Azumi Uyama Castle
The Uyama Clan were a branch of the Nishina Clan. The lord of Uyamajō was Uyama Toranosuke (鵜山虎之助), according to the『筑摩安曇古城開基』. Uyamajō was first built by the Kanda Clan, and then later used by Uyama Jūdayū (鵜山十太夫), a vassal of the Nishina Clan, according to the『北安曇郡誌』(it's possible different parts of the mount were fortified at different times).
I was looking forward to the long weekend in October, starting for me Friday midday, and had a busy weekend planned. But the weather was miserable the whole time. The temperature had dropped, but that was a welcome sign of the onset of the mountain castling season. What was not welcome was the rain! I still managed to get out Saturday, despite the showers and the wet, and visit some very minor sites in Aźumi County. I had intended the sole yamajiro (mountaintop castle) I visited to be a gentle warm-up for some bigger hikes, but it turned into quite the slog! This is my account of Uyamajō.
During a break in the clouds the weather was clement, so I decided to take the scenic route between Matsumoto and Ikeda via the Azumino Cycling Road, by-passing the more direct route in Akashina and instead going between Toyoshina and Hotaka. This initially pleasant cycle took longer than I had expected and I already endured some light showers by the end of it. The weather had really soured by the time I got to the foot of the mountain at midday. Though I had maps, the erection of electrified barriers to stop animals getting off the mountain and into tea plantations meant it took me a while to find a way to get onto the mountain (at one point I got shocked through my gloves moving along the fence!). The way I came down has a well maintained trail, and I would recommend taking this main trail from the Aźumi side which goes to Mt Tengu. But there are two sites associated with Uyamajō, and Mt Tengu is just one of them. Another is located on the ridge between the peak and the Uyamashi-jinja; the site of the shrine is thought to have been that of the castle's kyokan (living area) (but in the same area there are also vicinities called 'tonoyashiki' and 'motoyashiki' which are suggestive). Since I wanted to see this site as well I forced my way up the ridge behind the shrine. The trail was overgrown and obstructed with tree trunks. It was quite the climb and I got wet and dirty. I also had to backtrack down a small outcropping of the ridge to get to my quarry.
The portion of Uyamajō indicated by Shinano castle expert Miyasaka Takeo is at odds with other sources which indicate the centre of Uyamajō to be the peak above called Mt Tengu. Since I visited both I can offer my thoughts on which is the site of the main fort, though there is no reason why both sites couldn't've hosted fortificatons. The ridge site, pointed out by Miyasaka-sensei, consists of a small earthen bulwark along a small ridge terminus which overlooks the plain. It seems that this space has been flattened, and the earth on the plainside is steep. Above, where this small ridge outcropping connects with the main ridge, I also noticed a ledge of flattened earth beneath a small peak, and behind it what could've been the remains of a trench, though this was merely suspicion on my part (everything was overgrown and difficult to photograph). Presumably a sketch exists somewhere of this area but I can't find one so will crudely make out my own.
Next I climbed (with difficulty) to reach Mt Tengu. This peak is wide and flat, and could've easily accomodated a fort. There is a small mound in the centre of what overall seemed to me to be the shape of a triangle with curvy sides - or something like a guitar pick. One of the points particularly interested me because it looked like dorui (earthen ramparts) had been piled up at the edge. The sides of the peak seemed sculpted like kirigishi (terraforming to steepen banks) in places, particularly here, and within the bailey space was a depression I took for the remains of a well (though it could've just been an old tree bowl - left where a tree had collapsed).
Ridges joining with the peak on sides not in the direction of the kyokan were very narrow, and due to landslides one was barely walkable. Beneath the proposed dorui there is a narrow ridge which goes to a lower peak, and this is also included as part of the proposed area of the castle, a sort of detached bailey, though there isn't much to see here. On the side of the peak toward the kyokan the sloping is gradual, and, my imagination invigourated, I fancied some trench remains, but, on reflection, these were likely indentations in the ridgeline brought about by earth movements. Nevertheless it seems like there may have been terracing along this portion of the mount which has by now degraded.
Visiting Uyamajō is a series of impressions and suspicions. But I was most engaged at the Tengu Peak. This to me is the most likely site of a fort. The earth in these mountains is slippery, and there are many scars from landslides, and these earth movements have eaten into any earthworks, making them harder to identify. I would say the peak of Mt Tengu is the main destination for anyone foolhardy enough to visit Uyamajō (Miyasaka preferences the ridge; could god be wrong?). I was delighted to find a spanking new sign there which read 'Uyama Castle (Mount Tengu)', and, on the reverse side, 'Commemorating the ascent of Kumagorō, September of 2022'. And so another castle explorer had come not long before me, and left this wonderful signpost for us all. After a hard climb this was inspiring to see.
|English Name||Azumi Uyama Castle|
|Founder||Kanda Clan; Uyama Clan|
|Year Founded||Medieval Era|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Access||Nearest Station is Aźumi-Oiwake Station on the Ôito Line|
|Visitor Information||24/7 free; mountain|
|Time Required||60 minutes|
|Location||Ikeda, Nagano Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 22' 46.74" N, 137° 54' 14.33" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2022|
|Admin Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|
|Friends of JCastle|