ART Summer 2023 Update: Part 3


ART Summer 2023 Update: Part 3


This is the third part of a 4 part series of new castles from ART. This one covers castle rest of the visits around Yamanashi Prefecture from Aug2022 to March 2023.

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.


Saegusa Yashiki / 三枝屋敷

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Saegusa-yashiki is a fortified residence site in rural Sutama Township, Hokuto Municipality. Ruins remain in the form of dorui (earthen ramparts) adjacent to a shrine to Hachiman.
Sanada Yashiki (Kai) / 甲斐真田屋敷

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Little remains of the Sanada-yashiki, a fortified residence site in Sutama Township, except for some dorui (earthen ramparts). The site today is fields and a village. There was an idyllic path through the fields lined with many flowers. I noted two types of persimmon growing.
Sankouji Fort / 三光寺塁

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I found some interesting things at Sankōji, the temple for which this medieval fort site is named, but nothing definitive. The dorui (earthen ramparts) which two high calibre castle bloggers point to appear to have been encroached upon by modern housing. Very new looking houses stand today where a dorui segment is supposed to be. I was able to find an image of some dorui on Google Maps' street-viewer, however, dated 2019. Satellite imagery from 2022 is unclear. If I have this right then there is a surviving clump of dorui but it is very small. I must've missed it. Somebody reported it being 60m long at some point! The site is otherwise modern housing, fields, and the temple Sankōji. I went to temple and was interested in some configurations of mounded earth, now clad in stone retaining walls, which looked like they could've formed some sort of gate complex. I can't confirm any relation to the former fort, but it's possible - to my mind - that it represents some residual remains of the site's southern ramparts.
Shimizu Jin'ya / 清水陣屋

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I visited two Shimizu-jin’ya sites in one day! Of course, they were related. This one is Shimizu-jin’ya, and the other is ‘Shimizu-jin’ya (Fuefuki)’ to distinguish them then. The former is in Yamanashi Municipality and the latter is in Fuefuki Municipality, and both are in the historic Yamanashi County.

At this Shimizu-jin’ya site there are the remains of a low stone wall and an irrigation channel said to be the remnant of a moat, but the site is now given over to orchards and a vineyard. Since I had read that there were “moats” and “ishigaki” I was a little disappointed with the fare offered, like when the food pictured in the menu looks totally different on one’s plate! But in compensation there was Kubo-Hachiman Shrine adjacent to the site, and there is some beautifully piled and hewn ishigaki on display there. Swings and roundabouts.

Japanese Lesson:

It has been suggested that this site was also that of a medieval fortified residence which the jin’ya was constructed over. The neighbourhood name ‘Deunokoshi デウノコシ’ remains. This probably means ‘城腰’, and is pronounced ‘Jōnokoshi’. デウ is an old way to write the phoneme ‘jō’. Kana, you sweet lamb who has learnt your syllabary by heart, wasn’t actually codified until 1900, and modern kana, which includes the addition of small kana like っ, ゃ, ょ, ゅ so that you can tell the difference between ‘Sho’ and ‘Shiyo’, or ‘katsuta’ and ‘katta’, &c., only dates to 1946. Isn’t that appalling? Part of this reformation of orthography also eliminated antiquated spellings like the one above; ‘deu’ is actually an easy relic to detect because that sound is otherwise very uncommon in modern Japanese.

For information on the first Shimizu-jin’ya see Shimizu Jin'ya (Fuefuki).
Shimizu Jin'ya (Fuefuki) / 清水陣屋 (笛吹)

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There are two Shimizu-jin’ya sites: this one in Fuefuki Municipality and another in nearby Yamanashi Municipality; both sites are located in the historical Yamanashi County. To distinguish, this one I will list as Shimizu-jin’ya (Fuefuki), Fuefuki being the modern municipality. It may also be referred to as Kasugai-Shimizu-jin’ya after the nearest settlement of significance. The reason for the two sites being close together with the same name is that the jin’ya was relocated but retained its name after the clan that ran it.

Of this Shimizu-jin’ya no ruins remain, and the site is now orchards and a small shrine on an earthen platform encased with stone blocks; the masonry appears modern, though the stone blocks on one side appear older than on the front. There is a signboard erected with information about the jin’ya.

  • this site is not to be confused with the site of Shimizu Jin'ya in Yamanashi Municipality.
Shimizu Yashiki (Koma) / 巨摩清水屋敷

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Shimizu-yashiki is a fortified residence site in the Minowa area of Takane Township in Hokuto Municipality, Yamanashi Prefecture. The plot is still a residence today, with some very nice traditional sukiya-style architecture, and there is a moat in front of the house which is conjectured to be a remnant of the residence’s medieval predecessor. I also checked on Google Maps’ street-viewer and saw that a row-house-like structure by the moat, which looks very fetching, replaced an old kura (storehouse). So that building is newly built, but the traditional style matching the main residence lends it a historical appearance, which is nice. The family were out around their property when I visited. One young woman gestured to the house patriarch to me as I went by. This is a quiet, rural area and passers-by and strangers do not go unheeded. Because of light drizzle I had converted my neck-warmer into a head-coverer, and I basically looked like a traditional thief, or a grandma that steals watermelons. Going by, I gave a smile and shallow bow of recognition to the woman so as to reassure her of my harmlessness. I suppose my presence and appearance was bemusing. A little girl in the row-house by the road was staring at me from the window so I waved at her. I got a wave back so that was well. This all took about a minute. I took a picture of the moat-like structure in front of the house and carried on my merry way.
Shimo Shinbee Yashiki / 下新兵衛屋敷

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No ruins remain of Shimo-Shinbē-yashiki, and the site is now fields and a residential area.
Shingen Yashiki / 信玄屋敷

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Did a secret hideout of Takeda Shingen exist up here in the lonely mountains in between Kai and Musashi? There is very little information available on this site. I was principally following the blog of a researcher investigating gold mining sites along the Taba River. Since there is ishigaki (stone walls) here, I had to come and see for myself. The ishigaki is actually very well hidden as it is on a tall embankment directly above the gushing rapids which shimmer threateningly below! In order to get anywhere near them I had to stand on a dubious tree stump between two uninviting drops down to the river. There are several segments of ishigaki, but I got a look from both sides of the longest segment. The piling method did not strike me as medieval – could it be Edo period? Was it piled for the yashiki or for the road which used to run here? The area above was once presumably flat, but now it is sloped. When Tabayama Tunnel was excavated, obviating the need for the old road, all of the excavated earth was dumped here, altering the terrain from flat to sloped. Even now the old guardrail and some road signs can be seen knocked out of place and half buried here and there. The ishigaki and odd terrain asked more questions than it answered, so I also climbed the ridge just to be sure there were no signs of fortifications above. There was nothing that could not have been natural on that rocky ridge, however.
Shioda Yashiki / 塩田屋敷

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Shioda-yashiki features dorui (earthen ramparts), particularly on the northern side. There is a fine old residence here with a majestic gate, the inheritor of the medieval residence hall. As the descendents of medieval lords still live on the site today, access is limited. Shioda-yashiki is not to be confused with the Shioda Yakata in Shinano.
Shoufukuji Fort / 正福塁

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Shōfukuji-rui is now the site of an annex of Shōfukuji, a temple in Nakada Township. I checked around the temple structures but no ruins remain. The nearby bus stop called 'Shimokido', which means 'Lower Gate', so it may be related to a fortification.
Shougen Yashiki / 将監屋敷

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No ruins remain of Shōgen-yashiki. It is located in the isolated mountain village of Tabayama.
Shoutokuji Yakata / 正徳館

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There is an area called Shōtokuji (正徳寺) and a yakata (medieval fortified manor hall) once stood at the site of the temple Shōtokuji (聖徳寺). I noted the tempe hall and a large cemetery, but at the time I didn't realise that a cenotaph stands here for Takeda Nobunawa (or it is at least said to be his grave marker) as I didn't find information on the site at the time (turns out the site has multiple names so it was hard to dredge up information on, but the jyokakuzukan blog later came to my rescue). It appears that no ruins remain and a railway, the Chūō Main Line, runs through the site.
Shouunji Fort / 松雲寺塁

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Shōunji-rui is a fort site in Nakada Township which has a cluster of such sites. I looked very hard for ruins but found none. Whilst some dorui (earthen ramparts) survived here up until relatively recently, and castle blogs picture remnants of them, they are now completely destroyed and paved over. 'Rui' refers to dorui, earthen fortifications, and describes a small fort or fortified residence like a yashiki or yakata.
Taira Yashiki / 平屋敷

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Taira-yashiki, located in Kai-Yamato, is the site of the final battle and death of Takeda Katsuyori and his remaining followers. Taira-yashiki is now the site of the temple Keitokuin and surrounding terraces. No ruins remain of the old manor hall or the transient fort built by Takeda Katsuyori in his final days, but place names such as 'Shimonodaira' endure. And an old battlefield site called 'Shirōsaku (四郎作)', which may be a corruption of 城柵 (shirosaku / jōsaku), is notable. The grave of Takeda Katsuyori is located at the temple.
Takamuro Yashiki / 高室屋敷

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Takamuro-yashiki is a medeival fortified residence site with extant Edo period architecture. The omoya (main house) dates to 1788, and other buildings include kura (storehouses), walls, and a nagayamon (row-gatehouse) with a mushamado (a window used by guards). There is a remaining segment of dorui (earthen ramparts) which formerly ran around the whole site. Although they became dilapidated overtime and were gradually replaced, the layout of the buildings in this bukeyashiki (samurai residence) complex has remained consistent from the 16th century, and so the Takamuro-yashiki is an rare opportunity to see how medieval residences once looked. The yashiki, known as the 'Takamuro Family Residence (高室住宅)', is open to the public but only by appointment and on weekdays. I'd like to go back for a tour but I don't know when I'll get the chance. I'm glad I went and checked it out anyway because most of the residence can be seen from the road. It seems like some restoration work is going on. The old concrete block walls around parts of the site are in the process of being removed, and the surrounding land has been completely cleared, with old stones and ceramic tiles piled here and there. Two large lightning rods have been recently installed to protect the residence, registered as an important cultural property, from lightning strikes. It seems that the beautiful thatched roof of the residence was also covered with sheet metal at some point, but this has now been thankfully removed.
Takeda Hyogosuke Yashiki / 武田兵庫助屋敷

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The site of the Takeda-Hyōgosuke-yashiki is now the site of Matsuo-jinja, a shrine in the Koyashiki (‘Small Residence’) area of Enzan Township, Kōshū Municipality. To the rear of the shrine is a long row of dorui (earthen ramparts), remnants of a fortified residence. This wall probably extended further to the east, but there a school now stands.
Takeda Nobunari Yakata / 武田信成館

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Takeda-Nobunari-yakata is a manor hall site which is now fields, orchards and temples in the rural township of Yatsushiro in Fuefuki Municipality, Yamanashi Prefecture. The site features deformed dorui in a square formation around a small, rickety temple hall. A stalwart pine tree, witness to much tragedy, grows over a stone-lined well haunted by the ghost of the suicide's grave; it is said the lady of the manor committed suicide here when the yakata was under attack. Monuments and explanation boards pertaining to the history of the Takeda clan are scattered around the temple precincts between fields and orchards. As I had come to photograph the dirt in the gnawing dusk, local children quietly appraised me from a playground across the road, and I remarked, as I often do, seen by those dark and sparkling eyes, on what strange pilgrimages do I find myself sometimes.
Takusagawa Yashiki / 田草川屋敷

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The site of Takusagawa-yashiki is now fields and abandoned farmsteads. There site is partially surrounded by dorui (earthen ramparts), and the corner segment in the north is particularly tall, though the presence of many weeds and trees makes it difficult to get a good view of. Since the property is now abandoned I stepped just a smidgen into the driveway to look behind the dorui. It was clearer to see here than from the road. Much of the property is anyway too overgrown to look around so I then just tried to photograph the dorui from the road. There is another embankment on the opposite side of the road but I don't know if it is related.
Tanaka Tadamasa Yashiki / 田中忠正屋敷

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One of many yashiki sites under the name 'Tanaka' in Kai, the Tanaka-yashiki in Yatsushiro County features remnants of dorui (earthen ramparts), though they are largely obscurred by flora. Actually what was most interesting about visiting this site was that it is right next door (and probably overlapping) to the ruins of the Kai-Kokubunji, which now form a history park with ruins of temple halls and gardens. The park is mostly meadow pockmarked with foundation stones and explanatory boards, though during my visit most of it needed to be trimmed back. There is a (proto?) modern Kai-Kokubunji nearby; from below it looks like a modernist castle with ramparts and a strange moat. It also has nice architecture and gardens.
Tayasu Jin'ya / 田安陣屋

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Tayasu-jin'ya features ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) for what was thought to have been a yaguradai (a platform for a small tower). The drain ditches to the north and east were thought to have originally been moats. Tayasu-jin'ya is like a mini-castle ruin, but its footprint would've once been much larger, extending to the south and west (the yaguradai was situated in the northeast). The yaguradai is now a shrine and there is a large stele for the jin'ya here.
Tokumi Jin'ya / 徳美陣屋

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Of Tokumi-jin’ya no ruins remain and the site is now fields, mostly grape orchards. There is a rise in the earth now lined with large stone blocks. From the satellite imagery this looked promising, but having looked it over I don’t know that it’s related to the jin’ya.
Tsubaki Castle / 椿城

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Tsubakijō (‘Camellia Castle’) is known as the castle of Takeda Shingen’s mother. Located in the historical Koma County, it is also called Uenojō, though this is not to be confused with (the commonly known as) Kai Ueno Castle in Yatsushiro County. This earthworks fort was constructed in an area located on plateau with several wooded ravines looming over the Kai Basin like a giant comb. The creeks are like the fingers of a comb. So perhaps that is why an area below is called Kushigata? To me, viewing it from above at Nakano Castle (Kai), the plateau looked like a giant hand or paw had descended from the Southern Alps. Few ruins remain of Tsubakijō, though some piled earth in the field north of Honjūji temple represents the remains of the castle’s main bailey. The graves of the Ôi Clan are located by the road at the corner of the temple where there is also an explanation board for the castle, and the graves of the Akiyama Clan can be found in the field with the camellia tree. To the south of the castle precincts there is ishigaki (stone-piled retaining walls), but these are Edo period at the oldest, piled for the temple not the castle. Nonetheless, they represent the castle’s southern boundary’s defensive line. There is a marker for the castle at the entrance to the temple.
Tsuji Yashiki (Kai) / 甲斐辻屋敷

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There's nothing here, and the site of the Tsuji-yashiki is now that of a temple, Enmyōji. The nationally uncommon name of 'Tsuji' is apparently realatively common in Yamanashi. Sure enough I found a grand old residence some distance to the north with the name 'Tsuji'; a descendant of the people who lived at this yashiki perhaps? I don't know but it was some compensation for their being nothing at the site itself, I guess. Enmyōji has graves for the Hayakawa Clan, who were based nearby at the Hayakawa-yashiki, the site of which I stopped by next, but apparently not for the Tsuji themselves.
Tsukie Fort / 築江砦

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Tsukie-toride has some remains such as dorui (earthen ramparts), but they are apparently on private property, so I only viewed the site from below. Like Hinodejō to the north, Tsukie-toride was a fort which sat upon big, hoary cliffs facing the west.
Tsurugawa Yakata / 鶴川館

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Tsurugawa-yakata is a medieval fortified manor hall site. I found no ruins, though one blogger has found a depression which looked like a path or a trench. A shukuba (post town) developed here in the Edo period, and the yakata site is now that of a shrine and fields above Tsurugawa-juku. There is also a small kofun (ancient burial mound).
Tsutsujigasaki Fort / 躑躅ヶ崎邸

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There is a minor fortification site on a bluff behind a reservoir just east of the Takeda Shrine and yakata (manor hall) site. The edge of the ridge is flattened and terraced, though not very wide. Despite the curious name, Tsutsujiǵasaki-tei - ‘tei’ meaning ‘mansion’ - it appears to be a simple toride (fort) site. To make sure I wasn’t missing anything I climbed the ridge to Tsutsujiǵasaki Park which is located at higher elevation. I couldn’t confirm any more fortification sites (beyond suspicions), but I’m glad I went further up the trail because, whilst inspecting a sloped ditch to the rear of a terraced area, I saw a wild hakubishin (masked palm civet) for the first time. Civets are rare to see, being nocturnal. This one was climbing up a tree right above me.
Tsutsumi Yashiki / 堤屋敷

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I found no definitive remains here; it seems there are none.
Ubaguchi Fort / 右左口砦

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Ubaguchi-toride is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) site at the edge of the Kai Basin. The old prefectural road from before the construction of Ubaguchi Tunnel weaves around the base of the fort-mount, but it is not accessible between December and April. I had to walk a little up the track from the point at which a barrier gate stands. I scrambled up the hillside from the rear of the fort so as to be sure not to miss any trench ruins. Ubaguchi-toride is a single bailey fort complex with some terracing and tatebori (climbing trenches). Beneath the fort is the village of Ubaguchi-juku, a shukuba (post town) which served as the main stop before leaving Kai for Suruga for centuries until the construction of the modern tunnel.
Uenohara Castle / 上野原城

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Uenoharajō, also called Naijō-yakata (so that I started calling it Uenoharanaijō(-yakata)), is a hirayamajiro (flatland and elevation castle) and yakata (fortified manor hall) site, but all traces of fortifications have been completely obliterated by the development of the modern downtown of Uenohara Municipality. The Chūō Expressway is the chief culprit in the destruction, as it ploughs through what was once the castle's main (and only) bailey, but northern portions of the surrounding moat have also been filled in, so that now nothing remains. To visit this site it is customary to go to a small Inari shrine in the neighbourhood, where there is an explanatory board with information about the yakata along with a map.
Umenoki Yashiki / 梅ノ木屋敷

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I noticed a lot of plum blossoms in Yamanashi on the day I visited Umenoki-yashiki; it smelt like spring. Maybe that’s only appropriate since ‘Umenoki’ means ‘Plum Tree’. Not much remains of this fortified residence site in the Minowa neighbourhood of Takane Township in Hokuto Municipality, but there is an embankment in the west which is the ruins of the compound’s earthen ramparts. The site is a private residence and the embankment can only be seen from the roadside.
Wakaowade Yashiki / 若尾上手屋敷

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No ruins remain of Wakaowade-yashiki and the site is now houses and agricultural plots. Nearby was a strange parody of Kinkakuji.
Yamadera Yashiki / 山寺屋敷

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The site of the Yamadera-yashiki is said to have been the fields just south of Shirasawa Bridge. I went here. There are raised segments of earth but their purpose is not clear. A long mound which looks like its purpose is to form a barrier is found running eastward from beneath the road, hemming in an old residence here.
Yamanaka Yakata (Kai) / 甲斐山中館

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This, the Yamanaka-yakata, a fortified residence ruin, is a fun site. Fun if one has a sadistic turn. I had scouted out this place myself as a sort of last-minute place to visit whilst in the area but was then surprised to see it featured on the Cmeg (Shiro-meguri 城巡り) app’ with its own dedicated profile (not even listed as a ‘nearby site’), which is usually a good indication that one may find something worth seeing at a site (since Cmeg lists only thousands of sites and not tens of thousands...). Surely, thinks I, there will be something here. But this is where the morbid fancy comes in. It seems that each castle blogger who comes here finds different ruins of the castle! Haha! That is to say, people are looking at various clumps of earth and land forms and making them into ruins theoretically, but we can judge by their disparate findings that it’s all dubious. Are there really ruins here? I myself found ruins! So obviously it’s inconclusive and I can’t say. Ah, it’s sadomasochism after all.

First of all this is a rich historical site, as it is the site now of two shrines overlooking Lake Yamanaka, the Yamanaka Asama Shrine and the Yamanaka Suwa Shrine. A modern road, depressed, cuts through the middle of the site. I couldn’t find the (supposed) dorui (earthen ramparts) in front of the shrine which the blog Kojousi (Kojōshi 古城址) showcases. I did go to the rear of the shrine and find the dorui highlighted by another blog, Onodenkan (also very poetically called Kojō Seisuiki 古城盛衰記). But here again there was an issue. I tremendously respect and even revere these bloggers, but here I feared that it could come off as disingenuous to highlight dorui. Yes, it looks like dorui in Onodenkan’s photo (unlike in Kojōshi’s, which could be anything), but that whole area behind the shrine is an old lava flow site with countless mounds and depressions lumped together in all directions, and so I was not prepared to take any of the mounds as artificial given that so many seemed clearly natural. Though perhaps I did not simply have the ability or knowledge to pick out the dorui amongst this confusing, bumpy landscape. A lot of earth has also been banked up for the shrine, and this is also what the ishigaki (stone retaining wall) at the site is for.

And so what of my ruins? The shrine sits on elevated terrain which has clearly been in part sculpted by human hands. The entrance to the Asama Shrine appears like it could be old earthen ramparts with a moat space beneath. I strongly had this impression but perhaps it was just guesswork and expectation. If Onodenkan is right and there is dorui to the rear of the shrine then this supports my image (in my head) of the ruins. But others suggest the centre of the yakata was beneath the shrine. Perhaps they are right. This area consists of many buildings surrounding an impenetrable patch of forest which is on private property, however, making exploration difficult. I don’t know what ruins are there.

All in all this visit, the only castle site I visited that day (which was mostly spent in caves!), was a little disappointing, but the shrines were nice, and it is very near the lake front, which was very beautiful and buzzing with leisurely activity. It became for me anyway an interesting study of how amateurs disparately interpret obscure ruins at castle sites.
Yashiro Yashiki (Kai) / 甲斐屋代屋敷

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There is a long (50m), tall (3m) segment of dorui (earthen ramparts) still to see of the Yashiro-yashiki, a medieval fortified residence site in Akeno Township, Hokuto Municipality. This earthwork was the northwestern embankment. The dorui can be seen from the road but site’s the interior is private property. The lord’s cenotaph is also found in a nearby field but I only saw it from a distance as I was scarce on time.
Yatsushiro Yashiki / 八代屋敷

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Yatsushiro-yashiki is a residence site in the Uede area of Akeno Township, Hokuto Municipality. It features architecture from the Edo period and is designated as an ‘nationally important cultural property’. The surviving architecture owes to this being a nanushi site used throughout the Edo period. Nanushi, ‘village headmen’ or ‘local magistrate’, were rurally located officials in charge of collecting taxes and administering local resources in the villages under their jurisdiction, as well as liaising with higher-ups and their liege (the daimyo). They had land which they cultivated (or had others cultivate under them), and bestrode the demarcations between bushi and farmer in the late Sengoku and Edo period's caste system. Although some information I found online suggested the residence was open to the public, it was in fact closed when it should’ve been open. It opened in 2017 but is already closed? Likely it is one of the many smaller institutions closed during the response to the pandemic, and will never re-open. And yet, even whilst I was there another gentleman parked up and began taking pictures! I told him where to find the explanation board at the front of the property. Since the main gate is barred it’s not possible to get a good look at the surviving main hall, especially since from the rear of the site, which is uphill on a slope, a courtyard formed of storehouses blocks out views of it. I was able to see parts of the thatched roofing, and some of the front of the house by looking through the gap in the gate.
Zuirenji Yakata / 瑞蓮寺館

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I visited the site of Zuirenji-yakata as part of a bike ride around Yamanashi Prefecture; it was the second site I visited that day. The yakata is named for the temple now on site, and the temple, said to be founded by Takeda Shingen, is quite nice, and features millstones used as flagstones. The temple is partially surrounded by the remains of dorui (earthen embankments), some of which are buried beneath modern stone retaining walls.
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