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
Aoiyama Castle / 青井山城
Ashigara Teraba Fort / 足柄城寺場砦
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
Awaya Yakata / 粟屋館
Chamachi Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩茶町台場
Daiun'in Doi / 大雲院土居
Fuchu Castle (Hitachi) / 常陸府中城
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.
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
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
Hikida Castle / 疋田城
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
Ide Yakata / 井出館
Ishihama Castle / 石浜城
Isshiki Castle (Suruga) / 駿河一色城
Junhanshi Yashiki / 准藩士屋敷
Kamo Castle (Bitchu) / 備中鴨庄城
Kamomegasaki Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩鴎ヶ崎台場
Kanegasaki Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩金ヶ崎台場
Kanmuriyama Castle (Bitchu) / 備中冠山城
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
Kawasaki Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩川崎台場
Kaya Yakata / 賀陽館
Kuniyoshi Castle / 国吉城
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:Ichijodani Castle
Matsubara Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩松原台場
Matsugashita Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩松ヶ下台場
Myokenji Jinsho / 妙顕寺陣所
Nanjou Yakata / 南条館
Ohmiya Castle (Suruga) / 駿河大宮城
Oishi Castle (Bitchu) / 備中生石城
Oshirohama Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜御城浜台場
Sagaki Jin'ya / 佐柿陣屋
Shuukouan'ura Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩州江庵裏台場
Takahara Castle (Suruga) / 駿河高原城
Takeda Motonobu Yakata / 武田元信館
Tezutsuyama Castle / 天筒山城
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
Umiteura Battery (Obama Domain) / 小浜藩海手裏台場
Wakasa Takeda Yakata / 若狭武田館
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: http://www.kunin-jj.org/kuinji-temple-313542136023546.htmlBy 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
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