ART Autumn Update Part 1
ART Autumn Update Part 1
This is the first of a multi part series updating ART's recent contributions to Jcastle.info
If you haven't seen ART's 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.
I'm still working on lots more updates myself. As always, follow me on Instagram or Facebook (links in the footer) for the latest updates.
Akiyoshi Fort / 秋吉砦
Amabiki Castle / 雨引城
Araihara Castle / 荒井原城
Awazawa Castle (Suwa) / 諏訪粟沢城
Choujaike Yakata / 長者池館
Fukui Castle (Shinano) / 信濃福井城
(I almost didn't make it, since the terrain was very steep to cycle on, and my rented electric bike had used up more than 90% of the battery by that time, but it used less than 1% on the way back, which should give you an idea of the elevation involved.)
Once can visit by bicycle or car because this is in fact a mostly flatland castle, or at least clifftop, situated on a plateau, and a forestry road goes through it. The impression of Fukuijō is of a large residential compound, but so large that one wonders who built it, since the nearby Suda and Takanashi clan complexes were not as large.
Fukuijō is divided into four baileys. Three baileys are arranged together in a row with karabori (dry moats) dividing them. To the south there is a large fourth bailey which flanks two of the baileys. Karabori wholly surrounds all baileys, including the outer fourth, and this extensive moat network is marvellously intact. Since the site is situated on a river terrace, some of the karabori descend as tatebori (climbing trenches), and there is a narrow band of terracing - more of a ledge, really - beneath the integral baileys above.
Dorui (earthen rampart) segments are found throughout the site, but are most extensive around the main bailey. Unlike some clifftop forts which don't use karabori to run parallel to the cliffline, Fukuijō also has a long moat stretching beneath the baileys and above the cliff, with dorui heaped up on the outside of this moat above the aforementioned narrow ledge. Actually, this is a feature I associate more with castles in Kantō than in Shinano...
I had a lot of fun following the moats. There's no break in them as they ensconce bailey after bailey, so that it occured to me that the baileys must've been accessed via wooden rather than earthen bridges; perhaps collapsible draw-bridges. There is a small stone wall in the main bailey, but it's not clear what time this dates from. The southwestern corner of the main bailey has a small platform of earth on the inside of the ramparts, suggesting that perhaps a small turret or tower was constructed here.This site is difficult to navigate as it is largely over-grown; formerly cultivated, it is now used as a cedar plantation. I also had to contend with snow, which I hadn't counted on since there was none in the basin below that day. Therefore, it is probably best to come in late autumn or early winter before the snow gathers, and absolutely not recommended during the summer months. Despite the conditions, Fukuijō was a great ruin to explore.
Fukujima Castle (Takai) / 高井福島城
Fuseyachouja Yakata / 伏屋長者館
Futta Castle (Suwa) / 諏訪古田城
Ganshouin Yakata / 岩松院館
Harano Castle (Suwa) / 原の城
Haruyamako Castle / 春山小城
Haruyamaoh Castle / 春山大城
Haruyamaôjō has a satellite fort, Haruyamakojō ('Spring Mountain Little Castle'), which is located further up the mountain. Together both sites are referred to as Haruyamajō ('Spring Mountain Castle'). I hiked up to this site starting from the temple Rendaiji, which is to the east of the castle mount.See also Haruyamako Castle, Watauchi Inoue Yakata and Inoue Yakata.
Hiki Castle / 日岐城
The integral baileys of this fort are set one after the other, numbering three, and a blacksmith is held to have been located in the third. Also there are several spurs of terracing, as well as the ridge spur with three horikiri. The terraced spurs are not maintained as part of the park and so one must go off the beaten track, as it were. At one point I had to go under a fence post (this was from the main bailey, and the final terrace of that spur would offer tremendous views if not for the trees). The main bailey has an elevated corner segment. Perhaps a small tower was built here. The main bailey’s shape has been warped somewhat by landslides. The effect of landslides is very obvious at this site.
Another notable portion of the castle is located on a peak a little separate from the rest of the earthworks. It has a mound which was the site of an observation post. Of course, now all one can see is the trees! This look-out area also has terracing below. At the foot of the mount is a flattened area used for mustering troops or keeping horses.Even though there are park features at this site, it is still fairly wild, and one must go through an animal barrier to reach the trail up. On the trail I disturbed a yamakagashi, a type of venomous snake (‘tiger keelback’).
Hoshina Maenoyama Fort / 保科前の山砦
Hoshina Yakata / 保科館
Ibarayama Castle / 茨山城
Ibarayamajō appears to have been made up of integral baileys esconced by obikuruwa (belt baileys), and maybe karabori (dry moats). There are remnants of these trenches in the forest around the clearing to the right as one comes up the hill. To the left of the torii gateway there appears to be nothing, but if one goes over the embankment then below there is clearly a horikiri (trench) bisecting the ridge. Beneath the main bailey on the western side one can trace a narrow ledge, now covered in cedars, which goes all the way to the rear of the bailey space, the remnant of either a ringing moat or narrow ring bailey perhaps.The earth at the rear of the main bailey is banked up wide enough to accomodate a small tower, and there is piled earth to the west of the main bailey. To be honest, it looks like these parts were modified with the construction of the shrine which was built in 1909 (the original shrine hall was destroyed in an earthquake in 2014, and now only a small kami house stands), as there's something off about them. To the rear of the main bailey is a depressed area.There is a path up from somewhere here working through a creek to the left, and to the right there is a solid earthen wall running north. This looks like dorui (earthen ramparts) but it's quite unusual in that it is attached to the embankment of the bailey above (a long earthen bridge then perhaps?). In this shaded area are two large, circular mounds: these are kofun (ancient tumuli) which predate the fort. They also show signs of being moated, whch was not unusual for kofun, even those built on hilltops. It's possible they also served some function at the medieval fort too, such as platforms for watch towers or smoke signals; they are considered to be within the footprint of the fort.
Inoue Castle / 井上城
Inoue Yakata / 井上館
Ioto Castle / 五百渡城
Jikouin Fort / 慈光院砦
Kakuhari Yashiki / 角張屋敷
Karatoriya Castle / 唐鳥屋城
Karatoriyajō protects two passes, Hanagawara Pass to the east, and Tachi Pass to the west. I hiked to the castle mount via Tachi Pass. There was a flattened area there which once hosted a rest-house for travellers going between the mountain valleys and basins which make up this alpine area. Since the climb from the Hanagawara side is apparently quite arduous, I’d recommend taking the Tachi route to the castle site. Opposite the trail to the Tachi pass is another trail which grants access to Kokuzōsan. I’d already been up there so as to visit Utsutsujō and some other ruins. I actually climbed all the way back up to Kokuzōsanjō to appreciate the view, which is magnificent. Tree cover obstructs the view from Karatoriyajō, though Kokuzōsanjō can be seen looming above between the foliage.In checking the readings for the above mentioned passes I came cross a site dedicated to mountain passes, ‘Tōge Oyaji’: https://tougeoyaji.ciao.jp/
Karidako Castle / 雁田小城
Karidakojō consists of a single bailey with a trench to the rear, albeit narrow between the rocky ridge, and terraced ishigaki (stonewalls) piled around in numerous bands to form a very neat square. The banding style of ishigaki is similar to that found at other sites in the area built by the Takanashi Clan, such as Tsutsuhatajō, but the ishigaki is in marvelous condition. I began to speculate immediately. Is it that these walls were maintained and re-piled by many generations of worshippers from Ganshōin below? Perhaps a shrine was built here, and so the castle walls were maintained at Karidakojō whilst other sites went neglected? Or perhaps there were no such walls here during the time of the fort. Why would the castle-builders go to such trouble to elaborately construct such a small, minor fort? The size of the fort is more suited of a simple look-out, after all. I cannot say. Something’s up, and there’s a mystery, but, at least, these walls are very handsome.See also: Tsutsuhata Castle I, Tsutsuhata Castle II, Tsutsuhata Castle III, Tsutsuhata Castle IV, Tsutsuhata Castle V, Takinoiri Castle, Ganshouin Yakata
Karidaoh Castle / 雁田大城
Karidaôjō is the main castle. It consists of a series of baileys separated by horikiri (trenches) and dorui (earthen ramaprts). The main bailey is forward and is split by a terrace with ishigaki (stone walls). It was formerly surrounded by ishigaki. Apparently there is a nice chunk on the south-facing slope, but – and I may have been a bit weary at that point – I didn’t check there as it wasn’t indicated on my map; though I had made many independent discoveries that day, that one slipped by me. Even so, I identified ishigaki. The trenches and ramparts are the features which stand out the clearest. The trail up to (I went down) Karidaôjō has some really nice scenery made up of interestingly weathered rocks. Descending from Karidaôjō brings one to Karidakojō. It is not too difficult to climb up to Karidaôjō, but going all the way to Takinoirijō would be tough; I descended from Takinoirijō having climbed up from Tsutsuhatajō on the northern ridge.See also: Tsutsuhata Castle I, Tsutsuhata Castle II, Tsutsuhata Castle III, Tsutsuhata Castle IV, Tsutsuhata Castle V, Takinoiri Castle, Karidako Castle, Ganshouin Yakata
Kariyahara Castle / 刈谷原城
The principal baileys of Kariyaharajō, the main bailey and one below it, are covered in fallen trees. Looking at some other blogs it wasn’t like this before 2020; some storm must’ve come through? I found the marker for the castle amidst shambolic, fallen trees in the topmost bailey. The marker was dated 1980! Amazing that it has survived so long.Kariyaharajō has a southern spur, an eastern spur and a western spur. I came up via the overgrown, dangerous southern spur, but the other spurs proved easier to navigate. Each spur is made up of small baileys divided by horikiri (trenches). The western spur was very clear with no fallen trees, as though it had escaped whatever storm had ravaged the other parts of the site. Here the autumn leaves fell thick and blanketed the forest floor like a lush snow. The sunlight was transmuted through the foliage and the mountain here was bathed in a yellow glow. For better or worse some lyrics by Coldplay came into my mind...
Kita Majino Castle / 北真志野城
I came back to this very minor site, Kita-Majinojō, in the Konami Township of Suwa Municipality, to check I didn’t miss anything. The Chūō Expressway, slayer of many a castle ruin, cuts through the middle of the castle site; the first time I chanced upon this site I found a sign to the west of the motorway explaining about Gongenzawajō, another name for this castle. There’s not much in the west and that area is now some old fields with slate walls criss-crossing. The ruins continue on the east side, however, so I came back to check those out.The east has a little more to offer, but only a little more than nothing. The site of Kita-Majinojō encompassed the hill where the Tademiya Shrine is. Behind the shrine is a wooded area which may be part of Nishiyama Park. There is a mallet golf course here. The terracing of the hillside is noteworthy here, and may be related to fortifications. There is even a depression which looks somewhat like a moat, and suggestions of dorui (earthen ramparts) along some of the terraces. Unfortunately none of these formations are very distinct, so impressions of castle ruins amount to nothing more than suspicions. It’s possible the terraces were sculpted for agriculture, or even the park, after all. At least it was nice to visit the shrine and park.
Kokuzousan Castle (Aida) / 会田虚空蔵山城
The entire complex consists of many smaller fortified ridges and terraced areas, but the main clusters of fortifications are generally considered to be Kokuzōsanjō, Nakanojinjō (Nakanojin Castle), Utsutsujō (Utsutsu Castle), and Akiyoshi-toride (Akiyoshi Fort). These ones often get dedicated profiles on castling blogs, but there are other fort sites besides. Also, Karatoriyajō (Karatoriya Castle) on a neighbouring mountain is also sometimes included. The complex is the core of a network of fortification sites all around and throughout the valley, in fact.Aida-Kokuzōsanjō itself is made up of narrow cleared spaces which form baileys along the ridge divided by trenches cut into the earth and rock. The view from the topmost bailey complex is incredible, and it’s nearly impossible to imagine assaulting such a hard to access castle. To the south, on the mountainside, there are columns of terraced pocket baileys which climb up the mountain’s frond-like ridges like gigantic stairways. I descended via the longest column of terraced baileys which start beneath the Iwaya-jinja, a shrine built clinging to a massive boulder. To the west of the main ridge is a jagged row of rock rising from out of the mountain like the spiky spine of a dragon. The best views can be enjoyed here. Beneath here, further along the ridge, is a well ruin. The ridge drops swiftly in elevation thereafter. Following that ridge brings one to several detached baileys and, eventually, the site of Utsutsujō. The other aforementioned forts are located to the southwest. Akiyoshi-toride has immediately beneath it an area of extensive, wide terracing and stone walls which probably hosted residences or barracks.
Kokuzousanminami Fort (Aida) / 会田虚空蔵山南砦
Kokuzousannanseioneno Castle (Aida) / 会田虚空蔵山南西尾根の城
Kokuzousannishi Fort (Aida) / 虚空蔵山西砦
Komasawa Castle / 駒澤城
To attack Komasawajō I was using a map by Yogo-sensei. Yogo-sensei actually made it up to this castle, so that was reassuring (it seems he gives up climbing to many sites in Shinano, and our province has bested him many a time – though, rather infamously for the man with the largest yamajiro blog, he doesn’t like climbing mountains). Anyway, I noticed several features not shown on his map. Yogo-sensei bases his map’s on Miyasaka Takeo’s, but I’ll assume that one is more complete though I haven’t seen it. Basically there is some terracing on the west side of the castle not shown on the map. Eastern slope terracing is shown. To me it seems that a spur from the ridge divides two flat areas beneath the middle section of the main castle, and that these were terraced and likely fortified. Further, a climbing trench dividing the northern baileys appears to continue as a lateral trench alongside one of these terraces before becoming a climbing trench again as it careens off the mountainside. There is no mistaking this extended tatebori (climbing moat) so I’m quite confident about this. Anyway, it’s always nice to be able to find things which aren’t on maps. On the other hand, features shown in the castle’s southern lower baileys (which I also noted terracing beneath on the western as well as eastern slope) seemed very deformed and ill-defined to me, and the map appeared more reconstruction than true depiction.Komazawajō’s most readily identifiable earthworks are probably, besides baileys themselves, the dorui (earthen rampart) segment dividing the main bailey in two, and the two horikiri (ridge trenches) to the rear of the site. I think Yogo-sensei may have missed some things so I wonder if he went in summer when things were a bit too overgrown. I went in autumn and the foliage around the temple beneath the castle mount was very beautiful. I also photographed some terraced areas beneath the temple because this is where the castle’s kyokan is presumed to have been, but the masonry and such here likely dates to the Edo period.
Kosakajinja Yakata / 小坂神社館
Koujin'o Castle / 荒神尾城
I really liked the compact, terraced baileys which made up the core the castle. The topmost bailey has remnants of dorui on the western side. The second bailey is below it in the east. There are no paths and one has to climb between the various baileys. There are two spurs from the main bailey, to the north and south. The southern spur is essentially a series of horikiri.
The northern spur is larger and has more horikiri with some narrow enclosures between. The northern spur goes on some way and terminates in a ridge with two horikiri either side, in the northwest and northeast. There is terracing and another horikiri on this northeastern ridge. If one goes down all this way one is rewarded with... climbing all the way back up! The northern portion of the castle is connected to the main, southerly area by a thin ridge which would’ve been perilous to attack along. When I visited there was a beautiful tree with red autumnal leaves here.I think Kōjin‘ojō would make a good introduction to Nagano’s hidden yamajiro treasures for intermediate castle explorers, but it’s rather difficult to get to the area on public transport, and there are no trails up the mountain. I cycled there from Matsumoto downtown on a mountain road through the Shinagura Pass, and then climbed the eastern ridge directly, using gloves. I thought there may have been some indication of terracing and horikiri remains along this ridge too.
Koya Castle / 小屋城
Majinooyashiki Yakata / 真志野御屋敷館
Maruyama Mandaira Yakata / 丸山万平館
Maruyama Tonomura Yakata / 丸山殿村館
Masugata Castle (Suwa) / 諏訪枡形城
Masugata Castle (Takai) / 高井枡形城
Starting from the village of Yamada, I climbed the ridge to the main bailey complex, which is terraced with a lower and upper portion, and is surrounded by the remains of masonry and dorui (earthen ramparts). The northwest and northeast spurs apparently contain horikiri (trenches) and baileys, but the whole of the mountaintop is thickly coated in bamboo, and I could find no feasible way to take me to either ridge.Note: This Masugatajō is in the historical Takai County, and is not to be confused with Masugatajō in the historical Minochi County (Masugata Castle (Minochi)), also in Shinano Province / Nagano Prefecture.
Mikkaichiba Castle / 三日市場城
Mikkaichiba Yakata / 三日市場館
Minamiohshio Castle (Suwa) / 諏訪南大塩城
Oct 30, 2023
ART Autumn Update Part 3
Oct 22, 2023
ART Autumn Update Part 2
Oct 21, 2023
ART Autumn Update Part 1
Aug 5, 2023
ART Summer 2023 Update: Part 3
Jul 30, 2023
ART Summer 2023 Update: Part 2
Jul 23, 2023
ART Summer 2023 Update: Part 1
Jun 26, 2023
Silver Linings Castlebook (3 new castles in Saitama)
Jun 3, 2023
ART Spring 2023 Update - 40 castles
May 28, 2023
Genbao Castle, Iimori Castle, Nozaki Castle Added
Apr 24, 2023
Spring Cleaning and 8 new castles
Jan 14, 2023
4 new castles, 2 updates and new videos
Jan 2, 2023
Shiga Prefecture: 4 new castles, 1 update
Dec 28, 2022
Hikone Castle Town in-depth article
Oct 14, 2022
ART Update 2022 Part 6
Oct 10, 2022
New Samurai Homes by ART(2022)
Sep 27, 2022
New castle contributions from ChrisG
Sep 13, 2022
ART Update 2022 Part 5
Sep 9, 2022
ART Update 2022 Part 4