Hikiō was first built by the Hiki Clan in 1492. The Hiki were vassals of the Nishina Clan. During the Takeda Clan hegemony in Shinano, the Hiki swore fealty to Takeda Shingen, possibly after their castle was besieged. After the demise of the Takeda Clan in 1582, Hikijō was besieged by the forces of the resurgent Ogasawara who had reclaimed Fukashijō (Matsumotojō).
Ogasawara Nagatoki had lost to Takeda Shingen. When his son, Ogasawara Sadayoshi, returned to Shinano with the support of the Tokugawa (who had invaded Kai), in 1582, he was out for vengeance. One after the other local clans were wiped out. The Aida succumbed in their valley home, and then the Aoyagi, Tōnohara, and Akazawa were slaughtered at Matsumotojō in one fell swoop. The Hiki were next in line for destruction. At first, supported by the Uesugi to the north, they resisted along with their old neighbours and rivals, the Maruyama. After Hikijō was besieged for about a month, some of the Hiki fled to join Uesugi forces to the north. Hiki Moritake was left in charge, and he handed over the castle to the Ogasawara following surrender. After that Hikijō was used as a base to attack the Maruyama on the other side of the Sai River; the Maruyama would eventually flee north. What was left of the Hiki Clan served the Ogasawara and were relocated with them to Kantō in 1590, by which time Hikijō was abandoned.
Hikijō is an extensive earthworks yamajiro (mountaintop castle) fortification site overlooking the mountain village of Ikusaka. It has multiple bailey spaces separated by deep trenches. These trenches, called horikiri, are dug into the ridgeline, creating barriers. Since much of the site is maintained as a park, a couple of trenches are spanned by little bridges, which is a quaint. These horikiri would’ve been originally much deeper. Actually, as I was thinking of that I then came to one which may actually be deeper now since it is used as a forest road.
The integral baileys of this fort are set one after the other, numbering three, and a blacksmith is held to have been located in the third. Also there are several spurs of terracing, as well as the ridge spur with three horikiri. The terraced spurs are not maintained as part of the park and so one must go off the beaten track, as it were. At one point I had to go under a fence post (this was from the main bailey, and the final terrace of that spur would offer tremendous views if not for the trees). The main bailey has an elevated corner segment. Perhaps a small tower was built here. The main bailey’s shape has been warped somewhat by landslides. The effect of landslides is very obvious at this site.
Another notable portion of the castle is located on a peak a little separate from the rest of the earthworks. It has a mound which was the site of an observation post. Of course, now all one can see is the trees! This look-out area also has terracing below. At the foot of the mount is a flattened area used for mustering troops or keeping horses.
Even though there are park features at this site, it is still fairly wild, and one must go through an animal barrier to reach the trail up. On the trail I disturbed a yamakagashi, a type of venomous snake (‘tiger keelback’).
|English Name||Hiki Castle|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Artifacts||Horikiri, Kuruwa, Miyaguradai, &c.|
|Access||Bus from Akashina Station on the Shinonoi Line|
|Visitor Information||24/7 free; mountain|
|Time Required||60 minutes|
|Location||Ikusaka, Nagano Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 25' 14.16" N, 137° 56' 15.18" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2022|
|Admin Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|
|Friends of JCastle|