ART Updates for Yamanashi Prefecture and Shizuoka Prefecture


ART Updates for Yamanashi Pref. and Shizuoka Pref.


Another update for ART's campaigns around Yamanashi Prefecture and Shizuoka Prefecture. There are several famous castles in this update that have not been covered before so it's great to get them "on the map" here. While less historically famous, I'm particularly impressed with the trip to Misaka Castle. This is considered to be one of the most difficult castles to visit. The hike is one thing, but it is also quite remote with poor transportation options. Well done!

If you haven't seen ART's Facebook Japanese Castle Group yet I highly encourage you to do so. There are contributions from many members including discussion about castle related news new discoveries and photos from members' travels.


Bue Yakata (Totomi) / 遠江武衛館

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The Bue-yakata, or Shiba-yashiki, also called the Shiba-Bue-teitaku, was a medieval fortified residence attached to the Yokochi Castle complex, now referred to as the Kikugawa Jōkan Complex after the modern municipality of Kikugawa. There is a signpost for the castle and a signboard with a curt explanation about the site. It appears to have been situated between two creeks on the hillside which formed a natural defence. These are overgrown, however, and hard to delineate. The interior of the former compound is now wooded with some vegetable plots.
Fujimaru Yakata / 藤丸館

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Fujimaru-yakata was a medieval fortified residence site; it is now tea fields, located in Higashi-Yokoji township, Kakegawa Municipality. There is a signboard with an explanation about the site nearly buried in a bush in front of the tea field. At the edge of the field, by the road in the east, is a sign which says 'hidden well'. The well, used at the yakata, was crescent-shaped. I had a look in the brush but couldn't see anything that was supposed to be the well trace. To the west as the road climbs toward the yakata site, one can find some cenotaphs dedicated to the Yokochi Clan.
Horikawa Castle / 堀川城

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Horikawajō is a former hirajiro (plainsland castle) site in the countryside outside of Kiga, Hosoe Township, Hamana Ward, Hamamatsu Municipality. No ruins of fortifications remain and the site is now fields. A small park with a hedgerow and camellia bushes can be found as the site of the fort today. Here there is a marker stone for the castle, and the only remains from that time, a kubiźuka, or burial mound for severed heads, which was presumably constructed following the fall of the castle with the remains of its defenders interred.
Ii Yakata / 井伊館

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Ii-yakata is a former fortified manor hall site in the town of Iinoya, Inasa Township, Hamana Ward, Hamamatsu Municipality. It was the kyokan (residential compound) of the Ii Clan. There are scant remnants, and the main point of interest is probably the explanatory board about the site in front of a local community centre. The board contains both a Japanese and English description of the site, as well as a map made by Edo period chroniclers of the ruins. Whilst the site is now mostly housing, remnants are said to include a small mound which was a corner segment of a rampart, referred to as the Itono ('Well Lord') Mound; and the gutters which run between homes to the south of the community centre are thought to have been where the kyokan's moats ran. According to the Edo period map shown, the kyokan complex was expansive, and included three baileys. The layout was of successive baileys in a row with the rear of the compound protected by a moat. There was also a waterway to the south according to the explanation board. Some castle-bloggers indicate that the moats wholly surrounded the compound and extended to the foot of the Iinoyajō castle-mount. This could make Iinoyajō a hirayamajiro (hill-and-plains castle) with an integrated kyokan (for example, like medieval Tatsunojō or Hagijō). Other castling sites consider Iinoyajō a yamajiro, which is a designation used when the kyokan is detached from the fortified mount (to pick a well-known example, like Bitchū-Matsuyamajō). It's not clear to me which Iinoyajō should be categorised as, but clearly it and the Ii-yakata formed a typical medieval jōkan (fort-residence) system, wherein the yakata was the site of daily living, and the fortified mount above was used as a redoubt in times of conflict.
Iinoya Castle / 井伊谷城

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Iinoyajō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin in the town of Iinoya in Inasa Township, Hamana Ward, Hamamatsu Municipality. The top of the hill is gradually sloping, and the ruins can be found in the form of dorui (earthen ramparts) which encircle a compound at the top of the hill. The dorui is particularly obvious near the two entrances to the main bailey, but it can be followed all around the hilltop. There are no sheer drops or terraced baileys beneath the northern ramparts, just a slope with ferns on, but the dorui can be clearly appreciated when viewed from here. Iinoyajō almost feels like a simple flatland fortification stuck atop of a hill rather than a mountaintop castle, due to its simplistic design incorporating dorui without an obvious sign of extensive terracing or ridge-bisecting trenchwork. Another curious feature is that only half the hilltop within the ramparts is flattened, with the rest maintaining an unlevelled mound-like shape. The fortified mount was used as a redoubt in times of conflict, with the yakata (fortified manor hall) on the plain below being the main residence of the Ii Clan.
Katsumata Castle / 勝間田城

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Katsumatajō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin in Katsuta township, Makinohara Municipality. If only every yamajiro was as well-groomed as Katsumatajō then life could be a dream! So, Katsumatajō is my dream yamajiro because with all of the trees cut down we can see clearly the structure of the castle, near to how it looked when first constructed, albeit without things like buildings, stockades and watchtowers. Most yamajiro ruins aren't maintained, and it's even rarer to have one preserved without trees (usually cedar plantations) obstructing the view between baileys and features. Katsumatajō also has good signage and engaging features, including horikiri (trenches), dorui (earthen ramparts) and kuruwa (baileys).

Katsumatajō has a ladder-like layout with an additional southerly spur connected to the main bailey. There is a deguruwa (detached bailey), now a field with tea bushes, on the approach to the castle proper. The forest road runs through an umadashi (barbican bailey), but looking to the side remains of trenches can be seen. Thereupon the ruins of the castle loom above, and the layered ramparts can be starkly seen.

The third bailey sits beneath the second. It is surrounded by dorui along its forward-facing northern side. Below there is a yokobori (lateral moat) with more dorui. A large creek separates it from the outer baileys. To the east there is a ridge protected with dual horikiri. To have not only the bailey space cleared but also the dorui and horikiri is a rare treat. Due to rainfall a pond had formed in this bailey.

The second bailey's stolid ramparts are directly adjacent and above the third bailey. The second bailey is also protected by dorui in the north, east and northwest. The foundations of buildings unearthed during archaeological excavations are delineated in the second bailey. The castle's eastern bailey structure can be clearly seen from the second bailey below it. Between the main bailey and second bailey is a horikiri and dorui. The main bailey complex is terraced with dorui at the top, rear bailey. Here there is also a small shrine and a stele to mark the castle site. To the rear of the main bailey is the south bailey, which has dorui and horikiri to its rear. The mountainside ridge at the back of the castle is forested, and there is a roped off, dubious walkway leading away from the ruins. Along the ridge here is evidence of tatebori (climbing moats).

Finally, perhaps the most attractive area of Katsumatajō is the east bailey complex (it is southeast in relation to the main bailey). The ridge to the east of the east bailey is divided by embankments and five horikiri in a row; these looked to me like the humps of a great convoy of dromedaries. The southeastern ridge eventually leads to the shaded monomi-kuruwa (watchtower bailey) which is a hidden corner of the castle ruins. There are great views from the east bailey, and I saw Mount Fuji appear between bands of clouds.
Kiga Jin'ya / 気賀陣屋

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Kiga-jin'ya is a former jin'ya site in the town of Kiga, Hosoe Township, Hamana Ward, Hamamatsu Municipality. The jin'ya was located just north of the Kiga-sekisho, on the western bank of the Iinoya River. No ruins remain, and the site is now a school. There is a signboard about the jin'ya in the carpark in front of the school, and a venerable shii (castanopsis; chinkapin tree) grows here, said to be from the time of the jin'ya, and from which fruit was sent to the shōgun each year. The jin'ya sat on somewhat elevated terrain, with the main road below. To the immediate west is an old inn with a thatched roof pavilionesque building and luxurious garden. The garden, which can be glimpsed from the above lane, is also said to be a relic of the jin'ya. Originally the Kiga-sekisho, a checkpoint along the Tōkaidō trunk road, was attached to the southeastern perimeter of the jin'ya. This area is now housing, but the sekisho has been fully reconstructed on the other side of town.
Kissatsu Castle / 切差城

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Kissatsujō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin in Kissatsu Village, Yamanashi Municipality. The fortified area overlooking the village consists of only a single bailey complex, a flattened hilltop with some terraces beneath. There is a small flattened portion further along the ridge, perhaps used for a signal tower, but it is unknown if this was also part of the fort. Beneath here was a cutting in the ridge, but it seemed to be used for an old mountain path rather than related to any fortification.

I climbed to the fort site without a trail from the necropolis of Hōrinji, a temple in Kissatsu Village. It seems there should've been a trail, but I couldn't find it. There was a sign pointing to the castle in the village, and another sign at the temple. Pictures of this site on the internet are scant, but I found one on Yamareco which showed a sign also on the castlemount, but I didn't see that one myself.

I also took some pictures briefly of Kissatsu, a village hidden in the mountains with many old homesteads. Going further into the valleys that day became almost forboding. The abandoned homes increased in number. At first I thought it was a shame that the homes were emptied and untenanted. But soon the houses became so ruinous and dilapitated that the idea of any of them still being inhabited was unnerving. Kissatsu sits independent of any valley, being truly hidden and surrounded by mountains, and the old homes here belonged to sericulturalists. The distinctive raised roof portions, an architectural form vernacular to Kai, is called, of all things, yagura-źukuri, or 'turret-style', with these raised rooftops providing ventilation for the upper floor of the cottages which served as silkworm nurseries.

Note on possible readings of the castle name: I wrote in my notes, initially, 'Sessa' as the name of this site, which was my guess as to the reading of the kanji, but it seems the reading was more likely some variant of 'kiri', the kun'yomi for 切. Possible readings of 切差 are Kirisatsu, Kirisashi, Kirisasu, Kitsusatsu, Kissatsu, and Kissasu. The village is today called Kissatsu, so that's what I'm going with for the castle name, even though it was not necessarily the same as the village, and the village in the past was also alternatively called Kissasu -- and an even older attested name is 'Kirisasu (霧指)', meaning 'burnt fields in the fog'. I bet each household in the village calls it by a different name...
Kuno Castle / 久野城

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Kunojō is a hirayamajiro (hill-and-plainsland castle) ruin in Washizu township, Fukuroi Municipality. Ruins of this earthwork fortress carved from a hill include dorui (earthen ramparts), horikiri (trenches) and kuruwa (baileys). Originally, the base of the hill was surrounded by swampland from which broad moats were fashioned for defence and waterborne transportation. The surrounding land has, however, long since been reclaimed. The ruins are maintained as a park which has parking and toilets, so anyone can visit. There are signboards with information; one features an illustration by renowned castle-illustrator Kagawa Gentarō.

The castle's so-called ôtemon (main gate) area was actually a ferry landing, as the fortress was accessed by boat - in addition to having a land connection. Kagawa-sensei's illustration shows a turret here to protect the landing, but the mound seen today is quite small, and was probably more of a look-out tower on stilts rather than a solid building. This flatland area of the castle is now surrounded by reeds, and during my visit these reed patches were busy with the flittering and twittering of mejiro (warbling white-eyes), the yellow-feathered warblers with distinct white-embossed eyes.

The layout of Kunojō is complex and expansive, and satisfyingly contains, in addition to the main, secondary and tertiary baileys, north, south, east and west baileys too. The south and west baileys are on flatland, whilst the eastern and northern baileys are elevated somewhat (it seems there were two 'north baileys' but that the outer one of the two has been lost to redevelopment). There is a stretch of land beneath the main bailey and between the north and east baileys which has a long stretch of dorui. Dorui can also be seen prominently in the second bailey. Otherwise rare or unique at the site, there is a horikiri on an outcrop beneath the main bailey; it hardly seems necessary, but maybe it was constructed prior to the hilltop fort being expanded into the surrounding plain.

Kunojō is not to be confused with Kunōjō, also in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Kuroda Daikansho / 黒田代官所

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Kuroda-daikan-yashiki is a medieval fortified residence and proto-modern daikansho (magistrate's residence / office) site in Shimohirakawa township, Kikugawa Municipality. Extant Edo period architecture includes the main living hall, storehouses and a grand nagayamon (gate-rowhouse).

The site is surrounded for the most part by a mizubori (moat), which seems to have once ensconced a secondary bailey too. There is also a boat-landing on the moat around the main bailey, indicating that the moat system was once connected to nearby waterways. The fortification ruins also include dorui (earthen ramparts), with a chunky segment within the inner moat, and a long stretch of embankment on the outside of the moat, which is unorthodox.

There is a museum building in what was once the compound's secondary bailey. The museum's displays contain old scrolls, clothes and items of daily use during the time of the daikansho and thereafter. The admission fee is ¥150, and photography is prohibited. The main compound and its gardens are open to the public, but the main living halls are still occupied by the Kuroda family, and there is no public entry inside of the buildings.
Mamushizuka Castle / 馬伏塚城

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Mamushiźukajō is a hirayamajiro (hill-and-plainsland castle) ruin in Asana township, Fukuroi Municipality. Of this once sprawling fort few ruins remain, but these remnants give an impression of the scale of the fort. Earthen ramparts and a karabori (dry moat) segment can be found in what was the castle's southern bailey where there is now a explanatory board about the castle. The southern bailey is now the site of a Suwa shrine. The rest of the castle's footprint can be made out looking at satellite imagery, but it is difficult to explore as it has been developed over with fields and farmsteads.

Even though Mamushiźukajō is now about 5km from the sea, it used to be surrounded by a boggy coastal marsh which was used for water transportation and as moats surrounding the castle's baileys. The baileys were fashioned from small hills and surrounded with earthen ramparts. They were then connected to each other in a row and to the mainland via dobashi (earthen bridges). The surrounding swampland has long since been reclaimed as agricultural land, but the castle's baileys became the site of a village called Okayama established on the highground.

'Mamushiźukajō' means 'Horse Prone Mound Castle', but the reading for 'horse lying down' is unusual, and homophonous with 'mamushi', meaning 'pit viper'; it may be an example of kakushi-kotoba (argot).
Misaka Castle / 御坂城

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Misakajō is an expansive yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin on the border of Fujikawaguchikō Township in South Tsuru County, and Misaka Township in Fuefuki Municipality. The fortress was a fortified pass with fortifications climbing up the ridge on either side of the Misaka Pass. Therefore the castle's layout could be divided between the northern and southern sections along the ridge with a middle section consisting of the pass itself integrated into the fortress. This makes Misakajō unusual in that instead of the central portion being elevated, the central area is sunken, with dual climbing portions on either side.

Misakajō is often called 'the highest mountain castle' and such. There were higher fortifications, but, at 1,600m elevation, Misakajō is the highest built at such a large scale. Ruins are primarily earthworks and include features such as kuruwa (baileys), dorui (earthen ramparts), and karabori (dry moats), including horikiri (trenches bisecting the ridge), yokobori (lateral trenches along the mountainside), and tatebori (climbing trenches).

The layout of the fortress is complex, but the slopes beneath the ridgetop baileys are protected with moats, sometimes in multiple bands. Some debate whether the castle was built by the Hōjō Clan or built before by the Takeda Clan, but for me, looking at the ruins with my own eyes, the beautifully carved moats and ramparts seemed like they could've been built by no other than the Hōjō; nobody did moats like the Hōjō!
Mitake Castle (Kai) / 甲斐御岳城

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Mitakejō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin in Mitake Township, Kōfu Municipality. Ruins feature deformed bailey spaces and a double horikiri (trench) complex. I found the climb up instructive, with rocks, cliffs, chains and ropes to contend with; it's not a proper mountain unless it tries to kill you. I had several markers to aim for as the possible site of the castle; of course, it's always the highest one up... The yaguradai (turret platform) and nijū-horikiri earthworks are found further along the ridge from the Tengu shrine with the stone walls, and the shrine's narrow bailey space is the flattened ridge behind the shrine.
Odano Castle (Kai) / 甲斐小田野城

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Odanojō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin in Makioka Township, Yamanashi Municipality. Its footprint covers three ridges extending down from the mountaintop. I climbed up via the eastern ridge, at the bottom of which is an area referred to as the bansho (guard house) where there are earthworks. I'm not sure if the embankment here was piled for the fort, or excavated for a shrine; now two small stone altars stand in the clearing. However, there is what looks like the remains of a horikiri (trench) to the rear so probably this was a part of the fort complex.

The eastern ridge, above the bansho area, has two horikiri, one at the top and one at the bottom. In between there are two flattened portions of the ridge which were baileys. The lower of the two has two terraces beneath it, making it quite a substantial bailey complex. Large boulders are scattered here and there amidst terraced pocket baileys. I recognised a standing rock from another blogger's photos and knew that I had come to a place just beneath the main bailey.

The main bailey is a little spacious with slight terracing. There is a post marker for the castle here. To the north is a trench, beyond which is a narrow, flattened ridge. There is also a large spur of terraced baileys along the southern ridge which descend like a giant staircase. About half way down the southern bailey spur is a long bailey.
Osakabe Castle / 刑部城

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Osakabejō is a hirayamajiro (hill-and-plains castle) ruin in the Nakagawa neighbourhood of Hosoe Township, Hamana Ward, Hamamatsu Municipality. The hilltop fort was made up of a smaller and larger hill with a trench-like depression between them. The smaller hill now hosts a shrine. The larger hill hosted the fort's main bailey with some terraced baileys below. Even though the main bailey contains significant dorui (earthen ramparts) to the rear of the bailey, I found it impossible to reach the back of the bailey because it is too overgrown with bamboo (pictures online show a sign reading 'great earthen ramparts (ôdorui 大土塁)'). Yogo-sensei also met with the same difficulty, describing the ruins as 'a hell of fallen bamboo (tōchiku jigoku 倒竹地獄)'. I also found the site to be nestings grounds for cormorants who were engaged in noisy conversation overhead, so that the scene was like a busy jungle. To the southwest was the fort's kyokan (residential area), now a field, and there is a tiny sign along the path to the shrine here reading manor hall site (yakata-ato 館跡)'.
Takadaoh Yashiki / 高田大屋敷

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Takadaô-yashiki is a medieval residence ruin in Shimōchida township, Kikugawa Municipality. Ruins include dorui (earthen ramparts) and mizubori (water moats), and, under the Kikugawa Jōkan Complex Ruins (菊川城館遺跡群), are a designated historical site.

There is a large main compound which still has a farmhouse inside, though I found no obstacles to inspecting the dorui which ring the main bailey. The main bailey is further surrounded by a shallow moat. Toward the south where the road is there is a faded signboard for the site and a large, solid chunk of dorui; are these the remains of an outer compound? The moat system also extends to the south beyond the main bailey, indicating a once large footprint.

In the north there is also what appears to be the remnant of a moat system in a crescent-shape. So perhaps there were more baileys to the north too that have since been buried. It has been said that the neighbouring Furukawa-jinja also contains traces of earthworks, but I ran out of time to inspect there.
Uchida Yashiki (Totomi) / 遠江内田屋敷

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Uchida-yashiki is a former fortified residence site in Kamihirakawa township, Kikugawa Municipality. The site is now a Kasuga shrine. There is some indication of dorui (earthen ramparts) along the western edge of the premises, but that's all. This castle-visit was actually effected whilst waiting for a table at Sawayaka, a popular family restaurant found only in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Yokochi Castle / 横地城

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Yokochijō, also called Yokojijō as an alternative reading of the same characters, is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) complex ruin in Higashi-Yokoji township, Kikugawa Municipality. Yokochijō refers to three clusters of fortifications in a row immediately adjacent to each other on the mountain. The fortified peaks of the east and west each rise up with a middle, lower fortified space between them. This trio of interconnected forts is further categorised as part of the Kikugawa-jōkan-gun, a network of hilltop fortifications and fortified residences in Kikugawa.

The three sections of Yokochijō are called Yokochi-Nishijō, Yokochi Naka-no-shiro, and Yokochi-Higashijō, the latter also referred to as Kinjujō. Since all of these fortifications are contiguous to at least one other fort, I'm treating Yokochijō as a single site. Signs at the castle call Yokochi-Higashijō 'Kinjujō' with 'honmaru ("main bailey")' in brackets, but maybe it would be better to call it the 'main bailey complex' since it is a collection of many baileys; Kinjujō is generally considered to be the main fortification out of the entire complex.

Yokochijō's residential area is a long, flattened mountain 'saddle' between the western and central fort complexes called the 'thousand tatami manor hall'; the path up from the carpark leads up to here. Since it is immediately south of Nishi-no-shiro, I proceeded to Nishijō from here. The western fort is now a shrine, and the layout is of step-like terraces climbing the hillside, with some of the terraces further divided with hori (trenches) and dorui (earthen ramparts). Some westerly spurs of mountain are also protected by trenches. It seems the ridges to the north were flattened and fortified, but now they are far too overgrown to access.

Yokochijō Naka-no-shiro is the middle fort of the group. It contains horikiri (trenches cutting through the ridge), yokobori (lateral moats) and dorui. The yokobori is now quite shallow, but it is an interesting feature, seen beneath the ramparts of the central bailey. An impressive horikiri is found in the east of the fort.

Yokochijō Higashi-no-shiro, also called Kinjujō in isolation, is the largest fort of the complex of forts which make up Yokochijō. The main bailey complex consists of a narrow strip of baileys atop with terraced koshikuruwa (terraced baileys) on the northern slope. These carved ramparts are tall and are arrayed formidably. The lowest koshikuruwa has a well site in it. The western side of the eastern fort has terraces, and both horikiri and tatebori (climbing trenches) on the hillside. The northern area of Higashijō is quite extensive and contains baileys along ridges divided by horikiri. The eastern side of the eastern fort is difficult to navigate, but there are tatebori and horikiri beneath terraced baileys here too. Only the southern face of the fort, directly beneath the main bailey, is not fortified, as here the mountain drops away precipitously.

Yokochijō is a vast site with many features. It is also generally well-maintained, so that the contours of the fort and its features are easy to appreciate even for castle-explorer novices. The advanced explorer will be able to identify yet more features with a little effort. I highly recommend this nationally designated historical site to all castle fans.
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