Jinbaǵharajō, built along the ridge of Tsuruǵamine, is a presumed fort site associated with the late Heian period general Kiso Yoshinaka. It may have been used in the Sengoku period by the defenders of nearby Ōjō (Ina Ou Castle).
The castle ruin at the centre of Japan? Now there's a gimmick. Firstly I should say that the ruins amount to essentially a curiously flattened, wide space along the ridge, perhaps with some terracing, and, per the castle's name, this is said to have been the spot of an encampment (or, 'jinba') of Kiso Yoshinaka, the famous general of the late Heian period. It seems the site is also referred to as a fort (toride). There is an old marker which bore the site's name, but now it is illegible and just a square log. I reverently pulled it out of the grass like I was retrieving a fallen warrior, and set the thing up to lean against a tree in what was the fort's main bailey. A tear shed for lost castle markers on lonely mountains... I went along the ridge in some places but found nothing definite -- maybe some trench remains; if one goes all the way down the ridge one comes to Ōjō, the centre of a complex of fortification sites overlooking Tatsuno. Jinbaǵaharajō supposedly predates them, but at the same time I think there is a fair chance this area was used during the Sengoku period as a sort of hidden redoubt of Ōjō. The ridge shields the site and it could be an effective hiding place to muster troops in secret, but it's quite inaccessible.
If one visits this outré plateau then one is between two points which are said to be the 'centre of Japan'. There are many centres of Japan, it must be said, and the exact position will depend on the mode of measurement and how one defines the centre. We went to the point along the ridge called 'Nihon no Chūshin' where there is a small stone monument. There's not much to do but to take a picture of and with the thing. There is also no view to write home about and the area is surrounded by tall trees. Such centre points are also called 'heso (臍)', which means 'navel'. Naruheso!
I thought it might be that this heso is the furthest one can be in Japan from the sea and ocean, but that might be in Hokkaidō. A nearby point is also called 'Japan's Zero-Point' and refers to the bisection of latitude and longitude at the zero minutes mark. As I say, determining a geographic centre depends on method, and Tatsuno Municipality obviously just chose the one which best suited it, and now promotes the spot as a low maintenance tourist or hiking destination. The road to the castle and centre of Japan is best taken from the Tatsuno side (south), rather than the dirt and gravel track which runs along the mountain chain to the Shidareguri Forest Park in the north. There is another heso just north of the Shidareguri camping ground called 'Nihondo no Mannaka' . This one is easier to get to and a monument has been there erected by Shiojiri Municipality.
|Late Heian Period
|Pre Edo Period
|Take the mountain road from the south not the north - unless you want an adventure. Or hike for several hours from Tatsuno, coming via Oh Castle ruins.
|24/7 free; mountain
|Tatsuno, Nagano Prefecture
|36° 0' 38.66" N, 137° 59' 22.27" E
|Added to Jcastle
|Admin Year Visited