41 new castle profiles from ART

From Jcastle.info

41 New Castle Profiles From ART


ART, the dauntless castle explorer, has added 41 new castle profiles from his travels. 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.

He has also kindly added new or renewed photos for these castles.

New Castles


Aizu Odayama Castle / 会津小田山城


I came here under the impression that parts of the Sengoku Period fort had been reconstructed. There was a sign at the trail head warning of the presence of bears. I picked up a large Y-shaped stick for our protection. In jest I called out the bears. Somewhere up the mountain a young man was singing as loud as possible. We came to a couple of former look-out nests, and, going deeper into the undergrowth toward the ruins of a trench, I discovered very fresh bear dung. The path winding onward went back down the mountainside so we turned back. I was still to find any reconstruction efforts. Using old pictures to discern the shape of the trees in the background I eventually identified a slope with signs of being built on in the recent past. Here had stood a gate and wooden palings, but for some reason they had been pulled down. It was quite the disappointment for so much adventuring. The best thing about coming here turned out to be the view of Aizu Wakamatsu Castle on the plain.
Azumi Kameyama Castle / 安曇亀山城


Behind a gate to stop animals. Take the gate opposite Kinshouji. Close the gate behind you.
Azumi Nishiyama Castle / 安曇西山城


The ruins of Nishiyama Castle consist of a series of baileys along the mountain ridge perforated by trenches created by digging into the ridge. The trail at the foot of the castle mount winds up first to the sannokuruwa (third bailey), and then carries on to the ninokuruwa (second bailey) and ichinokuruwa (first bailey). After that there is a trail which goes down the other side of the mountain and crosses Milk River. The double karabori (dry moats) immediately after the second bailey (toward the first bailey) were my favourite feature of the castle. There is a shrine located in the first bailey. Each bailey and some trenches are marked – others aren’t. The ninokuruwa and sannokuruwa are next to each other but the ichinokuruwa is located discontiguous to the east. The castle combined with the scenery, including snow-dusted mountain peaks and milky flowing rivers, makes for a pleasant hike.
Baba Yashiki / 馬場屋敷


Baba-yashiki is a wealthy farmer's residence from the late Edo period. Quite curiously the residence is fortified: it is surrounded by dorui (defensive embankments of piled earth) and the large gates on the property are also formidable. Whilst some more elaborate farmers' homes had gatehouses, the main gate at the Baba Residence has mushamado, windows flanking the entrance at which (likely armed) guards would've been stationed. This gate is a Nagayamon type doubles as a guard house. I wonder about the rooftiles used. The choice of hibi (roof ornamentation) would indicate a degree of status above farmer! Indeed the shachihoko (tiger-fish) motiff was found usually only on temples and castles (later they could be found on public buildings and in modern times private citizens sometimes put them on their houses too). Although not ostensibly a fort in itself, it turns out that the residence functioned as a sort of secret branch base for the Suwa Clan and Takashima Domain! Sometimes temples were also utilised in this way. Original notes from 2019. History section updated in 2022 (ART).
Chikuma Asahi Castle / 筑摩旭城


I was really appreciative to find a worn out old marker at the flat top of the mountain summit indicating its former existence. Asahijō (旭城) is in Asahi-mura (朝日村) but they take different kanji.
Ema Yakata / 江馬館


Yakata were the fortified manor houses of land-holding warriors. In the Heian Period power gradually moved from the capital, Heian (Kyōto), and the Imperial Court, to the land-owning warrior caste. These samurai, originally servants, later masters, built bukeyashiki (warrior residences) and eventually larger administrative centers called Yakata. The Kamakura and Muromachi periods saw the establishment of many Yakata. There were intermitten conflicts however and Yamajiro (mountain castles) also began to be built during this time as temporary forts to use during times of invasion and siege. Ema(shi)-yakata, of the Ema Clan, is one of the few reconstructed Yakata. It blends elements of shinden-dzukuri and shoin-dzukuri architecture and contains a preserved medieval era garden (it was buried under rice fields and later excavated remarkably intact). Large pounded earth walls with a gate and moats surround the site. Only the main hall has been reconstructed within the walls but other structures have been mapped out with decking where they once stood. Various subsidiary buildings also existed surrounding the main compound. The main hall contains a warrior's audience chamber with a hidden room attached to conceal men-at-arms. One can see the Yakata from above if one visits the main bailey of Takaharasuwajō. Another castle site is nearby, Higashimachijō / Kamiokajō, which features a faux reconstructed keep.
Fukushima Castle / 福島城


Honmaru is now the site of the Fukushima Prefectural Offices Profile and photos by ART
Hanakuma Castle / 花隈城


The stone walls you see here are all mock stone walls. Originally the Anoshu masons from Omi were brought in to build the stone walls, so those you see here are not representative of the correct style. The original main keep was located at nearby Fukutokuji Temple.
Hida Kojima Castle / 飛騨小島城


Kojima Castle is currently off-limits (sort of). The hiking trail is blocked off with electric wire. A road with a gate at the foot of the mountain can be opened and the long and narrow road thereafter leads to a fork in the mountains; taking the right here leads directly to the castle where there is space to park. However, the road is poorly maintained. The mountain is ringed with a fence to stop animals wondering into town. Gates in this fence are closed with a chain but can be opened. Bears are skulking around. Exercise caution if you visit.
Hida Takayama Castle / 高山城


Takayamajō has a jutting portion of ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) still intact on the honmaru (main bailey). Formerly a great castellated palace dominated the mountain clad with ishigaki, but now only this part remains, the former site of the "messenger's room", a place beside the main entrance to the citadel for messengers to rest. There was also a hall with a sentry tower atop, a bōrōgata tenshu (watch-tower style main keep) typical of the Sengoku Period. The ninomaru (second bailey) is now clear. The sannomaru (third bailey) contains a shrine and is surrounded by a mizubori (water moat). Beyond that is the historical town of Takayama. Both outer baileys contained palatial residences, and another smaller residence was located between the second and central bailey, the chūdan-yakata. The Gōhōdaira, a flattened area on the mountain slopes, contained salt stores. An area with the temple Shōrenji, which has thick earthen walls and and a medieval temple hall, may have formerly contained the bukeyashiki of the vassals of the Kanamori Clan who ruled Takayama Domain from the start of the Edo Period until 1692 when it became a tenryō (territory directly administrated by the Bakufu (Shogunate)). More bukeyashiki were likely located at the foot of the castle mountain beyond the mizubori. The town was subsequently redeveloped around Takayama-jin'ya, the new administrative center of the domain after 1695.
Hodarakuji Castle / 補陀楽寺城


Hodarakuji Castle is named for Hodaraku Temple, which is to be found at the castle site today. A community center is also here. Unlike the larger, better preserved Ohharajō nearby, Hodarakujijō is not closed to the public, so I was able to look all around it. It is a basic square in layout, with remains of dorui (earth-piled ramparts) ringing it. If the fort formerly had a moat then it has now been filled in, and there's just grass around parts of it instead. It's possible that this moat has been excavated and refilled in modern times. The mountain name of the temple (all temples have an honourific mountain attached to them even if they're on flatland) is Beffu, the same as another castle site located nearby, of which I found even less remains. The remains of Ichibajin'yamajō are located less than 100m away, of which nearly nothing remains. Nearby sites: Ohhara Castle, Kouka Beffu Castle, Kouka Ichibajin'yama Castle.
Iwaki Taira Castle / 磐城平城

IwakiTaira (37).JPG

Photos and profile contributed by ART. I think this is my first contribution to the site!
Kasane Castle / 重ね城


I went to Kasane Castle because when I was about to leave Takei Castle I saw a sign tied to a tree pointing to it. I had no idea about it but curiosity drove me on. I’d already merrily expended energy running around Takeijō so I had to break a couple of times on the way, but then I also have the habit of running up steeper slopes. It’s a form of laziness really. I was about to give up when I saw the mountain summit because it seemed the ridge would never end but just get steeper. However, at that time I saw another sign which had fallen down indicating that the castle was close by. The whole far side of the mountain, which Kasanejō is atop of, is cordoned off, creating a colourful but bedraggled barrier hemming in the site. Essentially the ruin is an undulating formation of baileys perforated by horikiri, trenches that dissect the ridge. Some of the trails were strewn with collapsed trees. I was able to identify the main bailey and multiple horikiri but the long abandoned and foreboding atmosphere of the mount was probably the most memorable part of my visit. Since the climb from Takeijō is time-consuming and arduous, it probably isn’t worth visiting Kasanejō unless one feels a sense of duty to visit the latter as part of the former. (co-ordinates are my best guess)
Kita Kumai Castle / 北熊井城

KitaKumai (7).JPG

Kumaijō is a twin castle complex consisting of Kita-Kumaijō (lit. North Bear Well Castle) and Minami-Kumaijō (lit. South Bear Well Castle), although they are some distance apart. Of the two ruins those of the northern castle are much more extensive. The river valley gradually slopes up towards the mountains which hem it in and protruding out of this sloping elevation Kumaijō is arranged like a ladder or stairway. In the middle of these terraced baileys is the honmaru (main bailey). To the east are three more baileys, climbing the slope and eventually merging into it. To the west are likewise three baileys, rising above the surrounding slopes and plain.

Each bailey is separated by trenches, some very deep, and each trench slopes off into a chute on eitherside of the castle. To the south a significant trench also flanks the length of the castle, separating it from a depression which leads to a stream, and here at the point between baileys the trenches form intersections; there are at least three of these cross-shaped trenches.

Between the honmaru and the first eastern bailey is a tripple trench system. The most westerly trench is the most shallow and feels more intimately connected with the honmaru. The middle trench is the deepest and most awesome. The most easterly is also quite deep. The deepest and widest trench at the entire castle is between the honmaru and the first western bailey. It's interesting that on one side of the honmaru Kumaijō's builders developed a series of three trenches and on the other they opted for digging out one really big one. The only baileys without a trench seperating them are the second and third west baileys, which merely have an embankment between.
Komatsu Castle / 小松城


The only remnants of this once sprawling castle are the main keep foundation and a portion of the stone wall of a moat nearby. A small yakuimon from the original castle now stands on the grounds of a nearby elementary school and a yaguramon was also repurposed to use as the gate for the Raishoji Temple. The castle's honmaru is now a park, the ninomaru (second bailey) is now a high school, and the sannomaru (third bailey) is now the Rojo Park. Other baileys which existed are now built over with residential sprawl. The original profile is from ART with updated photos by Eric.
Koromo Castle / 拳母城


Koromo Castle consists of a stone wall segment with a turret atop. The turret is not original and was reconstructed in 1978 (English Wikipedia says “1959”, which I think is a mistake, and Japanese Wikipedia says 1977; I’m using 1978 because that’s what the sign at the site says). Now part of a park, the site is quite small, although the original castle was more expansive. A depiction of the original castle is shown at the site. The yagura was not open when we visited. Next to the castle is a large tea pavilion called Yūjitsutei which was originally built as a sho’in and chashitsu at Terabejō (long lost go’ten remnant perhaps? Although Terabejō became a jin’ya in 1618), but was relocated to a temple, Ryūju’in, in 1892 before being acquired by Toyota City in 1977. Original profile by ART (2019), history updated and some new photos added by Eric (2020).
Koya Yakata / 小屋館


The former site of Muraijō / Koyajō was on my way back home from another site, Momose-jin'ya, so I stopped by, but otherwise I wouldn't've bothered. Absolutely nothing remains of the fort. The only clue as to its existence is a signboard detailing the history of the site. The land is now occupied by maisonettes. Comparing my pictures online with others I noticed that a small wooden marker is now missing. That is the most significant thing I can report. I was surprised to find that Muraijō has its own wikipedia article (in Japanese)! So I've translated that for the history section above. I've called it Koya-yakata as the main name for this article because that's how I found it first and because maybe there's a much better Murai Castle or Koya Castle worthy of taking up the name on this website somewhere.
Magome Castle / 馬籠城


A small hill choked by bamboo and surrounded by fields is all that remains of Magomejō.
Matsukura Castle / 松倉城


Matsukurajō is a mountaintop castle in old Hida Province, located in the mountains surrounding Takayama. There are several castles in the area but Matsukurajō has the most ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) remaining. It is an interesting site to visit for castle fans who like ishigaki I think. The honmaru (main bailey) and an adjacent area which contained a yagura (turret) is stone-clad, although only one corner of the honmaru retains its full height, the other corner segments having been degraded with time, often with their stone blocks still scattered below where they collapsed, now overgrown like neglected graves. The ninomaru (second bailey) is by now denuded of its stone ramparts but nonetheless its contours are readily appreciated from the yaguradai and honmaru. We climbed up from the sannomaru (third bailey). There is parking just below there. The short trail starts with a warning about bears and an empty bucket with kosh attached. You whack it to make a lot of noise so as to forewarn any bears which may be around of your presence. Bears really hate it when you sneak up on them, as they are a secretive bunch. I took to this saftey precaution with the enthusiasm of a child permitted to break rules, hammering on the bucket loudly and shouting - we didn't have bear bells. Matsukurajō is also accessed via a trail starting from the Hida no Sato outdoor folkhome museum. The lower extremities of Matsukurajō extend into that park, as I found deformed dorui (earth-piled ramparts) there. The castle mount looms over the relocated farmhouses.
Minakuchi Okayama Castle / 水口岡山城


The main draw at the Minakuchi-Okayama Castle site for castle fans is perhaps the several large baileys and remaining segments of ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts). I first entered the site at the northern most bailey where there is a reconstructed portion of walls with loopholes, as well as a wooden look-out tower. The look-out gives one a view of the town and Minakuchijō is visible from here. Then there is a sizable horikiri. The next integral bailey is the honmaru (main bailey), and the "ishigaki course" starts here, wrapping around the honmaru where the remaining ishigaki can be seen. There is one largish segment, one small segment, and then trace amounts here and there clinging to the old ramparts of the honmaru. The path around the honmaru is not complete, being broken by a steep area which is untraversible, and so some doubling back is required to see everything. The path near the largest ishigaki segment is very narrow. Some foliage makes it seem like the path is wider but in fact it hides a steep drop, so caution is necessary. After exploring the honmaru, which contains a curious hokora (altar), I visited subsequent baileys which steadily terrace the mountain. As I descended I found each bailey more overgrown and unruly than the last. At some point before now a temporary inflatable representation of the main keep at Minakuchi-Okayamajō was erected. When I asked the guide at Minakuchijō about potential reconstructions at that site, he opined that we were more likely to see some sort of reconstruction at Okayamajō and that there was some interest in that. I visited Okayamajō after Minakuchijō. The two sites represent castle construction at different time periods and for different purposes, so they make a nice contrast. The more advanced stonework at the flatland castle contrasts sharply with the piling methods evident at this mountain castle.
Minami Kumai Castle / 南熊井城


The ruins of Minami-Kumaijō are now the site of Shōrinji; this name (Pine Forest Temple) is apt as shaded beneath the tall trees where spiders make ornate their palaces of web, the castle's ramparts sit taciturn and brooding in the shade. Peering through the pines we can spy these sullen ruins. My favourite view was at a junction where a koshiguruwa (hip bailey) met with a large climbing trench. I took the place where a small shrine squatted to be the middle bailey and on above that there was a now farmed bailey with a masugata gate complex arrnagement leading between it and the temple structures below.
Myougi Castle / 妙義城


Myōgijō (also called Myōgisanjō) was a medieval mountain citadel used by the Mimura Clan alongside their fortified manor house at the foot of the mountain. The main residence was the manor house but in times of trouble the fortified mountain was a safe place to retreat to. At that time there were many such mountaintop fortresses used in conjunction with fortified residences (called Yakata or sometimes Bukeyashiki). The ruin consists of the central bailey situated on a flattened area at the top of the mountain and a secondary bailey slightly below that. Unusually large trenches, at least for a site of this size, surround these baileys, cutting deep into the mountainside. Striping the mountain ridges are also the deformed remains of tatebori (climbing trenches). According to a sign at the site, these earthworks are called Ōtatebori and Ōhorikiri. The site can be accessed by either taking a trail from Chōkōji or from Kamai’an, a cottage built by an artisan-hermit in 1783 and subsequently used as a school to educate commoners. It is on the site of the former Yakata. At the foot of the mountain there is an embankment overlooking terraced paddies. Although there is a torii gateway here it is not the start of the trail: that can be found to the right, past the Seba Village Museum. Information about the castle and the Mimura Clan is presented in the museum.
Nagashima Castle / 長島城


I stopped by Nagashimajō on the way back to Nagoya from Kuwana, having been to see Kuwanajō. The former castle site is now occupied by a school. In front of the school's main entrance is a large pine tree. This pine tree grows ontop of where a turret of the castle once stood. The castle's Ohtemon gate has been recycled, or parts of it have, as the Sanmon (main gate) of a nearby temple, Renshōji. The area was much more rural than I had expected and contained some old structures.
Nagisa Castle / 渚城


Nagisajō, possesses no ruins, and the only evidence that a fortification ever existed here is to be found on a small stone slab erected beside the temple gate which explains about it. I went around the back of the temple too just to make doubly sure I wasn't missing anything, and there is cleared land here which once likely was part of the castle, now no doubt waiting to be developed over. I wouldn't have come here except I was passing right by it and thought, hey, it's a bonus; I was actually on my way to Inukaijō. The stone marker calls the fortification Nagisauchijō, but various online sources simply call it Nagisajō. The "uchi" in Nagisauchijō could simply refer to an inner part of a fort, perhaps? But I don't get the impression that this base was ever very big. "Nagisa" usually refers to the part of a shore where the tide breaks, but given that Matsumoto is nowhere near the coast I guess that the name is a reference to the water's edge of the nearby rivers which surround the site on three sides (the Narai River in the west and the Ta River in the East, splitting in the north). In this context "Nagisauchi" would mean something like "between riversides", a reference to its fortifiable position between waterways. Nagisa is also the name of this area in western central Matsumoto between the aforementioned rivers and there is also a Nagisa Station.
Nakahara Yakata / 中原館


Since I didn't expect to find anything at the former site of Nakahara-yakata, I was pleasantly surprised to find the remnants of a moat, now dry, and some deformed dorui (earthen embankments). I had to look around for a bit but I eventually found the signpost signifying the ruin in front of a house. The site is now occupied by fields, rural homes and some maisonettes. I came to Imai to check out some of the rural architecture and so my inspecting the ruin was intended as an incidental diversion; whilst I found it mildly interesting, it's probably not worth going out of one's way for.
Nata Castle / 那谷城


Natajō, which shares a mountain with Natadera, was a Sengoku Period castle probably most curious for its "dead man's slope" and originally being accessed via a tunnel. Rock formations create natural barriers which protect it. There were no trails from the temple so I couldn't get very far with this one, but the purpose of the visit was anyway to see the temple so I wasn't too fussed. Where I had wanted to find a trail near a large pond I saw a horikiri and rock cutting, but there was a sign there refusing entry.
Nishi Aoki Castle / 西青木城


The castle has a main bailey 30m x 40m in a typical yakatajiro design. The Nishi (west) castle is paired with Higashi Aoki Castle (forthcoming), creating a castle pair, which is another common strategy for Koka Castles. The Nishi Aoki Castle seems to have a more well developed structure and design indicating it is the main castle of the pair. The pair is so close and the Higashi castle rather under developed so they are sometimes listed as one single Aoki Castle too.
Oguchi Castle / 小口城


Oguchijō is a Sengoku Period flatland castle. It had double moats forming a square and rammed earth embankments. Portions of the fortification have been restored, including walls, dry moats, a bridge, a gate and a watch tower. There is also a small museum building, which looks like it may represent a shuden (Lord’s Hall) from without. Remains include the ramparts themselves and a small tumulus of piled earth which may have supported a turret. This site is quite remarkable in that it possesses a tall watchtower (miyagura). The layout of the castle is known from historical schematics, and the watchtower is very much like something we might expect to see at a Sengoku Period site. However, things get a bit curious from here. The miyagura stands on a platform of ishigaki (piled stones) which is clearly a modern addition to the site. On the stone-clad ramparts a stucco-earthen wall has been erected with yasama (loop holes). The site is accessed via a Kōraimon type gate and traditional bridge. So this site now seems to be combination of a Sengoku Period castle and an Edo Period castle, even though the castle only existed throughout the Sengoku Period. The gaps between the Miyagura and the dobei wall are particularly jarring, but otherwise I appreciated the spectacle. I also noticed that the openings built into the wooden panels coating the stairwell which ascends the watchtower face in-ward toward the castle. I’m not sure of the utility of this: one would expect the shutters to face-outward toward any potential attacker. Views from the top of the watchtower are impressive. Oguchijō is located roughly between Komakijō, Iwakurajō and Inuyamajō. I was able to see Komakijō from here as an odd protrusion on a distant hilltop. Zooming in with my camera revealed the vaguely yagura-shaped dot more clearly, but a clear view was obstructed by a pylon. If I had realised how close I was to other sites, I would’ve looked for other castles as well; maybe Inuyamajō can also be spied from the tower, since it’s closest. The remains of a sunken pit furnace can be found at Oguchijō, indicating that is used to possess a blacksmith.
Owari Asahi Castle / Owari-Asahijō


Owari-Asahijō is a faux reconstruction / mogi-tenshu located on the historical site of Niijō. Now a park, the remains of Nii Castle are identifiable, although small in scale. Firstly there are dorui (embankments) in a semi-oval layout enclosing the honkuruwa (main bailey). This is the most readily identifiable part of the castle ruin. Downhill are more deformed embankment remains and a break in the slope which may have been a subsidiary bailey. The ninokuruwa (second bailey) is now a tennis court. It seems Niijō was only a small fort. Of course, the main draw of the park is the faux reconstructed keep, built in 1978. No such structure like this existed here historically. That goes without saying really for castle fans. The structure is built from concrete and has large, plain glass windows which always look suspect on a supposed castle tower. Inside is a ground floor restaurant, and some historical displays on the intermediary floors. The top floor is a look out. Here the windows are largest! One can see the shape of the original castle mount from here quite nicely. On the opposite side the view is of the surrounding town, and, somewhat oddly, a conspicuously rectangular spot of cultivated land in the middle of the residential sprawl. The mock castle tower is prominently viewed from the road running alongside the park. Some effort (only some) on this side of the castle was made to make the windows look more fitting for a castle, and so this is perhaps the castle’s most flattering angle in fact. The “castle mount park” is also home to a relocated kominka (traditional folk home) built in a vernacular style, dating to 1816. I saw several folk homes in the same style in the surrounding countryside. All had had their thatched rooftops replaced with sheet metal. Even though the one at Niijō was relocated and preserved, it also no longer has its thatching, which is a shame. Although easy to get to from Nagoya, I don’t recommend visiting here unless you’ve exhausted all other sites of interest nearby.
Ryuusenji Castle / 龍泉寺城


Dragon Spring Temple Castle. Ryūsenji is a temple related to castles in two main ways. Firstly, it is itself a former castle site. Secondly, the temple is located in an auspicious location in respect to Nagoya Castle, protecting it from ill-harm, metaphysically, as it was an official guardian temple of the castle, being located to its northeast. For this reason a faux tenshu was built in the temple’s garden. It looks sort of like a mini version of Nagoyajō. The structure also sees utility as the temple’s museum, displaying various artefacts. I also think that this mogi-tenshu is somewhat special in that it was built by a temple, and it is decorated with Buddhist motifs, such as the dharma wheel displayed on the roof tiles. The same roof tiles on the tenshu are used around the temple, including on a house opposite the parking area, and so I took that to be perhaps the priest’s house. According to Wikipedia there are remains of a karabori (dry moat) on site, but I didn’t see where. The temple is located on a hill with a sweeping view over nearby plains, and so would’ve been an ideal location for a fort. By the way, having previously saw Komakijō from the miyagura at Oguchijō, I was amused to see it again from the lookout at Ryūsenji. Komakijō seems to be visible from many places if you look to the distance.
Sekidousan Castle / 石動山城


Sekidōsanjō is a castle ruin overlooking a fortified monastic community centered around Ōmiyabō (now reconstructed). There is a main bailey ringed by residual dorui (earthen embankments) and surrounded at the base of the ramparts by a karabori (dry moat). The guide at Ōmiyabō accompanied me up. The paved path to the castle abruptly plummets over a cliff in one place, clearly damaged by a landslide.
Sukegawakaibou Castle / 助川海防城


Sukegawakaibōjō is now a terraced park on a hillside surrounded by a residential area. One ascends the several tiers to the Honmaru which affords a strategic view of the coast. Profile and photos by ART
Suwa Hanaoka Castle / 諏訪花岡城


Hanaokajō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin. It has two principle baileys, between which is a horikiri (trench), and around which are earth-piled embankments. In particular, of the dorui (earthen ramparts) around the honmaru, the portion facing the second bailey is embossed like a fat lip to give extra height to the defences looming over the trench which intersects the baileys - an interesting feature. The main bailey is surrounded by terraces of sub-baileys which ring the mountain. The lower reaches of the mountin provide natural defence. It is especially steep on the lake front side. To the southeast Hanaokajō was bordered by Lake Suwa, and to the northwest ran the Tenryūgawa (Heaven Dragon River). Nowadays roads and some buildings separate the elevated castle ruin from these managed natural features. Nevertheless the castle site gives nice views of the river and lake. A portion of the castle mount projects outward from beyond the second bailey in the direction of town, and that now contains a shrine and torii-choked causeway to fox-god Inari (but which also features the onbashira (heaven-holding holy pillars) typical of the shrines of Suwa). I ascended here up a jagged and earth-sunken stone stairway to the shrine and then onto the castle. I descended on a path from the main and ring baileys. This path goes by a large temple hall which now dominates the hillside. The symbology and architecture of this structure seems wholly contrived and is likely a worship hall of some new age religion or other - or, cult, the kind of which abound in Japan. The castle has parking access and public toilets; it seems that it is a popular local cherry blossom viewing spot in that season. Nowadays it is mostly a nice park. It's probably best to appreciate this site in autumn or spring, but I enjoyed seeing the fat beetles and bees frolicking and picnicking among the hydrangea.
Suwa Okaya Castle / 諏訪岡谷城


I only came to this former castle site because it shares space with a temple I wanted to see. There's no ruins I could identify beyond perhaps where former baileys were located. The temple's necropolis now dominates the hillside. This expanding cemetery may have followed a footprint laid down by the former castle, but whether these terraces constitute sub-baileys of the castle I am not prepared to say. What was presumably the center of the castle and main bailey is now a small park. From below we can see the temple mount raise up behind the temple, Shōkōji. The mountain name attached to Shōkōji is Jōkōsan (城向山), a name evoking a castle. Modern stone-pilings can be found throughout the graveyard, and several shrines are also located on the hillside.
Takaharasuwa Castle / 高原諏訪城


I had no plan to visit Takaharasuwajō that day until I learned about its history in connection with the fortified manor house of the Ema Clan, the Ema-yakata. It is physically removed from the yakata, however, and only one of many such castles in the area of Kamioka town. Since a mountain road goes directly by the castle ruin it is possible to drive there, although there's only space to park by the entrance to the trail head for a single vehicle. Castle ruins are apparent immediately as the trail starts. Here there is a double trench system with buddhist statues scattered here and there. Another horikiri (trench) linked to an incredibly long tatebori (climbing moat) running the height of the mountain is located before the central bailey, which has more climbing moats around it. The central bailey is almost entirely surrounded by a ring bailey, which I liked. Ascending to the central bailey itself gives a brilliant view of the valley below, especially of the reconstructed yakata. The mogi-tenshu at Kamiokajō is also visible from here.
Takao Castle / 高尾城


Takaojō is known locally for its views of Kanazawa. When we went there there were a great number of grasshoppers of many different species. Each step brough them up out the grass like a ripple in a puddle. The largest was a female of a green variety which is camouflaged in grass (look closely at the picture of the grass!). And I also saw a snake likely trying to eat said grasshoppers; it had a reddish tint around the neck. As for the castle, a series of concentric rings create a semi-circular terrace around the central bailey. The effect is so uniform that I wasn't sure it wasn't modern in truth. Each tier is surmounted by a curving row of trees (probably cherry blossoms). This effect can be seen on satellite imagery of the site. Half of the castle mount is now covered in bamboo. The castle also likely extended down that way, and I think I identified a horikiri (trench) there, but there are signs warning visitors not to go on. Off limits then is the kojō (old castle) which predates the bailey of that which we came to. Apparently there are ishigaki remains at the old castle.
Takei Castle / 武居城


I was very happy with Takeijō. For a small site there are a variety of different features and ruins. Whilst some parts were difficult to access, most of the ruin was well sign-posted with information (only Japanese). Takeijō features three integral baileys: ninokuruwa (Second Bailey), sannokuruwa (Third Bailey), and shukuruwa (Lord’s Bailey), and sub-baileys, called koshi-kuruwa (hip baileys) and obi-kuruwa (ring bailey). The obi-kuruwa is particularly fun because it starts at the foot of the shukuruwa and wraps near all the way around it before ascending to the entrance of the main bailey. Trenches include tatebori (climbing moats), which streak the mountain as though a giant comb was scraped down it, yokobori (side moats), horikiri (trenches which cut through the mountain ridges to create redoubts), and nijūhorikiri (double trenches), which I also call twin trenches.The castle ruin is situated on the slope of a mountain. The entire hillside is surrounded by an electrified fence to prevent wild animals from entering the village of Asahi (an on-going problem for the locals apparently because there are also remains of boar pits and other defences in the village). The fence behind the kabukimon, which marks the entrance to the castle, is intimidating, but can be unlocked and entered. Luckily I had my gloves on to open the lock because it was spitting sparks due to the electrification. And so the castle is well-defended even today! On even ground at the foot of the mountain / castle is a park area with a tea house called Wadōan.
Tenjin'yama Castle / 天神山城


Tenjinyamajō is a castle ruin within 20km of the infamous Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Powerplant. Although it has been possible to visit here since 2012, the residents have only been able to return permanently since Semptember 2015 after decontamination efforts made the area safe again for long term inhabitation. Tenjinyamajō is now a park and the Honmaru is the site of a shrine to the scholar god, Tenjin. The site has lots of moats and earthen ramparts which are very well delineated, encompassing the baileys honmaru (main bailey), ninomaru (second bailey), sannomaru (third bailey) and Sotomaru (Outer Bailey). The whole castle sits on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. At the castle’s outermost edge are the ruins of a wide moat which has partially returned to nature, as a swamp, the rest of it turned into a water feature for the park.
Yamazaki Castle / 山崎城


A short trip from Kyōto, Ōyamazaki is a very pretty little town packed full of tradition and history, famous for oil production. The castle ruin is an ideal destination for hiking fans if they visit here. Ascending the mountain one passes by many murals erected by the municipality showing the history of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Battle of Yamazaki. (ART 2017)

For such a well known site, I was a little disappointed in this one because there were not as many clear ruins as I had expected to see. Around the honmaru you can find a few stones remaining from the original stonework and a few more if you pick around in the wooded sides of the bailey. There is also a bailey with a well and some slight earthen embankments and several side baileys. The most clear embankments are those of the honmaru and the bailey with the well. Looking at the map there should have been a tatedorui (vertical running earthen embankment) from the honmaru but with a lot of similar looking ground it was a bit difficult to make it out. The highlight of this castle is definitely the giant trench around the Northeast side that is not often covered in other materials about the castle. If you visit Yamazaki Castle, it would could be good to plan in some of the other attractions related to the battle with Akechi Mitsuhide like his encampment at the Igenoyama Kofun and Shoryuji Castle. I got a late start due to a long train stoppage and then some unexpected rain dumped on me on the way back to the station so I called it quits after the castle. (Eric 2022)

Photos updated from Eric's trip in 2022.
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39 months ago
Score 1++
It's been lots of fun!!!