Maruoka Castle (Dewa)




Maruokajō was a fortified residence belonging to the Mutō Clan (also known as the Daihōji Clan, a branch of which was called the Maruoka Clan), likely built in the late 15th century as a branch castle of Daihōjijō (now known as Kamegasaki Castle). The fort was important in that it guarded the road between the coastal Shōnai area and the interior of Dewa. In the Sengoku period the castle was fort over by the Daihōji and Mogami clans before being abandoned by the Mogami in 1615.

In 1632, Maruokajō was given new life as a residence for none other than Katō Tadahiro, the third son of Katō Kiyomasa and former lord of Kumamoto Castle, who was exiled for poor governance of his domain, violations of rules about keeping spouses and children in Edo (he took them back home without permission), and personal insults dealt to the regime by sidelining his first wife and son of Tokugawa lineage. The Sakai Clan took in the suspected madman after he narrowly escaped execution, and built a residence for him at Maruokajō, were he was essentially prisoner. The residence burned down in 1646, but was rebuilt. Upon Tadahiro’s death in 1653 the Shogunate took over the castle and the residence was shortly after abandoned. A cenotaph for Tadahiro still stands near the castle ruins to this day.

Visit Notes

Maruokajō is a hirajiro (flatland castle) ruin in Maruoka village, Tsuruoka Municipality. The ruins were developed into a history park in the new millennium. The site features a restored mizubori (water moat) and dorui (earthen ramparts). The layout of a manor hall which stood at the site is indicated on the lawn, and a garden with sunken area which was once a pond is a charming feature; from this depression an ancient tree arises curiously like from a portal to a fantasy realm. The dragonflies were faeries and the grasshoppers gnomes in that rosy garden. On a lily pad in the moat I found a small newt lay unmoving; this was death in paradise, I thought.

Just outside the moat is a bukeyashiki (samurai house), which has been restored, except for the roof thatching which has been covered up or replaced with sheet metal. This bukeyashiki, which has been relocated from Tsuruoka, is open to the public but it was already closed when I visited (it’s open 10:00-16:00). For more details on the bukeyashiki see the samurai homes section on the profile for Tsurugaoka Castle. There is also a small museum next to the bukeyashiki; it is attached to somebody’s house.

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  • Dorui
  • Mizubori (water moat) around bailey
  • Dorui
  • Site of garden
  • Bailey
  • Site of manor hall buildings

Castle Profile
English Name Maruoka Castle (Dewa)
Japanese Name 出羽丸岡城
Founder Mutō Clan
Year Founded Late 15th Century
Castle Type Fortified Manor
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Prefectural Historic Site
Historical Period Edo Period
Artifacts Mizubori, Dorui, Bukeyashiki, &c.
Features water moats
Visitor Information
Access Nearest Station is Tsuruoka Station on the Uetsu Line; 90 minute walk, or 15 minute drive
Visitor Information Open 24/7; free (park); Museum opens 10:00-16:00 (free)
Time Required 50 minutes
Location Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture
Coordinates 38° 40' 54.37" N, 139° 49' 51.60" E
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Added to Jcastle 2023
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Jōkaku Hōrōki
Tōhoku Jōkan
Shiro Meguri

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