The Hikobe family were close allies of the Ashikaga Shoguns and can trace their family tree back to Emperor Tenmu. The Hikobe represented the Ashikaga in the Hirosawa area of present day Gunma, sandwiched between Hishakuyama Castle and Ota Kanayama Castle. When the politics started to turn against the Ashikaga in Kyoto, Hikobe Nobukatsu built and fortified this residence and the Hikobe family took up permanent residence. The Hikobe also stayed neutral in the big battle between the Kiryu at Hishakuyama Castle and the Yura at Ota Kanayama Castle.
River stones from the nearby Watarase River were used to line the trenches and build stone walls for the fortifications. In a crackdown on the class system in the 1700s, the Hikobe gave up their samurai titles and officially became farmers. At this time, the house was rebuilt in a simple farmhouse style with a stable inside for a horse. However, due to the family's importance in the area and lingering power as vast landowners they were allowed to keep the large nagayamon gate, which would have only been allowed to samurai. They also built 2 formal receiving rooms into their farmhouse for meeting with local officials and leaders. The trenches, stone walls and watchtower base next to the karamate gate (rear entrance) all show signs of the castle still today. The karamete itself is an amazing structure with a stone-lined twisted entrance (kuichigai) and a watchtower (yaguradai) in the corner.
In the Meiji and Taisho Periods, the Hikobe family built a successful silk weaving business and were critical in building out the Kiryu area textile business. Two of the other buildings from this time period (not in these photos) are also National Historic sites for their importance to the weaving industry of this time period.
Ring the doorbell at the big gate. Private tours are conducted on arrival. The Hikobe family still lives here and Mr. Hikobe (49th generation Hikobe) speaks excellent English so English tours are possible.
The house and gate are National Important Cultural Properties along with 2 storehouses and the winter residence. There are "no photography" signs up and they're a little conservative about you taking many photos on the tour or to let you walk around the grounds on your own.
The mountain behind the Hikobe Yashiki also had a "tsume-no-shiro" or castle to flee too during times of unrest. This castle, called the Teusuyama Fort, does not have much to see. It is just a very overgrown mountaintop and a weedy trail with fallen trees to scramble over to get to the top. As a castle fan though it's nice to visit as part of the residence/fort combination.
|English Name||Hikobe Yashiki|
|Alternate Names||Hikobe Yakata, Hikobe Manor, Hikobeke Jutaku|
|Castle Type||Fortified Manor|
|Castle Condition||No main keep but other buildings|
|Designations||has Important Cultural Properties, Prefectural Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Edo Period|
|Features||trenches, stone walls|
|Access||Kiryu Station (Jr Ryomo Line, 40 min bus to Hirosawamachi 6 chome bus stop, 15 min walk|
|Visitor Information||Private property, tours on weekends and national holidays; 10am-4pm; 500 yen|
|Time Required||60 mins|
|Location||Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 22' 24.78" N, 139° 20' 53.88" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2020|
|Admin Year Visited||2020|
|Admin Visits||March 22, 2020|
|Friends of JCastle|
|Shirobito - Hikobe Yashiki|
|Jokaku Horoki - Hikobe Yashiki|