ART Spring 2023 Update - 40 castles


ART Spring 2023 Update - 40 castles


A spring 2023 update from ART includes 40 new castles and 2 samurai homes from Ashimori down in Okayama Prefecture.

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.


Ano Yakata / 阿野館

SurugaAnoYakata (1).JPG

Ano-yakata is a fortified manor hall site with dorui (earthen ramparts) remaining around a temple, Daisenji (大泉寺). I anticipated just a regular inspection of some earthen mounds, but, unbelievably at this minor site, received a guided tour! The volunteer guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. Next to the temple gate was a table with many different coloured incense sticks. Each box of joss sticks was labelled with an effect it would produce in lighting and praying with, such as giving one perseverance or alleviating anxiety. As per usual, a lighted stick I placed in the urn before the temple hall. The impromptu guide showed where the cenotaphs of Ano Zenjō and Ano Tokimoto were, and so another stick I set there. The road leading to the temple and the temple gate is not aligned, and this, I was told, was because it was formerly the site of a masugata (angled) gate complex. I hadn’t noticed! The remaining dorui is quite tall. It faces the road, once an important trade route, and in bygone times a coastal swamp extended up to it (the modern municipality name is called Numaźu (‘Swamp Wave’) and so I suppose that’s why).
Aoiyama Castle / 青井山城

Aoiyamajou (1).JPG

Aoiyamajō is now the site of a nature park overlooking Obama. The castle mount has been extensively modified as part of the park, with roads and an observation deck. There are cleared spaces throughout. One cleared space along the ridge between the summit and Kōseiji looks like it could’ve been a bailey. Between this park where there is a statue of a soldier and the road which grants access to the observation area, I found what looked like a tatebori (climbing trench). Trenches are rumoured to be found here! So perhaps this is one. There is also a pass cut through the ridge, but since this is used as a path it is difficult to ascertain whether it was originally used as a trench at the castle or not. These features are the closest I came to confirming any fortification ruins. The site is accessed from trails either side of Kōseiji. The temple itself is very nice, and the entrance to the trail to the northeast has what looks – if we use our imaginations – like a moat and ramparts, though these are unrelated to any medieval fortifications, and were probably built as part of the park since there is a war memorial stele directly above. From the castle mount the ruins of Obama Castle are visible.
Ashigara Teraba Fort / 足柄城寺場砦

AshigaraTerabaToride (1).JPG

Teraba-toride is a satellite fortification of Ashigarajō. Ashigarajō appears to have several outlying forts located along the mountain ridge to the northeast, but Teraba-toride is in the northwest and close to Ashigarajō proper, and that is the only one I investigated. My impression of the site is of a simple flattened area forming a bailey at the tip of the ridge, protected from the rear by a sizable trench, with some evidence of heaped up earth to serve as barriers above the trench. These appear to be earthworks related to a fortification.

Ashigarajō is an earthworks fort site straddling a mountain pass. The main bailey is well maintained as mountain parkland. Features include kuruwa (baileys), karabori (dry moats), and other earthworks, such as trenches and dorui (earthen ramparts). The further one goes from the main bailey the quieter it becomes, and, although it was busy the day I visited, it seems few casual visitors venture to go the whole length of the ruins. The karabori dividing the outer baileys are quite wide, and these karabori were my favourite feature of Ashigarajō. The Ashigara-seki, a checkpoint site, is located beneath the main part of the castle.

For more information on the other satellite fortifications of Ashigara (not including this one), see Yogo's blog in the link under 'Friends of JCastle'.
Ashimori Jin'ya / 足守陣屋

AshimoriJinya (1).JPG

Ashimori-jin’ya is a picturesque site. There are original structures, including a respectable, multistorey tea pavilion, in the garden which was part of the jin’ya. The garden is a kind of small daimyō garden, and is therefore another precious artefact of the Edo period. The site is surrounded by a mizubori (water moat) lined with ishigaki (stone-piled retaining walls), and even the stone bridge over the moat is at least partially original. There is also a masugata (square gate complex) ruin. These features are small in scale, but that just makes it all the more impressive that they have survived all this time. On the site of the jin’ya today is a park and the residence famous for being the birthplace of Kinoshita Rigen, a famous poet. More importantly, this was the latter day residence of the lords of Ashimori Domain. I don’t think we can call it a goten (palace), and the main jin’ya buildings are now gone, and so I’ll class this one as a bukeyashiki (‘samurai house’), or daimyō residence, albeit a humble one. I don’t suppose Lord Kinoshita was too particular about categorising each structure; that is a modern ailment.There are other bukeyashiki in the well preserved jin'ya-machi besides, including the residence of the Ashimori Domain karō (chief retainer) which is open to the public (for free).
Awaya Yakata / 粟屋館

AwayaYakata (1).JPG

Awaya-yakata is a yakata (fortified manor hall) site, which served as the kyokan (residential area) of Kuniyoshijō. The remains are impressive, and include many terraces which climb up the mountainside on the way to the mountaintop castle site above. Toward the bottom and centre of the kyokan there is a lot of ishigaki (stone-piled masonry) left. There is much more ishigaki here than at the castle above, and it is also markedly different to the later built ishigaki at the nearby ruins of the Sagaki-jin'ya. To the east there is another area with somewhat indeterminate earthworks, covered in snow as I found it. To the west there is a well developed area with dorui (earthen ramparts). There is a long karabori (dry moat) protecting the mountainside to the rear of the yakata.
Chamachi Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩茶町台場

ObamahanChamachiDaiba (1).JPG

Chamachi-daiba was a daiba (gun emplacement) in the Chamachi (‘Tea District’) of Tsuruga. Of the daiba, built by Obama Domain to protect the port of Tsuruga, no ruins remain, but there is a large stone lantern which was used as a beacon for fishermen. The site is adjacent to a harbor beneath the Great Tsuruga Bay Bridge (the bridge is very tall despite its short span).
Daiun'in Doi / 大雲院土居

DaiuninDoi (5).JPG

There is a parking area and small park opposite the temple Daiun'in which is surrounded by dorui (earthen ramparts) which is overgrown with bamboo. This is the remains of a fort and residence site called Daiun'in-doi. The obscure term 'doi' conjures up an image of piled earth surrounding a residence, or that of medieval defensive earthworks. The temple's sanmon (main gate) is also said to be a relocated structure from Fukuzawajō, of which Daiun'in-doi was a satellite fortification.
Fuchu Castle (Hitachi) / 常陸府中城

HitachiFuchuujouA (10).JPG

Of Fuchūjō, which mostly consist of earthworks though there is also an extant gate from the time of the jin’ya (Fuchūjō has a layered history which I discuss below), I found some dorui (earthen ramparts) and a karabori (dry moat system). Something was stirring as I entered the town of Ishioka, and things seemed lively, but I was a bit insensible as to what was going on, though I did note many stalls being set up. Just as I approached the extant castle gate, as though in co-ordination with my taking my first photograph, a festival float swung by. I considered this very fortuitous. Many people were watching the float and sitting in front of the gate. After leaving behind the growing crowds, I visited the castle ruins.

There are tall mounds of earthen ramparts surrounding Ishioka Elementary School, the remains of Ishioka-jin’ya, and a surviving gate has been relocated to in front of a public meeting hall nearby. Parts of the medieval structure of the castle are evident here and there, and the terrain is steep in parts, though suburbanisation has obscured much. The clearest remnant of Fuchūjō is a karabori, and grass and such in it has been cleared back so it is easier to see. I jumped down into it, of course. It goes a little way along before dropping into a climbing moat. I scrambled up the other side and found that dorui had been heaped up here to increase the height of the ramparts. There were flattened areas which could’ve been terraced baileys but the bamboo grew too thick to easily investigate. It seems more ruins may be found to the north where this moat system continued, but that is all private property and fenced off. Apparently there is a demaru (detached bailey) on the cliff to the north, but I couldn’t get close to the forested slope, and the top of the hill is in any case developed over with housing.

Local Festival:

When I came back from my exploration of the castle ruins the festival was in full swing and it was much bigger than I had anticipated! The main road was by now shut down to vehicular traffic and along it came lurching large festival floats, much taller than the smaller one I had witnessed earlier. I enjoyed a shandy whilst watching the festivities. It was a tremendously fortunate thing, I thought, since I had not known about the festival in this small town before coming.

Along the streets leading to the main roads many old houses had their shutters and doors wide open to visitors, showing their beautiful interiors. Some hosted shop stalls, others banquets. Children and dogs popped their heads out of windows and balconies as the float came around; this smaller float, which went along the smaller roads to visit people’s individual homes, was led by a dancing dragon (a real one no doubt!).

The main road hosted large floats with ornate effigies atop. People sat atop and within the floats to beat drums, play music, and dance. The shrine-shaped portable structures opened up to the front with a stage area where comic dancers wriggled their limbs and wore jocular, whistling masks. The rear of the floats had banners proclaiming the name of the neighbourhood responsible for their parading. There was ‘Midtown’, ‘Forest District’, and so on. These beautiful, lurching pavilions on wheels were hauled along on a series of ropes by a score of men and women (children and dogs helped too). The pivoting of one of these floating pavilions was an incredible feat, and the crowds cheered as one of largest swung about a full ninety degrees to trundle down a side road.

In addition to many stalls and shopfronts wide open, I might also comment on some other things which caught my attention. The skyline of the town changed as the floats moved in procession. I noticed some older architecture, Taishō period, I think, including kanbanźukuri with long oxidised copper plating. These complimented the floats. Whilst taking a gulp of my pink lemonade shandy – refreshing with plenty of pulp – I noticed a little boy crawling about at my feet. He was chasing a tiny gold-coloured bauble which had probably come loose from somebody’s bracelet. The preoccupation with the small and trivial whilst the main show surged on unheeded by him was something amusing.

Many people had come out in kimono and geta, and those involved directly in the pulling or manning of the pavilions wore either splendid kimono or, for those to whom more physical duties were deputised, something like a carpenter’s apron with dungarees and tabi (two-toed footwear). Many townspeople, young and old, were in these matching aprons, and they appeared to me the salt of the earth, especially the burly, young men who pulled on the thick ropes from the front of the floats. I happened to look into a café, and saw an older man there, his face stoic like a moai’s; from the collars and cuffs of his shirt protruded the heads and claws of dragons.

I felt in some way that all of Japan was represented at the festival, and that Japan itself was well represented. I am maybe a sensitive type in my own way, and when I go into large cities like Tōkyō or London, I feel there a sense of alienation from the surrounding country, as though one has entered into ‘the global city’, with its mere flavouring of Japan in Tōkyō, or its glossing of Englishness in London, in each country maintaining a portal into the same many-faced city with its soulless, materialist core – a great and hungry monster. But in the small town and provinces the people are at home, and their roots go deep and firm. I pray for their traditions to go unbroken, and for their character and population to remain robust.
Fukayama Castle (Suruga) / 駿河深山城

SurugaFukayamajou (8).JPG

Fukayamajō is a truly mysterious castle ruin and strange place to visit. In the township of Suyama in Susono Municipality there is a forest road which leads to an abandoned hamlet. A hiking trail from this hamlet leads to the ruins of Fukayamajō. The site is flanked by a river. The river is mostly dried up, leaving behind a landscape of beautifully sculpted rock - like small canyons - in the riverbed. The rocks lining the river, some of which have been piled into stone walls, originally built to prevent wild animals from crossing the river into fields beyond, are lush with moss. With the river dry except for some puddles and tarns here or there - and, further up-stream, a small reservoir of crystalline blue hue - the silence is insistent, and what birds I did see fluttered about quietly without neary a chirp nor twitter.

The sense of abandonment and forboding grows steadily the longer one lingers here. The beautiful but chilling natural landscape is also blighted in some places by rubbish and old junk, including traces of piping and barbed wire. The area has a natural beauty, but seems avoided. Small wonder then that it is considered haunted. Yet, relatively recently, some sign posts have been installed which point out the ruins of Fukuyamajō, and there is an explanatory board with a primitive map. The trail has been cleared of plants.

The ruins themselves are coated in a thick cedar plantation which is not maintained, and include kuruwa (baileys) and some earthworks, such as embankments which line the trail, and, most prominently, a large karabori (dry moat) beneath the ichinokuruwa (main bailey), which is the top most bailey, sitting above the second and third bailey in turn. The ruins are for the most part very deformed, and to me the baileys did not seem well defined, though the karabori is well preserved (but it is the only one). The ninokuruwa (second bailey) is a dug-out type bailey where a portion of the ridge was left from an excavation to wrap around the flattened bailey area. These ruins are strange and inscrutable even to experienced castle-explorers, and the setting is uncanny, so that there is a sense of the weird and mysterious at Fukayamajō.
Hachimanshita Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩八幡下台場

ObamahanHachimanshitaDaiba (1).JPG

Hachimanshita-daiba is a (former) battery emplacement site in Obama. The site is now a small park. It is located along the shore, now known as Ningyōnohama ('Mermaid Beach'). No ruins remain of the daiba.
Hikida Castle / 疋田城

Hikidajou (1).JPG

Owing to my 'Imp of the Perverse', instead of going somewhere for winter break with less snow like Ôsaka as I had originally planned, I went to Fukui! Perhaps I wanted to trapse about in deep snow after all. Well, after mostly avoiding the white stuff at sites near the coast, I finally had more than enough snow to slog through at Hikidajō. Hikidajō is on a small hill / plateau slope in a mountainous valley, so, being close to 'New Hikida Station', it wasn't difficult to get to, just to navigate. Nonetheless, the most impressive features of this site were fully visible.

Features include karabori (dry moats), kuruwa (baileys), terracing, a tenshudai (platform for a donjon) and ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts). Whilst some of the smaller stacked ishigaki may not date to the time of the castle, much older-looking ishigaki remains around the eastern moat. The site is not a park but is used for agricultural plots and allotments. The main bailey complex is bounded by a karabori on three sides, and probably originally on a fourth to the south, though that was subsequently levelled and filled-in for the construction of a school, itself now also demolished. The western karabori continues on to encompass much of the hill, but it is overgrown in the north where it flanks the second bailey grouping and a potential third bailey which is now the site of a shrine. Because of snow depth I limited my explorations to the first and second bailey complexes. It is thought that the former site of the school constituted additional baileys but now no ruins remain there.

Between the second and first baileys there is an open expanse which is connected to the western karabori. It is accessed via a very narrow passageway between terraces lined with stone. There is also a deep well before it which I'm glad I didn't fall in. It's hard to tell if these are ruins of the castle or where reworked when the castle site was put to plough in subsequent centuries. If it was part of the castle then a short bridge was likely laid over the top to connect the upper parts of the first and second bailey, and there would be enough room to crawl below, but given that the gap is only very narrow, I think probably this was originally a solid earthen bridge area, but that it was dug through and lined with stones by farmers looking for easy access to the flat moat area on the other side.

The castle is alternatively called Hikidajō and Hikitajō (I wonder which it is the locals use!). The village is called Hikida. The kanji used also varies, with 壇, usually read 'dan', also used for the castle name.
Houjiin Doi / 宝持院土居

HoujiinDoi (1).JPG

Hōjiin-doi is a fort site of which dorui (earthen ramparts) remain, mostly surrounding the temple of Hōjiin for which the site is named. The dorui is somewhat hidden by trees and plants but can be discerned running for some length beside the temple architecture. Beside the temple gate the embankments are thick, and this is likely a corner segment of dorui which perhaps hosted a turret or small tower of some kind. The obscure term 'doi' conjures up an image of piled earth surrounding a residence, or that of medieval defensive earthworks. There are several of these 'doi' throughout the area. Even though I thought this site, on the edge of the settlement of Gotemba, was quite obscure, it has several ratings and reviews on Google Maps... ^^". One commentor says that there is a relocated gate (from where?). To me though the temple's main gate doesn't seem so aged, and so I think that 'local guide' may be confusing it for the nearby Daiun'in-doi which has a relocated gate - it is said - from Fukazawajō. The only architecture here is for the temple, though it does include a large main hall and belfry. The fort probably had a residence hall and maybe even a bell tower, but they probably looked quite different from what is on site now.
Ide Yakata / 井出館

IdeYakata (1).JPG

Ide-yakata is the medieval fortified manor hall and later residence of the Ide Clan. The residence, which is still occupied, retains a beautiful kōraimon style gate and nagaya (rowhouses) from the Edo period. The yashiki is located close to the beautiful Shiraito Falls which we visited beforehand and I would highly recommend stopping by. I bought a gratuitous amount of dried persimmons from a stall there.
Ishihama Castle / 石浜城

Ishihamajou (1).JPG

Ishihamajō is a medieval castle of which nothing remains. The site is known principally from historical documents. The site today, the location of which is deduced rather than unearthed, is that of Ishihama Shrine and Ishihama Castle Park (the exact location of this site is disputed as there are different theories, but Tōkyō Metropolitan authorities list it as a buried cultural property just north of Ishihama-jinja). Ishihama Castle Park is basically a small, local park with some sports cages and benches. I’ve never been to a park named for a castle with so little castle to see. The shrine is nice, and it does have some modern mock-up ishigaki, which is the closest one gets to the feeling of a castle here. Other castle sites in Tōkyō are now things like office blocks, so Ishihamajō is lucky it got a park! It is considered of some historical importance and also has a Japanese language Wikipedia article.
Isshiki Castle (Suruga) / 駿河一色城

SurugaIsshikijou (1).JPG

Isshikkijō of Suruga Province is an earthworks fort ruin situated on a small plateau. Ruins include dorui (earthen ramparts) and a karabori (dry moat), and these can be seen from the rear of the site where there is a footpath. I get nervous whenever there is a footpath in a karabori because one wonders if it isn’t some subsequent cutting to create a pass, but the karabori continues and becomes a tatebori (falling moat) even as the path turns off around a bend. The bailey above is surrounded by dorui. I could see that by poking my head in from the koguchi (gate site), but one cannot actually enter the bailey itself as it is private property used as farmland.
Junhanshi Yashiki / 准藩士屋敷

JunhanshiYashiki (3).JPG

Junhanshi-yashiki is a fortified residence and prison site in Sagaki, Mihama Municipality. Only ishigaki (stone walls) remain. The site is near to Sagaki Jin'ya and I checked out the ruins of the yashiki on my way there.
Kamo Castle (Bitchu) / 備中鴨庄城

BitchuuKamojou (11).JPG

Not much remains of Kamojō in Tsukubo County. A sign on the roadside points to the castle’s second bailey where there are some remnants of dorui (earthen ramparts). Viewed from above it seems like the surrounding rice paddies, which are situated at lower elevation, where reclaimed from the castle’s moat. Probably this was swampland in medieval times.
Kamomegasaki Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩鴎ヶ崎台場

ObamahanKamomegasakiDaiba (1).JPG

Located close to the Kanegasaki-daiba, the Kamomegasaki-daiba was actually built at higher elevation on the terrace of the cape of Kanegasaki overlooking the port town of Tsuruga. Due to the levelled ground on the otherwise steep hill, one can imagine the old cannon emplacement here, but there are no remains other than landscaping.
Kanegasaki Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩金ヶ崎台場

ObamahanKanegasakiDaiba (1).JPG

Kaneǵasaki-daiba was a daiba (battery emplacement) constructed by the Obama Domain in the Bakumatsu period to protect the port of Tsuruga. The daiba was built at near sea level rather than on top of the cape itself. The Kamomeǵasaki-daiba was built above it there to facilitate a double layer array of cannon. Kaneǵasaki-daiba is now the site of an old railroad near the redbrick warehouses which are a tourist spot in Tsuruga. This former depot now contains restaurants and a museum (trains and dinosaurs). There was a velociraptor in a lab coat outside for some reason. The tourist appeal of redbrick structures is somewhat lost on me as I come from a town of old red brick houses and warehouses crumbling in stagnant docklands. The Tsuruga twin depot structures were built in the early 20th century, and restored in 2015. In Tsuruga the Bakumatsu period installations are long gone.
Kanmuriyama Castle (Bitchu) / 備中冠山城

BitchuuKanmuriyamajou (1).JPG

Kanmuriyamajō is small yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin in Kibi County. I wasn’t going to go because the site seemed quite hostile during the off-season, but it’s only a small hill and very easy to access, so I couldn’t simply cycle on past. I doused myself in bug repellent and wore hiking gloves and long sleeves, but I was nonetheless besieged by large mosquitoes as soon as I entered the ruins. Because of this I spent ten minutes or less quickly having a look around.

The ruins of Kanmuriyamajō consist of earthworks, mostly levelling and terracing which divides the hilltop into baileys which climb up like a step-ladder. Below the main bailey there is a second bailey, and below that a third bailey. There is a very large pit at the entrance to the site, which is heavily coated in bamboo and trees, and this is thought to have been a well dug at the castle. Each bailey is signposted. There is a gate ruin at the entrance to the site. The main bailey is now a small, neglected park with a stela.

A map I was following by Yogo-sensei indicates that there may be tatebori (climbing moats) on the far side of the main bailey, but since the area was so overgrown and bug-ridden, I had to cut my explorations short.
Kanzeyamachi Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩観世屋町台場

ObamahanKanzeyamachiDaiba (1).JPG

Kanzeyamachi-daiba was a daiba (cannon battery) used to defend the port town of Tsuruga by the Obama Domain in the Bakumatsu period. No ruins remain and the site is now that of Tsuruga City Museum; the museum appears to be a well-built municipal building of the industrial era. From Japan’s industrialisation period there are many artifacts in Tsuruga, and the town has a Meiji-Taishō period vibe to it in parts.
Kawasaki Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩川崎台場

ObamahanKawasakiDaiba (2).JPG

Kawasaki-daiba was a battery emplacement built by the Obama Domain in the Bakumatsu period. The site is now a small park at the edge of reclaimed land used mostly for industrial purposes. The park is surrounded by embankments. My impression was that these embankments were the remains of the daiba; there is a small explanation panel about the daiba and its history.
Kaya Yakata / 賀陽館

BitchuuKayaYakata (8).JPG

Kaya-yakata features the remains of swampy mizubori (water moats) and dorui (earthen ramparts). The fortifications measure 61m north-south by 76m east-west in a rectangular formation. The ruins to the south are most prominent. The dorui is about 2m thick. The moats are quite wide relative to the compound, about 30m wide and 1m deep. The site is now that of an abandoned farmstead and is very overgrown, making exploration difficult. Surely this is a mysterious site. The ruins are obscurred, but can be ascertained. Yet the history is conjecture. Many medieval yakata (fortified manor halls) are still inhabited this day, but usually with large, rural residences, often with traditional architecture. One feels their noble heritage. Yet this residence seemed to me rundown and impoverished. The moats, far from being maintained or even farmed, are a swampy morass. The site is surrounded by paddies and swampland, and the road in does not come off any of the main roads, but winds almost hidden from a backroad between polders. I got a sense of poverty and forboding. If the modern house isn't abandoned already then I'd shudder to think who would go on living here.
Kuniyoshi Castle / 国吉城

Kuniyoshijou (1).JPG

Kuniyoshijō can refer to a multispatial, multilayered historic site centred on the ruins of the medieval mountaintop castle of Kuniyoshijō. The castle itself is medieval in origins, playing a prominent role locally during the Sengoku period. At the foot of the castle mount was where Awaya Katsuhisa, lord of the castle, had his residence. The castle's kyokan (residential area) was quite vast, but the centre of the yakata (fortified manor hall), Awaya-yakata, appears to have been northwest of the Edo period bugyōsho (magistrate's office) / jin'ya site. Awaya-yakata and Kuniyoshijō formed a typical jōkan complex of a manor hall with a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) defending it and acting as a fortified redoubt in times of conflict. The foot of the castle mount later played host to several proto-modern facilities, and the ruins of these are located nearby and adjacent to those of the medieval ruins.

Kuniyoshijō is on the list of 'Next Top 100 Castles' and 'Top 100 Yamajiro'. I walked there from Mihama Station. The ruins at the foot of the mountain or hill in the case of many yamajiro are often negligible, but Kuniyoshijō is a busy site in terms of history. The lower ruins are at least half of the reason to visit this site. I'll cover each portion of the site separately.

As for Kuniyoshijō itself, it is a yamajiro with many baileys. There is evidence of ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) near the main bailey at the top of the castle mount, though much of the masonry has long since collapsed. Other features include gate complex ruins and dorui (earthen ramparts). One significant portion of dorui is at the rear of the main bailey; it is thought to have been a yaguradai, a base for a tower. Another interesting dorui formation can be found dividing a pair of lower baileys to the southwest. To the northwest there is a long spur made up of consecutive baileys. As I was a bit pressed for time I didn't explore them in detail, though I could see to the very end by going down to the middle bailey. The terracing here is impressive, and I could make out the masugata(square)-shaped depressions in the earth which once served as gate sites.

Related Sites:

Awaya Yakata

Sagaki Jin'ya

Junhanshi Yashiki

Obama Castle

Nochiseyama Castle

Ichijodani Castle
Matsubara Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩松原台場

ObamahanMatsubaraDaiba (1).JPG

Matsubara-daiba is a battery (gun emplacement) site in Tsuruga constructed by the Obama Domain in the Bakumatsu period. No ruins remain, but the site is located in Matsubara Forest, a coastal forest-park with pine trees and a beach. There was actually a tourist information centre in the park, so I thought about asking there about the daiba site, but I saw that the old man inside the office was having a kip so I left him to it. The pine trees are centuries old and were probably put in place as a coastal defence measure; the forest was managed by Kebi-jingū, an ancient shrine in Tsuruga. The exact site of the daiba is a sports ground where the pines were cleared. It’s possible much of the site is on re-claimed land, and that it was originally an artificial island, like many daiba, as the neighbourhood is called Matsushima.
Matsugashita Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩松ヶ下台場

ObamahanMatsugashitaDaiba (4).JPG

Matsuǵashita-daiba was a battery emplacement site built by Obama Domain. No ruins remain, and the site is now that of a small shrine and old storehouses. It is located along the shore, now known as Ningyōnohama ('Mermaid Beach'), where there are statues of European-style mermaids (traditional Japanese 'people-fish' look very different). It was raining during my daiba tour. There were lots of old storehouses and old style town homes here. The thick windows shutters of the earth and stucco storehouses are designed to prevent fire damage to the goods within.
Myokenji Jinsho / 妙顕寺陣所

MyoukenjiJinsho (2).JPG

Myōkenji-jinsho was the encampment used by Oda Nobunaga during his invasion of Echizen. Myōkenji, a temple, was fortified and used as a base to co-ordinate the siege of enemy forts nearby. Myōkenji still stands today, though the architecture does not date to the time of the jinsho (1570). The main hall actually looks very new, but in a nice way. The temple's sanmon (main gate) is also impressive.
Nanjou Yakata / 南条館

NanjouYakata (1).JPG

Nanjō-yakata is a fortified manor hall ruin; it is now the site of Myōrenji, a temple. Ruins of the yakata can be found mainly in the north of the temple’s precincts in a shaded, forested area. Earthworks are evident in the form of dorui (earthen ramparts) and a segment of karabori (dry moat).
Ohmiya Castle (Suruga) / 駿河大宮城

SurugaOhmiyajou (5).JPG

Ômiyajō is located adjacent to Ômiya-taisha in a neighbourhood called Motoshiro, which basically means ‘castle site’. No ruins remain above ground, though excavations in the past unearthed a 10m wide moat, as well as the remains of earthen ramparts, wells and buildings.
Oishi Castle (Bitchu) / 備中生石城

BitchuuOishijou (1).JPG

Oishijō is a medieval castle which later became a fortified position during the siege of Bitchū-Takamtsujō. It was located in Kibi County, Bitchū Province. No ruins remain and the site is now a shrine, Oishi-jinja.
Oshirohama Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜御城浜台場

ObamahanOshirohamaDaiba (2).JPG

Oshirohama-daiba was a battery emplacement constructed by Obama Domain in the Bakumatsu Period. No ruins remain and the site is now housing.
Sagaki Jin'ya / 佐柿陣屋

SagakiJinya (1).JPG

The site of Sagaki-jin'ya now hosts a museum, though it was closed when I visited (a sign said it was closed during winter). The museum building is actually the relocated residence of a shōya (village magistrate) from the late Edo period. Ruins of the jin'ya are chiefly its ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts), though apparently other structures exist off-site, having been relocated when the jin'ya was decommissioned. A gate which was relocated has been moved back, but it appears that it's actually inside of the museum (without the roof portion), so I couldn't see it. There was also something that looked like a small trebuchet near the museum.
Shuukouan'ura Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩州江庵裏台場

ObamahanShuukouanuraDaiba (2).JPG

Shūkōan’ura-daiba was a daiba built by Obama Domain. There is a field with embankments which was once the site of a daiba, a (cannon) battery emplacement built under the orders of the bakufu (Shogunate) in the Bakumatsu period. The field is elevated above the adjacent road, and a dock is opposite. I suppose in the Bakumatsu period this is where the shore reached to. The road is lined with trees in pairs which were quite nice. There are no ruins in particular to see, however. There is a temple to the south called Shūkōin, and so the daiba must be named for that.
Takahara Castle (Suruga) / 駿河高原城

SurugaTakaharajou (1).JPG

Castle blogs report that no ruins remain of Takaharajō. The hill has terraces and the peak rises a little above the nursing home which now occupies the site, but I could identify no definite fortification remains. The fort was located at the terminus of a jutting plateau (Hoshiyama) and would've been ideal for a fort.
Takeda Motonobu Yakata / 武田元信館

WakasaTakedaMotonobuYakata (4).JPG

No confirmed ruins remain of this yakata, and the site is now Obama Park. There are some rows of mounded earth which sort of look like embankments, and a path beneath those which an over active imagination could construe as a moat trace, but the layout is circular, and the sloping on the inside of the embankments is too gradual, and so this looks like only landscaping for the park after all. Also considering the early date of the yakata, and that I can find no confirmation of remains here, I would not say there are fortification remains here. There is a single errant mound of earth heaped up on the other side of the road from the park entrance, however, and I couldn't account for that; very random - an old base for an altar?
Tezutsuyama Castle / 天筒山城

Tezutsuyamajou (1).JPG

I went to Teźutsuyamajō not once but twice! The evening after my first visit I did more research on the site and became convinced that there was lots to see that I had missed, as the main part of the site is now maintained as a park. I became focused particularly on a mysterious 'north branch' of the fort, though other ridge spurs supposedly contain remains too. Since it was raining and the trailhead was near to Kebi Shrine where I had wanted to visit, I made a second ascent to double-check in the morning, but found very little to show for a fresh assault. Well, at least I shook off that feeling of non-completion which may sometimes plague a castle explorer.

Teźutsuyamajō is a mountaintop fort site and branch fort of the lower situated Kaneǵasakijō. Ruins are said to include kuruwa (baileys), horikiri (trenches) and even dorui (earthen ramparts). These features, however, are not easy to identify, and the main part of the fort has been developed as parkland, obscuring the original shape of the fort. Many castle bloggers indicate horikiri remains along the northern approach to the fort mount between it and Kaneǵasakijō. Without much priming (I had found a map online but it was of poor quality), I also noticed these earthworks, but I was not confident about them as fortification ruins. The first excavation appeared to me to be an old road. It did not seem medieval, but it's hard to judge. I walked along before backtracking to climb up the ridge atop of this trench for a better look. There was what looked like an old road curving away down the mountain, and an embankment where the road curves (unlike a trench which would fully bisect the ridge) is evident even when viewed from the trail. I have no confidence in this "trench".

Another indicated horikiri is the site of a pass which has been carved through the ridge. There are trails on both sides. It seems to me that the pass was cut in subsequent eras, but it's certainly possible that an extant horikiri was deepened and widened to create the pass. The pass also has some flattened terraces areas on either side which may be suggestive.

Actually, I found a much smaller cutting in the ridge just above the pass area. It looked like a horikiri at a medieval earthworks fort site. No other castle bloggers mention this, and it is small, but to me it looked like an old trench which could be medieval, so I was happy to have found it.

The main bailey area is now parkland and includes and observation platform. The views of the bay are good. Before this modern tower there is a wooded, circular rise. This appears to be a kofun (ancient burial mound). Around and to the north of this area are traces of what may be karabori (dry moats) and once fortified embankments, though these also represent the remains of kofun. I followed this ridge down and found another possible horikiri (this during my second visit). It is along a path to a pylon and there was a rope to aid in climbing the steep embankment on one side of the trench. Since I can't find any decent maps of this site I can't say for sure if it was a trench, but it looked like one, dug deep into the ridge and sloping off on both sides. Unlike those other possible horikiri it didn't seem like it could be anything else either. Discovering new parts of an obscure site is one of the attractions of visiting long forgotten yamajiro.
Tsuruga Castle / 敦賀城

Tsurugajou (1).JPG

Tsurugajō is now the site of Shinganji, a temple, and few ruins remain. There are waterways in the neighbourhood which look like they were formerly part of the castle's moats (particularly where they were formerly wider but have clearly been narrowed for road and park expansion). A stone block with a circular hole in it, said to be a foundation stone from the castle, sits before the temple's main hall next to a marker indicating the site of the castle. At another temple, Raigōji, is a gate which was used at the castle, or the later jin'ya, as its nakamon (middle gate) - now it's the sōmon (general gate) of the temple, before the main hall. Other traces of the castle here and there can be found throughout Tsuruga. There is also an information board with some depictions of the castle found at the corner of East Tsuruga Elementary School.
Umiteura Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩海手裏台場

ObamahanUmiteuraDaiba (1).JPG

Umiteura-daiba was a battery emplacement constructed by Obama Domain in the Bakumatsu Period. No ruins remain and the site is now a school.
Wakasa Takeda Yakata / 若狭武田館

WakasaTakedaYakata (1).JPG

Wakasa-Takeda-yakata, the manor hall of the Wakasa-Takeda Clan, was constructed in 1522 by Takeda Motomitsu, governor of Wakasa Province. The Wakasa-Takeda were independent of the Kai-Takeda (and outlived them). Their manor hall site, which functioned as the kyokan (residential area) attached to Nochiseyamajō, is now a temple called Kūinji. The yakata was surrounded by dorui (earthen ramparts) and a mizubori (water moat). There appears to be a (very modest) segment of restored dorui in the fields surrounding the temple adjacent to the road. There is information on signboards about the site and excavations carried out there.

Oh, I should mention about the temple: Kūinji is the bodaiji (clan temple) of the Sakai and their tombstones can be found here, but it is probably best known as the ‘mermaid temple’. There is a small cave, or grotto really, where an eighty year old nun died. Sorry, did I say ‘eighty’? I meant ‘eight-hundred year old’! Well, it’s just a legend, but the story of Happyaku Bikuni, the immortal nun who ate a mermaid, can be found here:

By the way, despite modern depictions of mermaids found throughout the town of Obama, traditional Japanese mermaids (ningyo) are not beautiful maidens of the sea, but fish with humanoid faces, like Will Smith in ‘Shark Tale’. I suppress a shudder.
Yamamoto Jin'ya / 山本陣屋

YamamotoJinya (1).JPG

It should be noted that there are various origin stories for Yamamoto Kansuke, and Yamamoto Sadayuki also moved about a lot, so that different places each claim to be the birthplace of Yamamoto Kansuke. The Kōyōgunkan (甲陽軍鑑) says that Kansuke was born in Ushikubo, Mikawa Province, but the Edo period Kai-Kunishi (甲斐国志) says that he was born in Yamamoto, Suruga Province, and adopted (kept hostage?) by Ôbayashi Kanzaemon, lord of Ushikubo Castle. Still other birthplaces are contended: the Hokuetsu Gundan (北越軍談) indicates Terabe, Mikawa, and the Ushikubo Mitsudanki (牛窪密談記) indicates Kamo, Mikawa, though the latter is said to be less credible.
Loading map...

Add your comment welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.