Kuruma Castle (Hanishina)

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HanishinaKurumajou (3).jpg


There is no definitive contempoary record of Kurumajō, but their is a tradition that it was originally built by the Tōjō Clan who were vassals of the Murakami Clan. Tōjō Nobuhiro was castellan when the fort was attacked by Sanada Yukitaka under the command of Takeda Shingen during the battle(s) of Kawanakajima. The Tōjō Clan fled to Echigo Province, and garrison commander Kurita Daizen was slain at the castle.

There is a letter from Shingen to Yukitaka sent in 1556 urging him to refortify Amakazarijō, the main castle on the mountain, and in another undated letter Shingen ordered the Saijō Clan to build a castle following the fall of Amakazarijō, though it is not clear whether this refers to the rebuilding of Amakazarijō or the construction of another fort. There is no direct mention of Kurumajō.

Visit Notes

Kurumajō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin in the mountains above Ômuro village, Matsushiro Municipality. Ruins include dorui (earthen ramparts), yokobori (lateral trenches), other earthworks and some remnant masonry.

Kurumajō has an unusual layout as it was built in a naturally flat area beneath a tall ridge rather than on the ridgetop or mountaintop. There is a main bailey with an obvious trench to the rear, and another trench along the ridge which descends at an angle to the main bailey. To the northwest the mountainside has the remains of stone walls. There were a lot of cut trees and branches and things lying about when I visited, and this made the smaller ishiźumi segments difficult to see. A larger stone wall is used as a retaining wall against the eastern ridge which ascends to the 'yamajiro-ato' peak. This site is unorthodox and has many mysteries.

It is possible to hike up to this site via the Ômuro kofun (ancient burial mound) complex, which I thought about doing, but then I found a map of the trekking course and figured it would save time and effort to cycle up the slopes in the inner valley behind the castle mount to another trail. Because I cycled up to the trail I had to return to my starting point but it would also be possible to descend the mountain via the enigmatic ruins of Kasumijō.

Rather than re-ascend to the peak I came by, I simply descended into the creek below Kurumajō to get back to my rented bicycle. Here I made a great discovery. The creek was terraced with bands of impressively stacked stone walls. The walls looked old, but I presume they were built after the time of the fort, possibly in the late Edo period. Their purpose seems to be to terrace the creek and create weirs. A path, also lined with stones, ascends toward Kurumajō beside these ishigaki segments. I lost track of the number of bands, but I was impressed by the solidly piled ishigaki (collapsed in some places). Nobody cares about ishigaki like this because they weren't built for castles, but I think they're valuable remains even so.


Starting near the agricultural university, to reach Kurumajō was steep and effortous but maybe quicker than ascending from the kofun complex, and it actually took me to Kurumajō via a mountain peak which also had fortifications ruins, simply sign-posted as 'Yamajiro Ruins'. In contrast, Kurumajō is not itself sign-posted. Actually, there appears to be some conflation between the 'Yamajiro' site and Kurumajō which sits lower down the mountain in a seat-like realtive depression at converging ridges. Around 2020, 'Yamajiro' was labelled as 'Kurumajō' on the trekking course map, but the map I saw, which seemed like it could've been recently printed, did not call the peak 'Kurumajō', but simply 'Yamajiro' instead. There seems to be confusion about the location of Kurumajō. I took to calling the peak site 'Kurumayamajō' on the assumption it was a sort of redoubt for the larger fort below. Or should we tautologically call it 'Yamajirojō'? Or simply 'Yamajō'? I think it would be logical to refer to it as the 'bansho (guardpost)' of Kurumajō, keeping watch from the peak. Has nobody else considered this? Going about naming castle sites, I have become impertinent.

Note: This site is Kurumajō (車城) in historical Hanishina County, not to be confused with Kurumajō (来馬城) in historical Aźumi County, both in Shinano Province / Nagano Prefecture.

  • Ishigaki at fort site; providence unverified
  • Trench viewed from above

Castle Profile
English Name Kuruma Castle (Hanishina)
Japanese Name 埴科車城
Founder Tōjō Clan
Year Founded Sengoku Period
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Artifacts Dorui, Karabori, Kuruwa, &c.
Features trenches, stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Hike from Ômuro Tumuli Complex, Kasumijō, or any point on the Kimyōsan Trekking Course
Visitor Information 24/7 free; mountain
Time Required 45 minutes
Location Nagano, Nagano Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 35' 15.79" N, 138° 13' 35.15" E
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Added to Jcastle 2023
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
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