ART Update 2022 Part 1

From Jcastle.info

ART Update 2022 Part 1

2022/09/04


Whole bunch of updates from ART. This is the first in a several part series. See the castles and map below for details. If you haven't seen his 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.


 

Aida Iwabuchi Castle / 会田岩渕城

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Segments of a network of dry moats are all that remain of Iwabuchijō, and most of these are either choked with bamboo or on private property. However, a notable section is retained in the Jizō hamlet which would've formed the castle's outermoat. This moat section, which is by the Jizō shrine, connects with one of two creeks on either side of the castle which were augmented as moats (originally it connected with both). Two other moats were dug from the cliffside into the plain to divide the castle area into at least three baileys. The lord's residence was in the first and / or second bailey and other samurai had homes in the castle's outer baileys. This snug fort's remains are well hidden, and much has been lost. Nonetheless it is possible to get a sense of the structure and scale of the castle mulling about this rural area with its old homes. It seems some new homes have been built in what was the central part of the castle between the cliff edge and the road, and a faded marker post for the castle which castle explorers describe in their blogs is no longer there I can confirm. The ruins of Toride-toride in Toride (I'm still amused that each of those 'toride' take different kanji) consist of earthworks such as baileys, dry moats and earthen ramparts, but it is mostly on private property. The main section can be seen from the road. The most notable feature is a 50m long karabori (dry moat). Since Toride-toride is a clifftop fort this karabori then does down the steep hillside to form a tatebori (climbing moat). A marker for the castle is positioned atop of the dorui (earthen ramparts) which sit above this moat. The marker used to have the fort's name on presumably but it has since faded and is now illegible. It's still nice to see the piece of wood, as its brother marker at nearby Iwabuchijō is now gone; both markers were erected under Shiga Village Municipality which was annexed into the expanded Matsumoto Municipality in 2005.
 
Aida Yakata / 会田館

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Aida-yakata was the fortified residence of the Aida Clan. The site is now fields and no obvious ruins remain of the resdience. There is a signboard explaining about the site and showing pictures of excavations which unearthed stone walls and evidence of residential buildings. The site hosted an elementary school in modern times but this too is now gone, leaving only the gymnasium which is now used as a gateball court. The site is shown on Google Maps as 'Tonomura Iseki (殿村遺跡)'. In the small valley beneath the site is Aida-juku, an inn town developed in the Edo period (likely formerly the yakata's jōkamura (a settlement attached to a castle)), and some old shops and residences remain here.

I visited Aida-yakata ahead of my planned large scale assault on the castle ruins of the Aida Clan in the mountains above. This is planned for the autumn, and so I figured I'd save time by exploring the sites in the Aida Basin now in summer. I cycled from Matsumoto in a round trip of about 50km. In the Aida area, formerly Shiga Village Municipality, I also visited Toride-toride, Iwabuchijō, and got as close as possible to Bizenhara-yakata, before re-visiting some minor sites in the basin's northwestern arm which I had only seen in the dark before, and exiting the basin toward Akashina, returning to Matsumoto via the area of the River Sai in Aźumino (though on the old Chikuma side), thereby completing a large circuit.

At Aida-yakata I actually made an amazing discovery, albeit nothing to do with castles -- I found a giant mushroom! It was slightly smaller than a football with a dimpled dome, and the cap was so bulbous I couldn't see the stem, though the fruity body wobbled on it sure enough. It was white and, though I am not an aficionado, of an edible variety I believe. There was what looked like a triangular cutting made from the top of the cap, but there was also here four grooves which looked like some animal had pawed at it. Since this was the largest mushroom I had ever discovered, I photographed it next to a bottle of tea.
 
Aimiyamamonomi Fort / 逢見山物見砦

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Aimiyamamonomi-toride is a fortified watch-tower or look-out site but I could find no ruins due to the whole area being too overgrown. And probably no ruins remain anyway. The site is adjacent to the Ushikubi Pass linking Kiso and Ina (via Ono), and Tamagaike, a storied pond, is located about 1km in the opposite direction – unfortunately the trail out to it was too overgrown to follow. The ridge immediately above the pass is flattened, and there is a torii on the opposite side from the fort site.
 
Akazawashi Yakata / 赤沢氏館

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The site is just terraced fields. I was expecting more proto-modern ishigaki of former mulberry fields but these were just regular ploughed fields with earthen embankments. It was nice to find a marker for the site and and explanatory board, however, on the curving roadside above the site.
 
Azumi Horinouchi Yakata / 安曇堀之内館

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There are no remains of Horinōchi-yakata, but it is thought to have been positioned on a ridge in the settlement which bears its name. There are three ridges which terminate in bluffs in a row climbing up the foot of the mountains here, and at the bottom is a shrine, Horinōchi-Mishima-jinja. It is thought that the residence sat on the terrain behind the middle bluff with the village below it. It is possible a look-out tower was mounted on the lower bluff above the shrine. I actually went up to the top bluff as well because there is an ancient burial mound here called Oninokama-kofun ('Demon Sickle Mound'). Horinōchi-yakata is also speculated to be the same fortification known to history as Ikedayamajō.
 
Azumi Ogiwara Yakata / 安曇荻原館

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Ogiwara-yakata was the kyokan of Ogiwarajō. No ruins remain but creeks either side of the site would've made for natural defences. It seems the site has been heavily augmented to make way for terraced rice paddies.
 
Azumi Shimizu Yakata / 安曇清水館

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The site of Shimizu-yakata was excavated in 1989 so its layout is well known. Many goodies were unearthed, but no obvious ruins remain above ground. A small garden with a stele for the yakata (fortified manor hall) along with an explanation board can be found at the site today.
 
Azumi Uchibori Yakata / 安曇内堀館

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Uchibori-yakata apparently has some ruins remaining but all I could make out was a clump of bushes. Since this was on private property I could not confirm the remains of dorui (earthen ramparts) and a karabori (dry moat) which supposedly exist. The surrounding fields are called 'horibata (moat-fields)', and they are relatively lower situated. Where they used as moats at any point? I'd speculate that they were rice swamps or could be flooded in a pinch to widen the permanent moats, but the terrain here is quite elevated so I assumed any moats would be karabori.
 
Azumi Wakamatsu Castle / 安曇若松城

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No ruins remain of Wakamatsujō, a short-lived branch castle of Matsumotojō. There are, however, some very old storehouses (either late Edo or early Meiji period) on site. It's lucky these old storehouses were preserved. They were used to store rice for the payment of samurai vassals by their lord. Subsequently these ones were used at a silk mill, and then now as a saké brewery. I didn't know traditional storehouses could be so big! Apparently these granaries used to be found in villages throughout Matsumoto Domain.
 
Bizenhara Yakata / 備前原館

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The site of Bizenhara-yakata on a plateau overlooking central Aida is now a huge poultry farm and there is no access for the public. I photographed the plateau from below. At one point I found a footpath up from Aida-juku but it ended in an impassable tangle of flora.
 
Chiisagata Kemi Castle / 小県花見城

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This site looks like the remains of a fortified peak from the rear, the direction from which I approached after coming down from Kashiwayamajō, with tatebori (climbing moats), terracing and a distinct main bailey. Yet from the otherside the mountain slopes down in a very natural manner. Do we have half a castle ruin here? It's possible that this is the result of landslides collapsing half of the fort. Although experts have designated the Nishiyamajō Fort Group, of which Kemijō is the uppermost, as castle ruins, it cannot be ascertained for certain as fact. Ranmaru-sensei, a local castle blogger from Ueda, seems sceptical, pointing out that if the forts were built by the Unno Clan to resist the Murakami Clan, then the forts would be useless as look-outs since they do not have vision beyond the valley, and in any case it would be redundant to have a look-out on three peaks so close together.
 
Chiisagata Komaki Castle / 小県小牧城

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The Komaki Castle Complex consists of an upper and lower castle, and each of those has a koya, which is a sort of secret redoubt, as well as branch forts, Ôte-toride (Komakijou Ohte Fort) and Nakaojō (Chiisagata Nakao Castle). The lower castle of Komakijō appears to be the main site in the Komaki Castle complex of fortifications and it is the most developed. It is triangular in layout with subsidiary baileys located around the shukuruwa (main bailey) at three points. The rear of the shukuruwa is protected by a large trench. This trench descends as a climbing trench down the mountainside and past a small koshikuruwa (hip bailey) beneath the main bailey. There is a small bailey and smaller trench to the rear beyond here. The shukuruwa is protected to the rear by dorui (earthen ramparts) which rise above the bailey space. If one take's the 'men's slope' down from the castle then one will pass along the ridge and through a bamboo grove and into a narrow flattened space with a sort of turned-up prow. This worked space is the Shimonokoya ('lower secret redoubt'), which was used as a place of hiding or ambush. Eventually the trail, which consists of rope sections and narrow spans between perilous drops, goes on down past some gigantic boulders to the site of Nakaojō. I came to Komaki Castle nearing the end of the day. I had already climbed, by my counting, two mountains and two hills, as well as walked and hiked a considerable distance, and I had even jogged and cycled. I was not in the best condition then for the challenge presented by this site! There are two main trails which take one up the castle mount. They are 'women's slope' and 'men's slope'. The Onnazaka goes to a place between the upper and lower castle sites, joining with Otokozaka. The Ohte Fort is reached along the Onnazaka, and so I took it first. Now, obviously the 'women's slope' is going to be easier going than the 'men's slope', but even so it's a fairly steep trail. The Otokozaka lives up to its name as a very tough trail consisting of rope sections and narrow ridges spanning perilous drops. Needless to say this was a real challenge after a full day of castling, but luckily taking the Onnazaka up and the first section of the Otokozaka down proved the wisest route, yet the climb to the upper castle, which I went to before the lower castle, was still the toughest part.
 
Chiisagata Komakikamino Castle / 小県小牧上ノ城

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The Upper Komaki Castle is reached via the 'Men's Trail' from the lower castle. The trail is very steep and contains rope sections and uninviting drops to either side. The upper castle is essentially a simple fort with a single forward bailey and a series of trenches cutting the ridge which protect the rear. Beyond here there is the Komakijō Kaminokoya, a hidden redoubt. I didn't visit because it appears it is only a narrow slip of a terraced ridge, and I just didn't have the time at that point. A 'koya' is a sort of secret redoubt found at many Shinano castles.
 
Chiisagata Nakano Castle / 小県中ノ城

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Of the three forts in the Nishiyamajō Fort Group, the Nakanojō is the one which most looks like a castle ruin. The main bailey is just a small mountain peak, on which it is presumed some kind of look-out or signal tower was built, but below there is terracing with a large ditch running down the hill to the side. At the top of the ditch the earth is banked up. These features could be taken for a tatebori (climbing trench), dobashi (earthen bridge) and multiple koshikuruwa (terraced baileys). However, these earthworks could've been made by farmers cultivating the hillside at a much later time. The tatebori could be a drainage channel. I struggle to imagine why a drain would be so wide, and so perhaps there is an alternative explanation. Nevertheless, considering the lack of convincing ruins at any of the other supposed Unno Clan forts, it seems these features could be a mirage. I am reminded of bigfoot. Take a photo of the forest. People who want to see bigfoot will, upon the mere suggestion of his presence in the foliage, surely see him somewhere. And yet this is a castle ruin according to the local education board and Miyasaka Takeo, a legend of castle exploration in Nagano.
 
Chiisagata Nakao Castle / 小県中尾城

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Nakaojō is a small branch fort of Komakijō. It is hidden in a dark bamboo grove. Small, moss-covered hokora (mini shrines) and statuettes inhabit this shady ruin. There is a long, narrow rear bailey beneath a huge pinnacle of rock. The bamboo grows thickest here. To get through I occassionally had to break through dead bamboo which echoed in the quiet gloom. It was not difficult to imagine the mossy altars as inhabited by strange imps in this permanent, spectral twilight. The grove terminates in what looked to me like a decent sized trench. Beyond that is a wider mound which is now a small cemetery, and this was probably Nakaojō's main bailey. Beneath, where there may have been a terraced sub-bailey, are fields and orchards.
 
Chiisagata Nishiyama Castle / 小県西山城

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There are a series of fort sites on the west side of the Sumiyoshi Valley believed to predate the Murakami Clan forts. These earlier sites, of which only vague suggestions remain in the shape of the hillsides, are thought to have been built by the Unno Clan. They are at lower elevation than the Murakami sites and seem to have been built much more crudely. The first fort of these is Nishiyamajō. It shares the same mountain leg as Nakanojō and Kemijō, located further up, and these three may be grouped together as the Nishiyamajō Fort Group. There are explanatory boards at each of the sites. Further to the north is another site, Shirayamajō. See related sites: Chiisagata Nakano Castle, Chiisagata Kemi Castle, and Chiisagata Shirayama Castle.
 
Chiisagata Shirayama Castle / 小県白山城

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Shirayamajō was the least interesting site of my large tour of castle ruins in the area. There are barely any ruins to be seen. There is some evidence of terracing of the ridge line, but this could've been built by anyone for any reason at anytime. The castle's main bailey could be a natural formation. However, one nice thing about coming here was being able to see Kashiwayamajō above in near perfect profile which highlighted the contours of impressive earthworks. Shirayamajō, if it really stood here, must've been a very primitive fort indeed, making use only of wooden barriers.
 
Deura Castle / 出浦城

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Deurajō, also called Ideurajō because, I think, nobody knows the actual reading, is a fantastic Sengoku-jidai yamajiro (medieval mountaintop castle) ruin. It has some interesting features and quirky parts, and has a fair bit to explore. However, it does happen to be located on what we'll call 'Death Mountain', which is unfortunate for those attacking it - like me - but a very favourable situation from the castle's perspective. The mountain actually has several names so 'Death Mountain' can be another one, though the locals call it Jizai-san (officially it is Iwaidōsan, and people in Sarashina call it Karakasayama due to its shape, a karakasa being a traditional dome-shaped umbrella made from bamboo strips and paper or other light materials). The climb up Death Mountain is a daunting one, and the struggle begins even before one arrives as the mountain's mighty and imposing shape promises to be an absolute menace as it looms above (the mountains in this area sure are brutal; another castle mount associated with the Murakami Clan is Kokuzōsan, north of Ueda, which, because there are many mountains with that name, including north of Matsumoto in Aida, I nicknamed 'Mount Doom'). The trail... if it can be called that, begins in earnest at Jizai-jinja, Uwadaira (上平) -- yeah, I said "Uwā" when I saw those stairs because one has to climb an endless series of stone steps to reach the shrine. The monotonous climb to the shrine hall turns into an exciting and rugged trail to get up the mountain itself. The trail is busted in places and one has to sort of just pick one's way through rocks. Other sections include nothing but a steep slope with ropes hanging down from tree trunks. Coming up from the south here will mean that the bold adventurer will suddenly come across the main bailey of Deurajō.

Deurajō has a well preserved shukuruwa (main bailey) surrounded on all sides by dorui (earthen ramparts). There are a couple of well ruins in the shukuruwa. A karabori (dry moat) wraps around the shukuruwa, becoming a tatebori (climbing moat) on the eastern slope, and a terraced bailey to the south. To the north side there is another karabori and the two are separated by dorui. There is tall dorui all around these karabori too. It is such a fine complex of karabori that if one was suddenly teleported here one might for a moment think they were at one of the great medieval plains castles of Kantō. The castle ruins expand toward the west in a series of terraced baileys which stagger the mount's less severe western slope. Between the second and third bailey is another section of karabori and dorui. The castle's ôte (main path) appears to be combined with a steep, long tatebori. To the northwest of the shukuruwa and third bailey are convincing tatebori which invite one to fall into and have a bad day.

Hitherto described features constitute the main portion of the castle, but there are extra ruins below. One will have to back-track to see these but I'm glad I did. As the ridge descends it is split by three horikiri. The first struck me as being most forceful where it became a tatebori, and there was a bailey space here too. The second horikiri is deep and wide, and the largest trench at the castle. It is a double trench, having a smaller satellite trench beneath, with a berm in between them. There is a final trench after the ridge descends somewhat more toward the place where it levels out and begins climbing again to connect with other sibling mountains beyond. This last trench is solid. I also noticed that to the northwest was a large flattened area. Is this natural? Was it a place to muster troops? It wasn't on my map (by Yogo-sensei).
 
Fukuzawa Yakata / 福沢館

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I was happy to come to the site of the fortified manor hall of the Fukuzawa Clan, Fukuzawa-yakata, because the day before I had tried to reach the Fukuzawa-demaru at Toishi Castle which is named for them. This then is the old base of the Fukuzawa, vassals of the Murakami Clan, who fought bravely for them at Toishi. Unfortunately I could find no ruins; the site today is fields and homes. The Bingushinosatō Park is nearby. The terrain is favourable with tall mountains enclosing it except to the east where it faces the plain.
 
Furuhata Yakata / 古畑館

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I had intended to start in Yabuhara and trek the Torii Pass route to Narai. Well, formerly, I had intended to trek from Narai to Yabuhara. Both times I gave up due to poor weather. From Narai it was rain and from Yabuhara it was snow. However, I was able to in Narai visit Naraijō, and in Yabuhara visit the site of Furuhata-yakata. Unfortunately nothing remains of the Furuhata-yakata but the terrain on which the yakata (fortified manor hall) was built. The town of Yabuhara, a shukuba (old inn town), is also interesting, as it developed along the old Nakasendō (Interior Trunk Road).
 
Hikidono Yashiki / 日岐殿屋敷

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Wedged between the mountains and the meandering of the Sai River on an elliptical island of flat land is a small rural smattering of homesteads which is formerly the site of the Hikidono-yashiki, the 'Residence of the Lord of Hiki (Castle)', as well as the residences of his vassals. Whilst there are no obvious ruins other than the shape of the terrain, including a flattened terrace, there are various signboards and markers for sites pertaining to this historic site. The main marker is just below a terrace which is also called Shōfukuji-yashiki and is indicated as the former site of a temple. Since it is higher situated some postulate that this terrace may have been the residence of the lord, and the vassals lived below. The cenotaphs of the lords of Hiki Castle are also found at the site of Shōfukuji. And the trail up to Hikijō is found here (I intend to return in autumn to visit the yamajiro ruins). Other markers around the village indicate things like the former site of storehouses.
 
Ina Higuchiuchi Castle / 伊那樋口内城

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Higuchiuchijō is now fields, and much of the site has been ploughed through by an expressway. However, the terracing to the east of the highway is redolent of a hillside fort.
 
Ina Horinouchi Yakata / 伊那堀ノ内館

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I photographed the site from below. The terracing, which supports rice paddies, looks very modern.
 
Ina Ichinodaira Castle / 伊那一ノ平城

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Ichinodairajō is located directly opposite the site of Kamihiraidekojō. Ichinodairajō is higher situated and appears to be larger in scale. There is a wide,flat area, all covered in snow when I visited, and embankments where a forest road grants access. This entry point with an embankment is tantalising but I could not be sure of it being related to any ruins of the fort, and in fact it appears unlikely. The 'taira', or plateau, is situated beneath steep elevation. No fort should be built in such a vulnerable position, but it appears that the ridge above here was also shaped into a bailey. The natural ridge continues to climb undisturbed above these two former baileys.
 
Ina Koujin'yama Castle / 伊那荒神山城

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The site of Kōjin’yamajō is located in Kōjin’yama Park, Tatsuno Municipality, Upper Ina District. The park has many attractions including the Tatsuno Park Hotel - built Europeanesque, the Tatsuno Sea – actually a lake or reservoir, an art gallery, a bug museum, Kōjinsha (a shrine), and a Meiji period hillside kiln which is designated as cultural property. Of castle ruins, however, none remain. First I went to the shrine and was able to gain the ridge from the back of the hotel. There were a couple of flat areas but nothing I could confirm to be a bailey space – though I did find several mushrooms. I then descended from this forested mount into the well-groomed park area. From here one can appreciate ‘the Sea of Tatsuno’, a small, quaintly named lake, and views of Tatsuno Park Hotel. Yogo-sensei says that the place where the hotel is would be a large enough space for mustering many troops, but how does he know much of the mountain here wasn’t flattened by modern people when the hotel was built? Some castle bloggers also make reference to the Tatsuno Sea as being used as a water source or even a natural moat for the castle, but this body of water looked to me like a modern reservoir (I’m not a civil engineer but I should think this is clear even looking at a typographical map - anyway, I checked and it was indeed built in 1969; we poor castle explorers sometimes let our imaginations get the better of us). After checking out the old kiln, the oldest thing remaining in the park, I then went to the Tatsuno Art Gallery which is housed in a sort of neo-classical parody of Japanese architecture (a total boondoggle!), but few of the displays excited me, and the entire first floor is a dedicated to telling a story about dinosaurs, which might’ve appealed to me twenty years ago but not so much now.
 
Ina Maruyama Fort / 伊那丸山砦

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Maruyama-toride is a satellite fortification situated below Ina-Ōjō. Between Maruyama-toride and Ōjō is Akiba-toride. I had visited those two latter sites before, but had missed Maruyama-toride at that time due to misinformation about its location. However, I now have better resources. The ruins of Maruyama-toride basically consist of a bailey made by flattening a hilltop. There is a mound at the top of the hill which looks like a tower could've been sited there. There is some evidence of terracing of the hillside, particularly where there is now a small cemetery. Given that the hill was covered in trees and nobody but some fool like me would venture up there, it was still covered in snow. The snow had become icy and it was easy to get a good grip beneath my boots though. The were many different kinds of animal prints in the snow, a real who's who of Japanese wildlife, and I remarked what I thought to be the tracks of tanuki (racoon thing), birds, deer and monkeys. There is a path up the slope from the roadside which runs to the southwest, which was fortunate because I wasn't sure I would be able to get up because of all of the houses around. Maruyama-toride can be visited as part of the climb to Akiba-toride and Ōjō but there is otherwise not much to see.
 
Ina Ohniwa Castle / 伊那大庭城

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Ôniwajō site sits in a small satellite basin of the Ina Valley, located between the towns of Tatsuno and Ono (the latter settlement is administratively divided down the middle between the municipalities of Tatsuno (Kamiina District) and Shiojiri (formerly of Higashi-Chikuma district)). The nearby train station is called Shinano-Kawashima. I have often passed by here on my way to Ina so, after failing to get a good look from the train, I knew I had to just come here for myself to see if there was anything to see of the medieval fortifications. Regrettably there is not. The terrain would lend itself to easy defence in the east where there is a cliff, but the site is now fields.
 
Ina Shimohiraideko Castle / 伊那下平出古城

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Shimohiraidekojō, paired with Kamihiraidekojō to the north, is a minor and mysterious site, chiefly known locally as the site of a large zelkova tree. The root bowl of this tree is elevated, sitting about a mound of earth which trails off southward. The tree is known as the 'Old Castle Zelkova' after the ruins of the castle. It's tempting to infer, though it appears nothing is known for sure, that this mound of earth represents the remains of the earthen ramparts of this "old castle". If the direction the mound appears to run is indicative of anything, then the castle's defences would've ran parallel to the Tenryū River. The rest of the castle site is buried beneath Tatsuno Junior High School.
 
Ina Tenpaku Castle / 伊那天白城

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The ruins of Tenpakujō can be inferred but it's one of those sites that makes one doubt oneself. The road which runs up the hillside to Tatsuno High School and cuts into the plateau was formerly a trench. There were two baileys either side of here. The north bailey is now a sports ground of the school, and the south bailey is the school building. The actual shape of the hillside, however, is no doubt all modern, sculpted for the school, and any obvious remains have been lost.
 
Ina Yokokawa Castle / 伊那横川城

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Situated in Yokokawa, a diffuse, rural settlement in Tatsuno Municipality, Yokokawajō is an obscure fortification ruins site. Despite the obscurity of this castle, I was able to purchase a go’jōin (special seal) for it at the nearby Kayabuki no Yakata, a traditional inn in the village. The seal came in a set of six seals for castle ruins in Tatsuno Municipality, most of which I have now been to. I thought it novel that such a minor ruin would have such a seal, and it’s nice that some love is shown for these local sites.


Yokokawajō seems to have been a residential castle set on a mountainside overlooking the long valley which cradles Yokokawa. If the trees were maintained on the slope, then the fortified residence may have been hidden from below. Ruins include earthworks, principally dorui (earthen ramparts) and embankments, and carving and terracing of the hillside to create defences and enclosures. The centre of the site is that of a shrine which I had to step over a short electrified fence to begin climbing to. The shrine appears to sit in an old castle bailey, surrounded by traces of earthworks, and there is also a ditch to the rear and some terracing below. It’s hard to say exactly what ruins may be indicative of the castle, however, as the area may have been cultivated in subsequent centuries or developed for the shrine; an expansive flat area behind the shrine is now a cedar plantation. There is a small peak looming over the shrine, which is not reassuring when looking for fortifications, and so I checked the peak for ruins just to be sure but found nothing. The site reminds me of a more deformed or redeveloped version of Naraijō, another fortified residence site on a terraced plateau in the neighbouring valley, but more secluded. I can certainly believe a fortified residence stood here but its exact structure is difficult to determine.
 
Ina Yokoyama Castle / 伊那横山城

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There used to be a fortification ruin here but it was completely flattened by the development of a housing estate called Oh’ishidaira, and now nothing remains.
 
Jinbagahara Castle / 陣場ヶ原城

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The castle ruin at the centre of Japan? Now there's a gimmick. Firstly I should say that the ruins amount to essentially a curiously flattened, wide space along the ridge, perhaps with some terracing, and, per the castle's name, this is said to have been the spot of an encampment (or, 'jinba') of Kiso Yoshinaka, the famous general of the late Heian period. It seems the site is also referred to as a fort (toride). There is an old marker which bore the site's name, but now it is illegible and just a square log. I reverently pulled it out of the grass like I was retrieving a fallen warrior, and set the thing up to lean against a tree in what was the fort's main bailey. A tear shed for lost castle markers on lonely mountains... I went along the ridge in some places but found nothing definite -- maybe some trench remains; if one goes all the way down the ridge one comes to Ōjō, the centre of a complex of fortification sites overlooking Tatsuno. Jinbaǵaharajō supposedly predates them, but at the same time I think there is a fair chance this area was used during the Sengoku period as a sort of hidden redoubt of Ōjō. The ridge shields the site and it could be an effective hiding place to muster troops in secret, but it's quite inaccessible.

If one visits this outré plateau then one is between two points which are said to be the 'centre of Japan'. There are many centres of Japan, it must be said, and the exact position will depend on the mode of measurement and how one defines the centre. We went to the point along the ridge called 'Nihon no Chūshin' where there is a small stone monument. There's not much to do but to take a picture of and with the thing. There is also no view to write home about and the area is surrounded by tall trees. Such centre points are also called 'heso (臍)', which means 'navel'. Naruheso!

I thought it might be that this heso is the furthest one can be in Japan from the sea and ocean, but that might be in Hokkaidō. A nearby point is also called 'Japan's Zero-Point' and refers to the bisection of latitude and longitude at the zero minutes mark. As I say, determining a geographic centre depends on method, and Tatsuno Municipality obviously just chose the one which best suited it, and now promotes the spot as a low maintenance tourist or hiking destination. The road to the castle and centre of Japan is best taken from the Tatsuno side (south), rather than the dirt and gravel track which runs along the mountain chain to the Shidareguri Forest Park in the north. There is another heso just north of the Shidareguri camping ground called 'Nihondo no Mannaka' . This one is easier to get to and a monument has been there erected by Shiojiri Municipality.
 
Jouhikage Fort / 城日影砦

JouhikageToride (3).JPG

Jōhikage-toride is a fort ruin on the fringes of the Matsumoto Basin. It's an old frontier region leading from Aźumi and Chikuma into Hida and Kiso to the south. Even modern civilisation, in the form of the Kamikōchi Line, was pushed back from Shimashima Station to Shinshimashima ('New Islands') Station after landslides. More recently a typhoon swelled the Nariai River and sent down debris to smash a bridge, severing the line to Matsumoto Station (there's a replacement bus I think but I just cycled down to Nagisa Station). One can visit this out-of-the-way fort ruin then via Shinshimashima Station. Jōhikage-toride is the furthest node west in the Nishimaki Clan complex of fortifications surrounding Nishimakijō. This spurned little ruin has no trail to it and so one must climb the ridge as one finds it near a creek. The layout of the fort consists of a main bailey complex with some narrow terraced sub-baieys below, protected on both sides of the ridge with double horikiri (trenches). Along the ridge a little is what looks like another flattened area eaten into by a large chute. Probably a landslide or two has warped the shape of earthworks here but it may be that this was a mustering ground to the rear of the fort. As I came down from the castle mount via a forestry road I saw many monkeys in the woods. I came down into the hamlet below and the monkeys were there too, scores of them! They seemed to have the run of the place. I asked a villager about the monkeys and she said there were loads of 'em. I asked if it was hard-going that there be so many monkeys and she said it was very much so. They seemed ambivalent to cars going by but when I walked up to them the whole troupe scarpered back up the slope, and one had taken something from a garden. Damn monkeys.
 
Koide Ara Castle / 小出荒城

KoideArajou (4).JPG

The most salient remains of Arajō is a karabori (dry moat) remnant protecting what was once the fort's inner sanctum, which is now a rice paddy. Most of the moat has been filled in for the paddy and the remaining portion quickly descends as a tatebori (climbing moat). It's something at least. As for other remains I think I identified terracing of the hill side and former baileys, but it was hard going.
 
Koide Kamijima Castle / 小出上島城

KoideKamijimajou (1).JPG

Of Kaimjimajō there isn't much to say. There is a stop on the Iida Rail called Shimojima ('Lower Island') so this is the upper part of that place, I guess? By the way, 'shima' doesn't really mean 'island', but something more abstract. There are no ruins here. The strategic advantage of the site on a bluff overlooking a river is fairly obvious though. Beyond the Oguro River is downtown Ina City. It's a grim place in my estimation, and I witnessed a single-vehicle car crash which I reported to the police (other people were assisting the driver). I got the train back to Matsumoto from Ina City Station via Okaya.
 
Koide Maruyama Castle / 小出丸山城

KoideMaruyamajou (5).JPG

Koide-Maruyamajō is an earthworks fort site with deep, wide karabori (dry moats), multiple baileys and the remains of other earthworks such as tatebori (climbing trenches) and dorui (earthen ramparts). Luckily it had been pruned recently of bamboo growth when I visited, so the trenches were mostly clear. The site is now a cemetery and cedar plantation. This is a solid remnant of the Koide Castle fort network.
 
Koide Uchi Castle / 小出内城

KoideUchijou (1).JPG

Koide-Uchijō is a significant remnant of the Koide Clan network of fortifications with castle ruins in the form of large, impressive karabori, and some obvious bailey spaces. It seems the site was used as a residence in the outer bailey; it sits between Fubukikaitojō to the northeast and Yakushidōjō to the southeast which together guarded it. The site is now forest and rice paddies. I saw a fox in the middle bailey.
 
Koide Yakushidou Castle / 小出薬師堂城

KoideYakushidoujou (1).JPG

According to my sources there should be tatebori here at Yakushidōjō but I didn't see them. The bluff is advantageous enough, I suppose, but I couldn't identify castle ruins. The site is just rice paddies today. The level area at the top of the cliff is wide, but it is divided in half north-to-south by an elevated embankment.
 
Koraku Castle / 狐落城

MurakamiKorakujou (1).JPG

Korakujō, "Castle of Fallen Foxes", is twinned with Samizujō, being located below it on the same mountain. Korakujō's most handsome feature are its remaining ishigaki (stone-piled rampart) segments around the shukuruwa (main bailey) and ninokuruwa (second bailey). The koguchi (gateway) area of the ninokuruwa and the forward-facing berm there are strewn with stone blocks from collapsed walls, but some portions remain partially standing. The shukuruwa has a patch of ishigaki on the east side and a long, attractive segment on the west side. This seems to have been originally taller than its current condition suggests. The shape of the shukuruwa is boat-like, which is satisfying, and the ninokuruwa sits beneath it like a lower deck. To the rear of the shukuruwa are a series of horikiri (trenches) with some dorui (earthen ramparts), one of which is quite deep, some of which are shallow, and the others are somewhere in between in depth but obvious enough as one goes up and down them as though on a rollercoaster.

Related sites:

Samizu Castle

Arato Castle

Murakami Katsurao Castle
 
Kosobu Yakata / 小曽部館

KosobuYakata (1).JPG

Kosobu-yakata is now fields, but dorui (earthen ramparts) used for protecting the manor house can be seen along the terraces of these fields. The site sits over a cliff which offered additional protection to the compound. One can climb up the cliff where Kitazawa Shrine is located. There is a sort of creek to the north which is thought to have been used as a trench. It's not clear what defences were used on the plateau-side, however, as that area is now under plough.
 
Kubodono Yashiki / 久保殿屋敷

KubodonoYashiki (1).JPG

Kubodono-yashiki is a medieval residence site. Not much remains in terms of ruins, but the terrain which overlooks a confluence of rivers seems readily fortifiable. There is a depression to the east called 'moat-field', which is the site of a moat, and supposedly there was another such moat wrapping around the residence area in the east, but this is now a depot for municipal vehicles. Some castle bloggers have found old mounds which are possibly dorui (earthen ramparts) but I did not find these. I was using a map produced by Teipisu-sensei in 2008 as a guide, but the site has been further developed since then and I could not get to the rear of the site where the dorui would be. There is a municipal office on site and there has even been a new house built in its carpark. Who builds their house in a carpark? Modern houses pop up in disorderly fashion like weeds amidst fields and old homesteads in Japan's dwindling countryside.
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ARTShogun

20 days ago
Score 1++
Cheers, Eric!