assisted for climbing the mountain road. But taking a combination of park trails and the main footpath means that the hike is anycase not a long or difficult one.

It is within the above expounded context that we find the mock castle tower of Matsudai Castle. Curiously it was built in 1981, so I'm not sure if there was a large tourist presence then or not, but the castle tower was built cheaply and probably intended chiefly as an observation tower. The tower cuts a pretty shabby appearance, even by mogi standards, but within is the soul of an artist! This mogi, which would probably be abandoned otherwise, has been given new life as a host to modern art installations! The first floor is so disjointed from the outside appearance of the castle that I was simply blown away. The entire first floor is the art piece. Probably we've all seen its like before, that sort of sickly confusion of geometry focusing a central "thing", in this case a gigantic scrunched up bauble. Yet within the husk of this old mogi it becomes quite the novelty, and the rear of the room has a castle style heavy gate which was part of the original mogi construction.

The top floor is tasteful and gives access to the veranda for views. But the second floor is my favourite. It has a golden teahouse. But first there is a corridor which wraps around, in nice wood, and the entry to the teahouse room is through a half door - like the teahouse itself. The teahouse is, as I say, golden, and has many beautiful images of nature adorning it. I suppose it's inspired by the golden teahouse which Oda Nobunaga built at Aźuchi Castle; is this small mogi not now a rival to Aźuchijō! The teahouse is veiled in dark which makes the gold effulgent; whoever designed this understood well aesthetic principles most ancient. The walls are gold with black streaks which evoke a deep bamboo forest, and the pathway is surrounded by dark pebbles which made me think of obsidian (I'm not a geologist). Although the teahouse itself cannot be entered, and so can only be appreciated from without, I was very pleased with it. I made many tours of the path around it in that room, and would've made many more but there were a surprising number of visitors pressing into the tower.

As for the ruins of the actual castle, Matsudaijō is has a very long profile which follows the undulation of the ridge of the castle mount. The main bailey is centrally located. Deep horikiri (trenhces) intervene between narrow baileys, especially to the rear of the shukuruwa (main bailey) and there are terraced and climbing baileys both along the central trunk of the castle and along various spurs. The carved earthen walls of the castle are incredibly tall. I followed a trail into the main bailey, but there was no trail beyond where the terrain was incredibly steep, a sheer wall of earth to navigate! Clearly most visitors to the castle ruins themselves still do not pass beyond here. I went the whole length of the castle, however, climbing up and down these trenches and terraces between baileys. After a final deep trench the castle's precincts begin to taper off where there is a farmed highland area which connects to the mountain, and where there is a pass cut for foot traffic beneath a swing up in the elevation I would consider to be the end of it.

I didn't explore several spurs of the castle at lower elevation because I was eager to get back to the mogi tenshu which was still being opened up by staff when I arrived. But I saw most of it, including all of the integral baileys and trenches along the ridge line, and was very happy with so much to explore, having expected little more than the mogi tenshu. I would say that this is a great site in its own right regardless of the mock keep even though it appears to be little explored except by dedicated yamajiro fans.
Minegadou Castle / 峰ヶ堂城

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The ruins of Minegadōjō are extensive and include dorui (earthen ramparts), ishiźumi (stone walls), kuruwa (baileys), horikiri (trenches) and other earthworks. The castle layout is not standard and is difficult to understand, but put simply there is a main sort of blob of ruins with discontiguous fortified areas to the east of it. There is also a spur of earthworks on the otherside of the forest road from the main ruins, and probably the forest road was originally a trench. The worked mountain of this spur seemed to carry on someway but I did not have time to see how far. The aforementioned main blob is made up of three clusters of baileys, and it's not immediately clear which was intended to be the main area, though I may guess. Unfortunately we do not have a complete picture of this castle's footprint because its southern ruins were destroyed by suburban development of the Katsurazaka "New Town" in the 1980s. As I alluded to above there is also a pair of detached bailey clusters in the east. The north of these is a naturally odd shaped bailey with sizable dorui heaped up on its western flank. The south of these is a curious configuration, climbing in terraced steps up the mountainside but terminating suddenly with only the mountain ridge to connect it to the northern bailey.
Nagaikeyama Fort / 長池山砦


I’d previously stopped by Tōjō-toride, another branch fort of Kasugayamajō, and Nagaike-toride seemed like it would be easy enough to climb up to if I could find the ridge, but the roads I intended to access the mountainscape by all proved blocked to public access. I was going in blind then. Anyway, my quick climb turned into a damned slog. I couldn’t make the ridge without first passing over a many obstacles. Where there should’ve been a road or footpath was nothing but forest (I also had conflicting information on the lay of the land). Eventually I made the ridge, but it was so overgrown with skinny trees that it was like “swimming” through the trees, one arm in front of the other in a mad crawl. Eventually I made it to the fort site. There was very little to see at the summit.

The whole thing seemed like it had been a foolhardy escapade to waste my own time. I had two options at this point. Continue on to Kasugayamajō, which I had intended to do if I had the time, or descend. But I had ran out of time and, frankly, energy by this time, and, though Kasugayamajō is probably fine to explore in summer, being well maintained, I decided I’d call it quits since I’ve been before and would rather return in autumn. Plus the trail ahead seemed no more clear than where I had ascended from, which was grueling. I decided to skip the main site and move instead immediately onto the site of the Uesugi-yakata, the fortified manor house of the Uesugi Clan, also known as Otate.

Descending from the fort’s main bailey then, I found a much clearer trail. After this my mood brightened. In descending I was also able to identify, and reasonably photograph, earthworks of the old fort, including embankments and earthen bridges. Finally I had something to show for my efforts! (The ridge I came up by had some terracing but the dense flora made photographing this impossible.)

The trail almost emerged in a park, but not before it was swamped by thick bamboo, forcing me to go back over steep terrain, and I got stung by a plant as a parting gift from the mountain, but luckily not badly. The park I emerged in, coming out of the woods like some shambolic bigfoot, was beautiful, and it is apparently a top autumn foliage-viewing site. I caught my breath here and dried out. The park is on the hillside and seems to have been worked into a series of trenches terminating in a flat area where the bamboo blocked my path. I couldn’t figure it out; was it an extension of the fort? Another fort? Something else entirely? There are over a dozen branch forts of Kasugayamajō, and dozens of satellite castles. It could easily have been another site, but despite the mind-numbing vastness of this network of fortifications, very little information is readily available about the outer environs of what is arguably the most famous medieval yamajiro (mountaintop castle) in all of the land...

I did myself near ugly then but I managed to explore a small part of the fortified network which protected the Uesugi heartlands, and plant my metaphorical flag on a lonely peak. It would take many days and much hiking to explore all of the branch forts. One day I might put together an expedition!
Nagaoka Castle (Omi) / 長岡城

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Nothing remains of Nagaokajō, which in any case appears to have been a simple fortified residence. I came by because I had some time to spare on the way to Maibara from Nagoya. I enjoyed walking around the small town. Much of Shiga Prefecture (formerly Ōmi Province) retains traditional townscapes replete with old homes, and Nagaoka is another such place. The vernacular architectural style is in evidence here. Mostly I just appreciated these aesthetically congruent dwellings until my next train came.
Nechi Castle / 根知城

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Nechijō is a monster yamajiro ruin, and one of the largest such sites in Echigo Province / Niigata Prefecture (Echigo + Sado) after Kasugayamajō. The castle could perhaps be divided between upper and lower complexes which are connected via a fortified ridge leading on from the Hinomi-kuruwa. Each part consists of a vast array of terraced baileys and earthworks, and each features extensive terracing of the mountainside and fortified spurs to the southeast. In addition to this the castle has several satellite fortifications. Features found at Nechijō, known as the castle of Murakami Yoshikiyo, include kuruwa (baileys), koshikuruwa (sub-baileys), dan-kuruwa (climbing stair-like mini-baileys), dorui (earthen ramparts), ishigaki (stone walls), horikiri (trenches), tatebori (climbing moats) and other earthworks, such as platforms which may have been used for small towers. There is a trail up to Nechijō from the east side behind a temple, Shōrenji (Murakami Yoshikiyo’s grave site is also found in Nechi Village but I didn’t have time to visit). The site is generally in a good state of maintenance (it is designated as a prefectural historical site), and the only difficult-to-traverse areas are the ridge spurs. These had camellia bushes growing on them at their prows (why there? Where the earth was banked?), and they pointed downward over the terraces for all the world like sakamogi (abatis)! It seems this castle ruin is growing its own defences. Nechijō and its sub-forts can occupy one for the better part of a day, and during my visit the autumn foliage was beautiful. Verily there I found myself in yamajiro paradise.
Nechi Kamijouyama Castle / 根知上城山城

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Kamijōyamajō (“Upper Castle Mount Castle”) is a satellite fortification site of Nechijō. If one has climbed to the highest point of Nechijō already then it isn’t so demanding to then reach Kamijōyamajō. However! I found the site very overgrown. The trail up was fine, and I made out several trenches though they were full of young bamboo, but the main bailey, which seemed quite large but with some terracing in the middle, is completely swamped with small trees, mostly camellia bushes, which make movement difficult. I also heard many animals, and saw a flash of grey accompanied by much ruckus which I think was a fleeing mountain goat. I didn’t see a fellow human on the entire castle mount, but this area was particularly wild. At a depression between Kamijōyamajō and Nechijō proper is a path which descends back down the mountain, and I took this to reach Kuriyamajō.
Nechi Kuriyama Castle / 根知栗山城

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Kuriyamajō is a satellite fortification of Nechijō, though situated on the lower slopes of the mountain just above the valley, and it was used as a residence (by Murakami Yoshikiyo, and this is more than likely where he died) more so than for holding territory. Nonetheless some impressive earthworks remain in the fashion typical of a fortified manor hall, including tall dorui (earthen ramparts) and karabori (dry moats). There is terracing evident around the site but this may be due to agricultural activity in subsequent centuries. The site is now given over to cedar plantations.
Notose Castle (Omi) / 能登瀬城

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Notosejō was a fortified residence. Although the site has been developed over with housing, traces remain of the castle. Namely, there are waterways on three sides, and these used to be moats fed from the Amano River. Though wider than irrigation channels and more angular that natural waterways, they are still rather narrow and may have lost their width in more recent times. From the waterways we can tell that the castle occupied an area which spread about 180m east-west and 120m north-south. Some bloggers say that the layout of the road into the area within the moat is indicative of a koguchi (castle gate) ruin. I became more interested in the old houses within the moat space (the same family which owned the castle still live here apparently), however, but the waterways were interesting, and in one place a walkway runs over one stretch parallel. It’s a nice agri-suburban scene.
Samegai Castle / 醒ヶ井城

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Sameǵaijō is a castle site on a small hill, or large hillock I suppose - hillet?, overlooking the traditional inn town of Sameǵai-juku. The shukuba (post town) has lots of nice architecture and I had also come to check it out (some pictures included here). The ruins of the castle are well hidden. A small alley to the southwest of the castle mount leads to a staircase to them. This stairway is maintained because the castle site is now a small cemetery shaded by bamboo. I actually went up from the northeast and came down in the southwest, but there is no trail from the northeast. It looks like there used to be a concrete stairway beneath the motorway but now it's gone or buried. The castle's structure is of a small central bailey area with terraced belt baileys in three tiers. The shukuruwa (main bailey) is only about 10m². To the north are some narrower banded baileys. The slopes are clearly carved, and ishigaki (stone walls) can also be seen. Beneath the castle mount the Jizō River was used as a moat. In its clear waters grow the Baikamo (marine plum blossom) for which the river is famous. The castle's residential area was likely where the shukuba subsequently grew up. The hillock I mentioned originally was part of a ridge but now a large motorway has severed it from the ridge. It's possible that there are more remains of fortifications on the ridge on the opposite side of the expressway, but I was not able to find out.
Shimomisu Castle / 三栖城

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The site of Misujō, also often called Shimomisujō, is now that of Misu Shrine. The shrine is surrounded on three sides by a deep karabori (dry moat), although the enclosed area is not so large. My impression was of some kind of fortified residence. It may be that the remains were part of a wider moat system which has since been developed over by surrounding suburbanisation.
Tanigadou Castle (Yamashiro) / 山城谷ヶ堂城

YamashiroTanigadoujou (1).JPG

I visited this site after going to Suzumushidera ('Temple of the Bell Crickets'), which is nearby. The site of Taniǵadōjō is situated above the temple Taniǵadō-Saifukuji. Since the map I was following indicated only the temple I thought I could quickly come here before dark, but once I got there I noted the hill behind the temple and got the strong suspicion that the mount had been fortified. Even though the sun was fast slipping behind the horizon, I found a path up the hill from the temple which climbed through a bamboo grove. The top of the hill had been flattened, indicative of a fort's bailey, and there was some terracing beneath, and so I am left to conclude that these are the remains of Taniǵadōjō.
Tarui Castle / 垂井城

Taruijou (7).JPG

The site of Taruijō is now that of temples. There is a marker and explanatory board for the castle in front of the temple Senshōji. The temple has some stone walls and interesting features, including the Tarui Spring, which we imagine the castle made use of, although there are no apparent ruins of the stronghold left today. The Nagaya Clan residence was also located nearby. Other nearby historical sites include the battle camp of Ikeda Terumasa and Tarui-juku honjin (main inn). I had things to do so I only checked the castle site.
Tawada Castle / 多和田城

Tawadajou (1).JPG

Tawadajō is an ancient castle ruin shrouded in the mystery of intervening eons. Its most salient feature is its stone-piled ramparts thought to be well over a millennium old. The site can be divided into three parts centred around three peaks of Kabutoyama which together enclose Tawada Village below in a horse shoe shape. The most important site and the one chiefly addressed in this article is the middle peak. Tawadajō, especially the middle site, is also referred to as the Samegai-kōgoishi, but I was not aware that any such kōgoishi sites existed this far east, most being found in Kyūshū. Kōgoishi, meaning “stones of divine protection”, are Asuka period fortified sites with ishigaki of mysterious origins, perhaps related to Chōsen-shiki koyamajiro (ancient Korean-style fortresses built on mountains in Japan). Although I've not much experience with Chōsen-shiki yamajiro, having only been to Ônojō, it seems to me that the structures at Tawada are quite different from those, and yet also very different from typical medieval forts. The middle peak remains run 153m north-south and 55m east-west. These stone-piled walls differ significantly from later ishigaki in their construction. Climbing segments of nobori-ishigaki also divide the mountainside into defensible areas, strongly suggesting a calculated fortification in this humble explorer’s opinion. Although most agree this is a castle site, it is admittedly not known beyond a doubt, and various theories have been posited, including that the site was a walled hamlet, a settlement of mysterious foreigners, a religious site, a Korean-style citadel, an Imperial stronghold of classical Japan, and even a mere signal tower of the warring states period (and having been to several of those I'm very surprised at such a claim; plus the view of Lake Biwa from the mount is obstructed).
Tonoyama Fort / 殿山砦

TonoyamaToride (1).JPG

There is a small hill here with terracing and a flattened peak. These are the ruins of Tonoyama-toride ('Lord Hill Fort').
Toujou Fort / 東城砦


Tōjō-toride, 'Eastern Castle Fort', is a branch fortification of Kasugayamajō, the famous yamajiro (mountaintop castle) of the Uesugi clan. The fort’s principal baileys straddle a hill wedged between the plain and a reservoir. There are two principal baileys on the hill. The higher situated one is the less preserved of the two, now serving as cemetery. Nonetheless, dorui (earthen ramparts) can be found here. The lower bailey is well maintained as part of the historical park, and it has dorui encasing it, with two entry points. A fence has been erected on the dorui. There is a reconstructed building in this bailey, too. As I recall there are no reconstructed buildings at Kasugayamajō itself. The earthworks here are exciting, and they sweep up high on both sides like the prow and aft of a ship (by the way, as a suffix '-maru' can refer both to a ship and to the bailey of a castle). An impressive structure known as the Kenmotsu Moat is located beneath the hilltop fort on the plain (making Tōjō-toride a hirayamajiro). This moat-and-berm construction zig-zags across the plain. A dobashi (earthen bridge) and koguchi (gate) ruin are located close to the hill fort. One side of this Kenmotsubori links up with the dorui around the hill fort, climbing up the hillside. The terminus of the other side is at the road which leads up to Kasugayamajō, but it originally enclosed the space beneath the hill by going all the way to the far side of the Kasuga Shrine.
Tsukanokoshikofun Fort / 塚ノ越古墳砦

TsukanokoshikofunToride (1).JPG

As one can tell from the name, Tsukanokoshikofun-toride is an earthworks fort built out of an ancient burial mound (a kofun). But, although the dorui (earthen ramparts) look smart, the area enclosed is a paltry 10m². That’s very small. This fort would’ve been of limited use against a large army or a small one for that matter, but it may have acted as a forward position of other better protected forts nearby, such as Tonoyama-toride.
Uesugi Yakata / 上杉館


Uesugi-yakata, the medieval fortified manor hall of the Uesugi Clan, is now a park, albeit its foot print used to extend across a much larger area of what is now just residential sprawl. There isn’t much to see in terms of any ruins, but there are some markers and explanations panels in the park.
Utasu Castle (Kaga) / 加賀宇多須城


I should not have gone to Utasujō for any other reason than its proximity to Kanazawajō. Since I had dedicated the previous day to visiting that great castle and its environs, my visiting this very minor site, Utasujō, can be considered incidental to that. It was also the spur of the moment thing; the weather had soured and threatened my original plans to leave Kanazawa that morning for Niigata. So I thought maybe there might be something to see here on Utatsuyama, a mountainous area northeast of Kanazawajō with many parks and temples. There are said to be several castle sites located in these foothills, of which Utasujō is one. Little to no ruins of Utasujō remain; it is now the site of a shrine complex centred around the Toyokuni shrine. Whilst terracing of the hillside is evident, it is not obvious whether this is related to any fortification of the hill, or just the Edo period shrine. I had expected a little more, perhaps naively, because the site appeared on a castle exploration app’ I was using. This app’ doesn’t have too many sites on (relatively speaking), so it can be useful for quickly seeing what might be worth investigating in an area. However, it tends to also highlight very minor sites if they are located close to larger, famous sites. I don’t know what to call this phenomena, but there are sites that, amongst castle fans, enjoy much more attention than they warrant, simply because they are not far from bigger sites that many explorers visit. This explains why such a minor site like Utasujō would feature on an app’ which simultaneously misses off literally thousands of better sites. However, I must credit Shiro-meguri with providing an explanation about the site, something I have not found anywhere else.
Zaoudou Castle / 蔵王堂城

Zaodoujou (1).JPG

Zaōdōjō is a castle ruin in the Zaō area of Nagaoka City. The ruins features a mizubori (water moat) and dorui (earthen ramparts). The dorui encompasses most of what was once the main bailey, now the site of a temple, and the mizubori covers two sides, passing beneath a bridge. The castle used to have more mizubori and dorui encircling many baileys besides, but most of the area has now been urbanised. Zaōdōjō was abandoned due to flooding in 1616 and replaced by nearby Nagaokajō.
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