Kariyaharajō is said to have been built by Kariyahara Yukitsuna, founder of the Kariyahara Clan, an off-shoot of the Unno Clan. In the Sengoku period the lord of the castle was Kariyahara Yukimune. By 1523 the Kariyahara Clan had fallen into decline and was replaced by the Ōta Clan, vassals of the hegemonic Ogasawara Clan, who took over Kariyaharajō and made it their main base.
In the middle 16th century Takeda Shingen invaded Aida so as to gain a new area from which to attack Murakami Yoshikiyo (Shingen had already made progress into the province via Saku County). Hirasejō fell in 1551, allowing access to Aida via Tazawa. Takeda forces besieged Kariyaharajō in 1553 and Lord Ōta Suketada fell on his sword.
Kariyaharajō proved to be a nice castle ruin to visit, but the initial climb to reach it was quite punishing. Upon the advice of several castle bloggers I came up via the ridge with Meitokufudō shrine. There is an old trail here but it was very overgrown and strewn with fallen trees. I ducked, weaved, and hopped my way up and lost the path, taking the ridgetop instead. Since fallen trees were everywhere progress was slow. On the way back I was able to stick to the old trail but in getting back down to it – it passed under the castle site – I touched a spiky tree (honey locust?) which pierced through my glove and into my hand.
The principal baileys of Kariyaharajō, the main bailey and one below it, are covered in fallen trees. Looking at some other blogs it wasn’t like this before 2020; some storm must’ve come through? I found the marker for the castle amidst shambolic, fallen trees in the topmost bailey. The marker was dated 1980! Amazing that it has survived so long.
Kariyaharajō has a southern spur, an eastern spur and a western spur. I came up via the overgrown, dangerous southern spur, but the other spurs proved easier to navigate. Each spur is made up of small baileys divide by horikiri (trenches). The western spur was very clear with no fallen trees, as though it had escaped whatever storm had ravaged the other parts of the site. Here the autumn leaves fell thick and blanketed the forest floor like a lush snow. The sunlight was transmuted through the foliage and the mountain here was bathed in a yellow glow. For better or worse some lyrics by Coldplay came into my mind...
|English Name||Kariyahara Castle|
|Founder||Kariyahara Clan; Ōta Clan|
|Year Founded||Sengoku Period; 1523|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Artifacts||Horikiri, Kuruwa, &c.|
|Access||Bus from Matsumoto to Shiga|
|Visitor Information||24/7; free; mountain|
|Time Required||60 minutes|
|Location||Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 18' 58.57" N, 137° 58' 57.04" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2022|
|Admin Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|
|Friends of JCastle|
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