ART Update 2022 Part 2
ART Update 2022 Part 2
Part 2 of ART's updates from 1H 2022. 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.
Marikoyama Fort / 鞠子山砦
Marikoyama-toride is a small fort. It consists of a main bailey complex with a raised portion in the centre of the bailey. Beneath the main bailey on the plain side is terracing, and to the mountainside rear is a complex of trenches dug into the ridge and mountain slopes. Between a prominent horikiri (trench) and a series of tatebori (climbing trenches) there is an area which may have been a second bailey. The tatebori are fairly impressive and fall on each side of the ridge. There are two north-facing tatebori and one large south-facing tatebori with an angled turn toward the top where it eventually merges with a sunken path along the ridge. I did wonder whether these dropping formations, however, weren't natural, as they're quite large relative to the fort. Professor Miyasaka, 'God of Shinano Yamajiro', includes them in his nawabari (layout) map of the castle in 'Shinano no Yamajiro to Yakata (『信濃の山城と館』)', but is apparently also sceptical of their artifice. That said, two long depressions like this on either side of a narrow ridge would also be unnatural, and similar features are found at other Nishimaki Clan sites, so I was happy to treat them as tatebori. The shukuruwa is in anycase undoubtedly a fort ruin.There is no trail to the castle and I had to just tackle the mountain head-on. I was quite surprised to see this site on shiro-meguri, since it's quite minor, but some mad lad (Ranmaru?) or other went up there in the snow, I think quite recently (article dated to March 2022, seen here: https://cmeg.jp/w/castles/3304/pins/35277), and the site also features on Google Maps now so perhaps it's the same uploader. I don't bother putting sites on Google since we have jcastle.info. I searched for this site on Ranmaru's blog as he has extensively covered the Nishimaki Toridegun, but he doesn't have a page dedicated to it specifically that I could find; though I thought he had been because he visited neighbouring Jōhikageyama-toride. There must be very few sites in Nagano which I've been to but that Ranmaru-sensei hasn't. Another site which covers Marikoyama-toride and which I used chiefly as a guide is the Yogo site (here: http://yogochan.my.coocan.jp/nagano/matumotosi04.htm). But Yogo-sensei didn't make it up to the fort site because he couldn't find a way up. Yogo-sensei famously does not like climbing mountains, which is funny because his website is dedicated to yamajiro. Indeed, the only way up to this site is to point one's body at the mountain and keep moving. Will power is required along with appropriate equipment (gloves, boots, &c). I heard many animals on the mountain and would recommend taking a bear bell... or a gun. One must necessarily be a romantic to enjoy sites like Marikoyama-toride.
Murakami Kan'onsaka Castle / 村上観音坂城
Murakami Kashiwayama Castle / 村上柏山城
Murakami Komaruyama Fort / 村上小丸山砦
Murakami Kongouji Castle / 村上金剛寺城
Murakami Toyo Castle / 村上豊城
Murakami Yakata / 村上館
Murakamishishima Yakata / 村上氏島館
Nagase Yakata / 長瀬館
Nagase is a 'hidden village' of sorts. This phrase kakurezato (隠れ里) blurs history and legend, and is often associated with ochiudo densetsu (落人伝説), which means 'legends of fallen warriors', a phenomena of Japanese folklore. A typical encounter with a kakurezato occurs in a remote location. Imagine yourself a hunter in the deep forest. You're alert and tense. Suddenly you hear sounds you shouldn't in the dark forest. An echo of laughter floats between the cedars. You are unnerved and fall back to a stream to splash its cool water in your face. But you jump back from the water in awe: a bowl with chopsticks is floating down stream. Someone is upstream, and you follow the river to its source, coming across a hidden village. Various legends attend the kakurezato, from the improbable to the fantastical. Often the concept evokes a sort of bucolic paradise of a simple, quiet existence without conflict. The intersecting legends of fallen warriors I describe in this extract from a short article I wrote on the topic:
'A village hidden in the mountains, untouched in centuries, known to only a few outsiders... Here is where Heike warriors who survived the massacre at Dannoura came to hide and eventually settle, rebuilding their lives and clan in the strictest secrecy, passing down their crafts and heirlooms to their ancestors who possess them to this day.
'... If you believe this, do you also believe the over one hundred other villages which tell the exact same story? Each has secrets, each has treasures and each has lineage to back up their claims! But of course they can't all be genuine. Perhaps none of them are.
'Ochiudo Densetsu (落人伝説) means 'Legends of Fallen Warriors' and is a phenomenon of Japanese folklore. Warriors presumed or even proven dead live on in legend and are said to have escaped destruction, disappearing into anonymity and re-establishing themselves in out of the way places, carrying with them their special crafts and skills, passing them down to their ancestors right up until today. Japanese folklorists and historians have long observed this phenomenon and tried to separate fact from fiction, in the process debunking many myths, but also proving long established facts to be incorrect. To illustrate how pervasive this trait of Japanese culture is: in 1926 when the Emperor Chōkei was officially recognised as a legitimate Emperor (some six centuries after his reign) a search for his tomb prompted claims from over two hundred villages that they were descended from him and that his final resting place was in their village. I imagine each village mocked the absurd claims of all the others, smiling demurely and shaking their heads.'
Although some remote villages have laid claim to the status of real world kakurezato (Kyōmaru in Hamamatsu, Gokanoshō in Yatsushiro, &c.), Nagase was not particularly remote. Instead it was located beneath a terrace of the Narai River. From the above plateau it is invisible. One would have to have prior knowledge of its existence to find it. The hidden part is geographic, and its attendant folklore concerns not Taira but Minamoto warriors, discussed in the history section.
I went to Nagase to investigate the potential remains of a yakata (fortified manor hall). Today the small slip of land which constitutes Nagase is uninhabited and no longer cultivated. The main land-owners were the Nagase family, and they grew rice. At its height the village had twenty dwellings. Now only a few remain standing, and none appear to be tenanted. There used to be a pig farm whilst people still lived here, but now that has been cleared and there is a solar panel array in its place in the north of the slip. The rice paddies in the south are fallow. The hamlet is still in orderly fashion; cemetery plots (all cenotaphs bear the name 'Nagase') and the local shrine are maintained. When I first entered the village a man in a light truck was clearing up at the shrine - perhaps he was a Nagase man himself; I could see him between the trees when descending the terrace, but he soon left and I don't think he noticed me.
There is a terrace with old paddies below and more fields above. There is a short berm beneath with a waterway which empties into a pond. There are several waterways lined with stones in the village which once provided the necessities of daily living to the villagers. The road which runs up has an old residence at the corner. This house could be a century old or more. The terrace rises behind it, and this is thought to have been the site of the Nagase clan residence. The earth is heaped up here. Overlooking the river there is heaped, rammed earth running along the cliffline like dorui (earthen ramparts). Amidst these piles of earth is a hokora (a small shrine) and a stone marker proclaiming the site of Nagase Hangan's burial mound.It's true this site is well hidden. But being on such low terrain also would've made it very vulnerable. An enemy could come upon the place very quickly. But there is one final secret. Above the village shrine, on what appears to be nothing but a mountain, there is a flattened terrace of considerable size. Although there are too many trees in the way now, this area, thought to have been a fortification site, gives enough elevation for a view of the plateau on the other side of the river. The Nagase used this space as a fortified redoubt and look-out. If viewed as a fort, this was a secondary upper bailey and the main bailey with the residence was below. There's just enough here to make one think, yes, it's possible the stories are true, this really was a kakurezato - of the real kind - where the Nagase Clan held their secret court.
Nakakaido Yakata / 中海道館
- Kaido' uses the kanji 海道 (lit. 'sea road'), not 街道 (lit. 'town road'), and it is pronounced 'Kaido' with a "short vowel", not 'Kaidō' with a "long vowel".
Nakamuranotonoda Yakata / 中村の殿田館
Nakanojou Jin'ya / 中之条陣屋
Onotougemonomi Fort / 小野峠物見砦
Ryuugasaki Yakata / 龍ヶ崎館
Samizu Castle / 三水城
Satsuma Yakata / 薩摩館
Sawazoko Horinouchi Yakata / 澤底堀ノ内館
Shinmachiharada Yakata / 新町原田館
Shioda Castle / 塩田城
Shioda is called locally 'the Kamakura of Shinshū' due to the concentration of splendid temples throughout the valley, a product of its historic prosperity. At its centre Shioda had a large castle. Or, rather, a castle complex with a series of fortifications built over several ridges of a mountain. These fortified ridges cradled the castle proper in the steep valley between them.
I had already been to Shiodajō before, but only what proved to be a small part of it. At that time I wrote that the castle has an upper and lower part. This is true in a sense, but the upper castle was actually series of forts and fortified peaks along the ridges. One could further distinguish an upper and lower part of the castle proper, as the most secure area, and today the site of its most impressive ruins in terms of remaining structures, is narrower and nestled snugly between two ridgetop forts, the West Fort and East Fort.
The forts of Shiodajō which together constituted a vast fortress are numerous, but the three main ones, from which smaller fortified areas radiate out from, are the Nishi-toride (West Fort), Higashi-toride (East Fort), and Kōbōyama-toride, the latter also called "Upper Shioda Castle" as it is the highest situated on the mountain peak. The well defined Nishi-toride is on a terminus of the west ridge, and above it are the lower reaches of the Upper Castle which are referred to as its central or middle forts. The Upper Castle further has western and eastern fort groups. The eastern fort group spans the eastern ridge and connects with the Higashi-toride which functions as the main node in that branch of the fortress. It should be noted that distinct from these forts and the rest of the Upper Castle, as well as the West Fort, is the 'grouping of westerly forts' which spread onto an entirely different ridge to ensconce another valley, now the site of the temple Ryūkōin, which neighbours the main castle / Lower Castle. Although the western fort group links up with the western branch of the Upper Castle, they are separated by a severe and abrupt change in elevation - well, a cliff, I suppose.
As for the castle proper, I will detail its features below. The Lower Castle of Shioda is a valley castle composed of a series of terraces. The site can be divided into three parts, the outer, middle and inner (these are my divisions). The outer castle ruins are indistinct as they are now the site of various rice paddies and orchards covering hillside terraces. The middle ruins begin where the tarmac road turns down hill, and there is a large stele here which proclaims the site. From here the ruins become more distinct, and include karabori (dry moats), dorui (earthen ramparts) and tatebori (climbing moats). The terracing here is bold and spacious, and the terraces are tall. Various residences would've stood here. An impressive segment of dorui runs opposite the old stele. Beneath the stele are the remains of a karabori.
The inner castle, which I define as the area being flanked by the ridgetop forts above, starts at the point where there is now an information board. There is also a fence here to keep out / in wildlife. In my previous visit this was as far as I ventured as that day was dedicated to visiting temples. The inner castle is much narrower, on average about half the width of the lower sections. Terraced baileys are located either side of the Ôte (main path). At the top of the Ôte, or at least before it bends, is something that looks like an old tomb or storage space, a structure of earth and masonry, though it is also shown on maps as a well. I haven't seen a well dug into a slope rather than straight down before. Behind the Mishima Shrine is a very large tatebori. To the left are four smaller tatebori, but I couldn't see these due to the overgrowth and I had no desire to crawl around on the hillside looking for them. I could see some bumps and rills, and that is all. I left that section to the experts. Actually, I then saw Ranmaru-sensei wrote on his blog "if you can see four tatebori here then you are a true believer in God (Miyasaka Takeo)". Ha. I put down "unejōtatebori" as a possible feature.
Above the shrine the inner castle becomes more claustrophobic - or cosy, depending on one's point of view - and is half the width again of the proceeding segments. The path climbs to the right and to the left are a staircase of terraced baileys. The start of this inner section of the inner castle is guarded by a tatebori to the east and a climbing section of sekirui (stonewall) to the right. The stone-piled wall has collapsed considerably but it's still obvious if one knows to look for it, and the stones were clearly piled around some sort of climbing embankment. This is a very interesting defensive feature but probably many visitors miss it.
It is from here that we find Shiodajō's most salient features, its ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts), koguchi (gate complex), and ido (well). The 'tiger's maw' gate with its ishigaki is amazing considering its age. Although bits of masonry can be found here and there about the Lower Castle, the blocks here were most sturdily applied. The shape of the gate complex, forcing angled turns, is easy to appreciate. To the rear of this gate area is a stone-lined well. When I interrogated its depth with my camera flash I saw that there was a puddle at the bottom and a hardhat. Luckily it appears that there was no head in the helmet when it fell down. Several terraces climb beyond this gate area, and from here paths lead to the various forts of the Upper Castle and beyond.
For other parts of this fortress see:Shiodajou Nishibouruigun
Shioda Yakata / 塩田館
Shiozakijou Miyama Fort / 塩崎城見山砦
Since the mountain wasn't too big I was able to get up in my casual footwear. I actually overshot the site, assuming it to be from what I'd read online on the peak to the north of Shiozakijō, but in fact the fort was located somewhat lower down. The taller peak had evidence of a barn or something being there, and the mountainside was terraced with ishigaki made up of large stone blocks. These weren't castle ruins, and the piling method was dubious. Since there were no fort ruins I wondered if they'd been destroyed, which I suspected was the case because I couldn't find any recent pictures of them online. I had a set of co-ordinates but I had been unable to confirm their accuracy. Another set I found through 'official channels' were actually wrong.
Subsequently I have confirmed the location of Miyama-toride through the cross-referencing of materials. And, regrettably, I can report that the fort site is now utterly destroyed, and in its place there is a solar panel array. This array has eaten into the mountain itself. From the plain below it's hidden, being in a carved out section of the ridge, and so I initially had doubts as to this being the site of the fort, but alas...The site of Miyama-toride is now unrecognisable. As for the 'solar park' we see today, I don't know when it was built, so it may be that the fort ruins were destroyed to make way for something else first. It is merciful that the array cannot be seen from below. Still, I was very unhappy with the situation. Solar panels have their place. Some homes can use them and they can be used to generate electricity off-grid, but they are not a viable alternative to other power sources, nor can they be. It is deeply concerning then to see them popping up and engulfing Japan's mountains and countryside.
Shoujina Yakata / 正科館
Suda Castle / 須田城
Sunuma Yakata / 須沼館
Suzaka Jin'ya / 須坂陣屋
Tezuka Yakata / 手塚館
Toishi Fukuzawa Fort / 砥石福沢砦
Toishi Kikubatakeno Castle / 砥石菊畑之城
Toride Fort / 取手砦
Tougeyama Noroshidai / 垰山狼煙台
Yabuhara Fort / 藪原砦
The main bailey complex consists of a central enclosure with terraced sub-baileys bracketing it. To the west the earth rises up into what look like old ramparts in two tiers. The lower sub-bailey has four large pits inside the dorui (earthen ramparts) and I have no idea what to make of this. Normally I'd assume it were the remains of a dug well, but I don't know why there would be four together like this.
The second bailey, 'Maruyama', is just a flat space which serves as a small park. The sides of the slope were made steeper and the portion atop was flattened for use in the fort. Beneath the second bailey where the trail runs there is a right-angled bend with earthen embankments on three sides. This would've made a formidable gate complex for the fort.The third bailey has a resthouse and the large flattened area which would've constituted the fort's bailey is now labelled on maps of the trail as 'former site of weather station'. According to maps of the fort ruins there should be tatebori (climbing moats) either side of the resthouse which would've formed a narrow chokepoint for entering the bailey; however, these moats must've been filled in because I couldn't see any sign of them. Beneath the third bailey running parallel to the trail is a series of dorui and terraced minor baileys, including a lower part which looked to me like a former gate complex with another angled turn. From here we can see the peak of Tōgeyama, upon which a signal beacon was built by the fort's defenders.
Yaguchi Yakata / 矢口館
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