Yamanaka Yakata (Kai)

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Yamanaka-yakata, the fortified manor hall of the Yamanaka Clan, is reckoned to have been established in the Muromachi period. Historical records describe an impressive fort made up of four terraces fortified with stone walls and moats, with the fort’s entrance area to the south. It was on the frontline between the Takeda of Kai and the Imagawa of Suruga. Additionally the Yamanaka, vassals of the Takeda, also took part in the internal conflicts of the Takeda within Kai, and records as far back as 1494 show they lost warriors in these battles. It seems the site was abandoned in 1582.

I wondered if the ruins had been covered in magma or mudflow at some point due to the surrounding landscape, but I think the only eruption which could’ve caused that was the big one in 1707. There appears to be no direct relation between this site and Yamanaka Castle to the south.

Visit Notes

This, the Yamanaka-yakata, a fortified residence ruin, is a fun site. Fun if one has a sadistic turn. I had scouted out this place myself as a sort of last-minute place to visit whilst in the area but was then surprised to see it featured on the Cmeg (Shiro-meguri 城巡り) app’ with its own dedicated profile (not even listed as a ‘nearby site’), which is usually a good indication that one may find something worth seeing at a site (since Cmeg lists only thousands of sites and not tens of thousands...). Surely, thinks I, there will be something here. But this is where the morbid fancy comes in. It seems that each castle blogger who comes here finds different ruins of the castle! Haha! That is to say, people are looking at various clumps of earth and land forms and making them into ruins theoretically, but we can judge by their disparate findings that it’s all dubious. Are there really ruins here? I myself found ruins! So obviously it’s inconclusive and I can’t say. Ah, it’s sadomasochism after all.

First of all this is a rich historical site, as it is the site now of two shrines overlooking Lake Yamanaka, the Yamanaka Asama Shrine and the Yamanaka Suwa Shrine. A modern road, depressed, cuts through the middle of the site. I couldn’t find the (supposed) dorui (earthen ramparts) in front of the shrine which the blog Kojousi (Kojōshi 古城址) showcases. I did go to the rear of the shrine and find the dorui highlighted by another blog, Onodenkan (also very poetically called Kojō Seisuiki 古城盛衰記). But here again there was an issue. I tremendously respect and even revere these bloggers, but here I feared that it could come off as disingenuous to highlight dorui. Yes, it looks like dorui in Onodenkan’s photo (unlike in Kojōshi’s, which could be anything), but that whole area behind the shrine is an old lava flow site with countless mounds and depressions lumped together in all directions, and so I was not prepared to take any of the mounds as artificial given that so many seemed clearly natural. Though perhaps I did not simply have the ability or knowledge to pick out the dorui amongst this confusing, bumpy landscape. A lot of earth has also been banked up for the shrine, and this is also what the ishigaki (stone retaining wall) at the site is for.

And so what of my ruins? The shrine sits on elevated terrain which has clearly been in part sculpted by human hands. The entrance to the Asama Shrine appears like it could be old earthen ramparts with a moat space beneath. I strongly had this impression but perhaps it was just guesswork and expectation. If Onodenkan is right and there is dorui to the rear of the shrine then this supports my image (in my head) of the ruins. But others suggest the centre of the yakata was beneath the shrine. Perhaps they are right. This area consists of many buildings surrounding an impenetrable patch of forest which is on private property, however, making exploration difficult. I don’t know what ruins are there.

All in all this visit, the only castle site I visited that day (which was mostly spent in caves!), was a little disappointing, but the shrines were nice, and it is very near the lake front, which was very beautiful and buzzing with leisurely activity. It became for me anyway an interesting study of how amateurs disparately interpret obscure ruins at castle sites.

  • Embankment for shrine

Castle Profile
English Name Yamanaka Yakata (Kai)
Japanese Name 甲斐山中館
Founder Yamanaka Clan
Year Founded Muromachi Period
Castle Type Fortified Manor
Castle Condition Ruins only
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Visitor Information
Access Nearest station is Fujiyama Station on the Kawaguchiko Line and Otsuki Line.
Visitor Information 24/7 free; shrine
Time Required 30 minutes
Location Yamanakako, Yamanashi Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 25' 38.03" N, 138° 50' 51.97" E
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Added to Jcastle 2022
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Kojō Seisuiki
Shiro Meguri

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