Matsuoyama Castle

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History

Matsuoyama is a mountain in a strategic location at a narrow point between provincial borders and long hosted a fort. The ruins of castle we see today was the Matsuoyamajō built by Itō Morimasa under the orders of Ishida Mitsunari in the lead up to the battle of Sekiǵahara in 1600.

The first iteration of Matsuoyamajō was built, it is said, in the early 15th century by the Tomishima Clan. Thereafter, iterations of Matsuoyamajō include the fort built by Higuchi Naofusa under Azai Nagamasa in 1570, and, after the defeat of the Azai and the capture of that fort , a fort held by Fuwa Mitsuharu, a vassal of Oda Nobunaga, until 1575. Between then and 1600, Matsuoyamajō was abandoned.

In 1600, Itō Morimasa rebuilt Matsuoyamajō in anticipation of conflict between his liege, Ishida Mitsunari, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Before the final battle began, however, Kobayakawa Hideaki chased Itō Morimasa from the castle, and used it as his own jinsho (battle camp) during the battle. The Western Army under Mitsunari strongly suspected that Hideaki would betray them and join the Eastern Army. Then the plot-twist that everybody saw coming happened when Hideaki charged Western Army positions beneath Matsuoyamajō. The rest, as they say, is history.


Visit Notes

Matsuoyamajō is a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) in Sekiǵahara Township, Fuwa County. Ruins include dorui (earthen ramparts), kuruwa (baileys), dobashi (earthen bridges), horikiri (trenches), tatebori (climbing trenches) and a smart left-facing masugata (square) gate complex in the main bailey. The main bailey is ensconed by dorui, and a pond has formed beneath a corner of the ramparts. The views are commanding from here.

According to Chris Glenn, author of 'The Battle of Sekigahara: The Greatest, Bloodiest, Most Decisive Samurai Battle Ever', and related works, Matsuoyamajō is the largest castle site by surface area in Gifu Prefecture. Chris was nice enough to take a small part of us on a tour of Sekiǵahara's environs and jinsho sites, but we ran out of time for Matsuoyamajō. I had wanted to return ever since.

The hike up to the ruins takes about forty minutes. The layout of the castle is complex, and multiple ridges and peaks were fortified, which even created a distinctive 'saddle bailey' in between two of the fortified peaks. Climbing from the north route one comes first to a northeastern ridge spur. This bailey complex has a narrower profile than most at the castle, and the ensconcing dorui gives the image of a warship made of earth. There is what could be a turret site overlooking a trench toward the rear of this bailey.

Continuing on from here one comes to a point just below the main bailey, and its earthen ramparts bear down on the visitor. I explore castles by the 'main bailey last' rule, so I struck off to the right. This side path goes past a tatebori and leads to the aforementioned saddle bailey. It has a dorui partition in its upper part, and in its lower part there is a reservoir with a pond.

The bailey parallel to the main bailey is up next, and it has an interesting pit surrounded by dorui. The dorui is nice but a bit overgrown. It seems there was also a sunken gate here to protect the bailey. Behind the bailey is a trench and terrace; the horikiri is actually spanned by a dobashi, making me think there was perhaps another entrance to the bailey from the rear. The southwestern bailey is next, and the trench between it and the previous bailey could swallow a house. The southwestern bailey is long and winding, and terminated in a trench complex which would deliver a sequential right-left-right attack to any enemy trying to ascend the ridge up here.

South of the main bailey there are two bailey complexes; the eastern and south. The eastern is much like the northeastern bailey in that it is long and surrounded by dorui, though it is a bit overgrown and difficult to appreciate. The southern bailey complex contains a shrine and dorui. It has terraced baileys beneath, and a trench complex to the rear.

Matsuoyamajō is an expansive yamajiro. It is well maintained and signposted. I can recommend a visit to anyone who is interested in Sengoku period history and doesn't mind a little bit of a climb.

Profile updated by ART (2024). Gallery photos kindly supplied by ChrisG.




Gallery
  • Dorui (Earthen Ramparts)
  • Proto-Masugata
  • Tsuchibashi (Earthen Bridge)
  • Dorui


Castle Profile
English Name Matsuoyama Castle
Japanese Name 松尾山城
Alternate Names Mino-Matsuojō
Founder Tomishima Clan; Higuchi Naofusa; Itō Morimasa
Year Founded c.1400; 1570; 1600
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Local Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Artifacts Dorui, Kuruwa, Horikiri, &c.
Features trenches
Visitor Information
Access Sekigahara Station on the Tokaidō Main Line; 30min walk to hiking trail
Visitor Information 24/7 free; mountain
Time Required 80 minutes
Location Sekigahara, Gifu Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 20' 50.24" N, 136° 27' 15.52" E
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Admin
Added to Jcastle 2022
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed


3.50
(2 votes)
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ARTShogun

one month ago
Score 0++
Re-made profile. Moved to 'Matsuoyama Castle'.
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RaymondWDaimyo

12 months ago
Score 1++

I went to this castle ruin back in 2014 when I visited many of the locations around the Sekigahara Battlefield. Even back then, it was easy to get up to and down from this yamajiro as the lower part of the trail is basically a fire trail before one takes a turn into a well-maintained path leading up to the main bailey of this castle.

Matsuoyama Castle has a lot of earthworks remaining including ditches, earthen ramparts, and sites of gate ruins. Four of the photos on this profile clearly show the main bailey’s dorui and its masugata gate ruin on the south side. If one stands on the dorui facing north at the main bailey and look down, a long tatetori (ditch running vertically down the mountain) can be seen.

This is certainly an impressive and enjoyable castle ruin to visit for a castle fan as I have seen gate ruins, earthen ramparts (both dorui and kirigishi), a well, and ditches which aren’t shown in the photos here. However, if you want to see all of this extensive yamajiro, you will have venture off the trail into the less maintained parts of the castle ruin. If one is visiting the Sekigahara Battlefield, be sure to make time to visit this yamajiro.