Karasawayama Castle

From Jcastle.info



Karasawayama Castle is one of the seven most famous castles of the Kanto area and is considered by many to have been the best mountaintop castle. It earned this recognition from withstanding 10 attacks by the Uesugi during the Sengoku Period. In Hideyoshi's campaign against the Hojo, Sano sided with Hideyoshi. At that time, the Sano were in good relations with the Hojo so he removed all the Hojo from the castle. At the Battle of Sekigahara the Sano sided with Tokugawa. It is said that in 1602 when there was a great fire at Edo Castle, the fire could be seen from the top of Karasawayama Castle. When he saw this, Sano sent his messengers to Edo Castle to relay his condolences. However, from this event it came to the attention of the Tokugawa that Karasawayama Castle looked down upon Edo Castle so the Sano were forced to abandon it and rebuild a new castle (Sano Castle) on a lower elevation. It is also said that the Tokugawa claimed there was a law against mountaintop castles in the vicinity of Edo. Unfortunately, there is no proof that either of these stories is true. Regardless, the Sano moved their castle from Karasawayama to Sano Castle in 1602.

Visit Notes

There are few castles in the Kanto region with this much stonework. Karasawayama Castle is an interesting blend of the late Sengoku Period stonework that was more common in Western Japan with the earthworks and trenches more common to Kanto region castles. At a Yamajiro Summit lecture, I heard it said that the Sano were impressed by the stonework they saw at Hizen Nagoya Castle when working on that for Hideyoshi and borrowed the techniques to build the large stone walls of Karasawayama Castle. Even though large stoneworks weren't necessarily needed at most Kanto castles they make for an impressive sight to impress or intimidate visitors.

There are hiking trails approachable from Horigome and Tada Stations too but the route from Tanuma is probably the fastest and easiest. There is also a road to the castle if you want to drive or take a taxi to the top.

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  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Kuichigai Entrance
  • Kuichigai Entrance
  • Large Well
  • Fourth Trench
  • Obikuruwa Bailey
  • Fourth Trench and bridge. The stone bridge was originally an easily withdrawn wooden bridge.
  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Honmaru stone walls
  • Ninomaru south entrance stone walls
  • Honmaru Entrance. You can see a large stone, called kagamiishi, on either side. of the entrance.
  • Large kagamiishi around the honmaru entrance. Kagamiishi are intended to intimidate visitors.
  • Behind the honmaru
  • Ninomaru North Entrance
  • Ninomaru Stone Walls
  • Ninomaru Stone Walls
  • Ninomaru Bailey
  • Ninomaru looking to the Honmaru
  • Minami Tsubone. A small enclosure of the Honmaru.
  • View from the South Bailey
  • Stone walls of the South Bailey
  • Horikiri through the South Bailey
  • Three stepped enclosures just north of the large well.
  • Sugi Bailey
  • Horikiri after the Sugi Bailey
  • North Bailey
  • Double horikiri trench
  • Dobashi and trench. Here the trench cuts away to make a narrow strip of land to cross.
  • Part of the trench from the other side
  • Trenches
  • Trenches that create a narrowed earthen bridge
  • Part of a unique twisted trench
  • Part of the twisted trench
  • Some stone work in the northeast of the castle
  • Some stone work in the northeast of the castle
  • A lookout in the northeast of the castle. You can also see a small koshiguruwa bailey below this point.
  • Mt. Karasawayama
  • Map
  • Map

Castle Profile
English Name Karasawayama Castle
Japanese Name 唐沢山城
Alternate Names Ushiga-jo, Nekoya-jo
Founder Sano Moritsuna
Year Founded 1491
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Next 100 Castles, Top 100 Mountaintop Castles, National Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features trenches, stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Tanuma Sta. (Tobu Sano Line); 45 min. walk
Visitor Information mountain trails, open any time
Time Required 120 mins (longer depending if you search for some of the more elusive ruins)
Website http://www.city.sano.lg.jp/profile/karasawa/
Location Sano, Tochigi Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 21' 13.68" N, 139° 36' 2.81" E
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Added to Jcastle 2007
Contributor Eric
Admin Year Visited 2007, 2018
Admin Visits June 30, 2007; Feb 25, 2018

(3 votes)
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76 months ago
Score 1++
When I was going through the pictures I had taken of Karasawayamajō I realised that half of them were of cats. The castle belongs to the cats now. Karasawayamajō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) with impressive ishigaki (stone ramparts) remaining. It's earthworks are similarly impressive, with horikiri (trenches cut across the mountain ridges) and many baileys spread across the mountain. At the recommendation of the webmaster, I also found and inspected the "crank trench", a horikiri built with a two right angled turns at its center. In addition to the mountain ravines (沢), the castle's many trenches would've made for a robust defence. The ishigaki can be found principally at the main gate and around the honmaru (main bailey), which is now the site of Karasawayama-jinja. Entering through the front koguchi (tiger maw gate complex), the open space there is referred to as mushadzuke, a gather point for warriors. Next comes the Great Well, a huge stone-lined well which served the castle's water needs. Then one passes the Yotsumehori (Fourth Moat) over which there is a modern stone bridge. Originally this would've been wooden and retractable in times of attack. One passes the sannomaru (third bailey) and comes to the large stone walls of the inner castle. According to jcastle.info, the Sano Clan may have been influenced whilst working to build Hizen-Nagoyajō to build large ishigaki at their own castle too. The honmaru, as mentioned, contains shrine structures, and I suppose these serve in place of the Lord's residence. The Ninomaru (second bailey) also contains a shrine structure and was formerly used as a rallying point. The ridge extending south from the honmaru is cut with many horikiri and if you take the lower path you can count them as you pass. There are four mid-sized baileys to the honmaru's northeast, following the top of the mountain: Nagamonmaru (Row Gate Bailey), Kinnomaru (Gold Bailey), Sugui-kuruwa (Cedar Bailey) and Hiratoyamaru. Kinnomaru contains a dōjō type building. Beyond these four baileys are many smaller baileys following the mountain ridge like a ladder. They are part of a camp site and were off limits when we went. Winding back along a thin path clinging to these baileys was exciting with many narrow places inviting us to fall down the steep slope. The path was supposed to link back up to the Kinnomaru but had been blocked by fallen trees, so I scrambled up the side of the hill using tree branches and roots to anchor myself before helping my friend get up by lowering down a long branch I found lying in the leaves. So it was quite the little adventure.

Anonymous user #1

142 months ago
Score 0++
Just visited this site yesterday. For those castle fans who enjoy stone work, this is a nice site close to Tokyo, with some great stone walls. This site can be easily combined with a day in Ashikaga. In Ashikaga, you can view a number of glorious temples and shrines such as Ashikagashi Yakata, and the Orihime shrine. If you enjoy a bit of mountain climbing you can also combine, Ashikaga castle ruins, which only has ground works remaining, but some amazing views across the valley.