Fukui Castle (Shinano)

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TakaiFukuijou (2).JPG


Fukuijō is thought to have been built, at least originally, by the Maki Clan, vassals of the Suda Clan. The castle was essentially part of the domain of Suda Mitsuchika, and it may have been used to guard the Kenashi Pass which leads to Kōzuke Province (analogous to Gunma Prefecture), or even intended as a base from which to attack Kōzuke. Its relative isolation may indicate it was used as a hidden redoubt, but its large size suggests a more important role. When Takeda Shingen took over Suda territory in 1559, Fukuijō was abandoned, though there is some speculation that is was used later, perhaps by Uesugi Kagekatsu, mostly due to the extensive remains. This is unconclusive, however.

Considering the extensive ruins of this site, it's curious that so little is known about it. Perhaps the original Maki Clan residence was expanded upon by one of the major players duriing the conflicts which rocked the area.

Visit Notes

Fukuijō is an enthralling and mysterious site. It is situated in a high place in 'High Mountain Village' in a mountainous prefecture with nothing but mountains beyond, and feels rather lonely and isolated. In this kind of place... the people clung on in the harsh winters like a beetle under a leaf. One does not expect to find such a large ruin as Fukuijō here, and I was shocked by the extensive remains.

(I almost didn't make it, since the terrain was very steep to cycle on, and my rented electric bike had used up more than 90% of the battery by that time, but it used less than 1% on the way back, which should give you an idea of the elevation involved.)

Once can visit by bicycle or car because this is in fact a mostly flatland castle, or at least clifftop, situated on a plateau, and a forestry road goes through it. The impression of Fukuijō is of a large residential compound, but so large that one wonders who built it, since the nearby Suda and Takanashi clan complexes were not as large.

Fukuijō is divided into four baileys. Three baileys are arranged together in a row with karabori (dry moats) dividing them. To the south there is a large fourth bailey which flanks two of the baileys. Karabori wholly surrounds all baileys, including the outer fourth, and this extensive moat network is marvellously intact. Since the site is situated on a river terrace, some of the karabori descend as tatebori (climbing trenches), and there is a narrow band of terracing - more of a ledge, really - beneath the integral baileys above.

Dorui (earthen rampart) segments are found throughout the site, but are most extensive around the main bailey. Unlike some clifftop forts which don't use karabori to run parallel to the cliffline, Fukuijō also has a long moat stretching beneath the baileys and above the cliff, with dorui heaped up on the outside of this moat above the aforementioned narrow ledge. Actually, this is a feature I associate more with castles in Kantō than in Shinano...

I had a lot of fun following the moats. There's no break in them as they ensconce bailey after bailey, so that it occured to me that the baileys must've been accessed via wooden rather than earthen bridges; perhaps collapsible draw-bridges. There is a small stone wall in the main bailey, but it's not clear what time this dates from. The southwestern corner of the main bailey has a small platform of earth on the inside of the ramparts, suggesting that perhaps a small turret or tower was constructed here. This site is difficult to navigate as it is largely over-grown; formerly cultivated, it is now used as a cedar plantation. I also had to contend with snow, which I hadn't counted on since there was none in the basin below that day. Therefore, it is probably best to come in late autumn or early winter before the snow gathers, and absolutely not recommended during the summer months. Despite the conditions, Fukuijō was a great ruin to explore.

  • Karabori (dry moat)
  • Dorui
  • Dorui and karabori (dry moat)

Castle Profile
English Name Fukui Castle (Shinano)
Japanese Name 信濃福井城
Founder Maki Clan
Year Founded Sengoku Period
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition Ruins only
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Artifacts Kuruwa, Karabori, Tatebori, Dorui, &c.
Features trenches
Visitor Information
Access Suzaka Station on the Nagano Line; rent bicycle from education centre opposite station; cycle to Takayama Village
Visitor Information 24/7 free; forest
Time Required 60 minutes
Location Takayama, Nagano Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 39' 50.11" N, 138° 23' 42.32" E
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Added to Jcastle 2023
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
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