Minagawa Castle

From Jcastle.info



If you look around the internet and books and you'll find different dates for the original establishment of this castle dating from the 1200s to the 1400's. Earlier dates seem to be referring to a history written in the latter Edo Period about the Shimotsuke region which is actually referring to a smaller fortified home type castle of the Naganuma (forefathers of the Minagawa) at a nearby location and not actually this Minagawa Castle. The castle we know of today was likely founded by the the Minagawa in 1438-1439 in the Eikyo Rebellion.

In 1523, the Minagawa were attacked by Utsunomiya Tadatsuna. The lord of the castle, Munenari, and his brother Noriaki were mortally injured. The clan was saved by their allies the Oyama and the Yuki. As the Hojo extended their influence into the Kanto plain, the Minagawa fought them off until Munenari's grandson Toshimune acceded to the Hojo. After Munenari's death, his son Hiroteru joined forces with the Satake against the Hojo in 1578. They could not stand up to the Hojo and Hiroteru yielded in 1586. In 1590, while Hiroteru was besieged with the Hojo at Odawara, Minagawa Castle fell to the Hideyoshi forces. Before the Hojo yielded to Hideyoshi, Hiroteru managed to escape the castle and joined up with Tokugawa Ieyasu. Owing to this bit of luck, Hiroteru would become a retainer of Ieyasu's son, Matsudaira Tadateru. In 1591, he built Tochigi Castle and abandoned Minagawa Castle.

Visit Notes
Be sure to take the small trail from the honmaru back into the woods, or from the West Gate around into the woods to see the less developed part of the castle. It's not well signposted or labelled but the area occupied by the community center was the former palace grounds. If you look down from the honmaru area you can see that it is a rectangle nicely marked out by a moat.

This is a fascinating and unique design for a castle. It has concentric baileys built up the mountainside and gates offset to force any attackers to zigzag back and forth but there are also large vertical trenches cutting off their ease of movement. It seems like it would be easy to defend and provides limitless good angles to shot down at attackers.



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  • Obikuruwa, looking toward honmaru
  • vertical trench
  • Looking to the honmaru bailey
  • baileys
  • ringed baileys
  • Ringed baileys and vertical trench
  • Large vertical trench or moat
  • Inside a ringed bailey
  • Ringed baileys
  • Large vertical trench
  • large trench
  • Trench, bailey and earthen embankment
  • West Entrance
  • West entramnce
  • Ringed baileys
  • Ringed baileys
  • Baileys
  • Ringed baileys
  • Bailey entrance
  • Bailey
  • Ninokuruwa Bailey
  • Entrance around the back side of the castle.
  • Entrance
  • Entrance
  • Large trench
  • Honmaru Bailey
  • Honmaru bailey
  • View form the honmaru tower
  • Palace and samurai residence location
  • Moat and earthen embankment
  • Map

Castle Profile
English Name Minagawa Castle
Japanese Name 皆川城
Alternate Names Horagai-jo
Founder Minagawa clan
Year Founded 1438~1450
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Local Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features trenches
Visitor Information
Access Tochigi Sta. (JR Ryomo Line or Tobu Nikko Line), 5km walk or 1900 yen taxi.
Visitor Information Open anytime.
Time Required 90 mins
Website http://www.kuranomachi.jp/spot/minagawa/joshi/
Location Tochigi, Tochigi Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 23' 49.45" N, 139° 40' 59.52" E
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Added to Jcastle 2015
Admin Year Visited 2015
Admin Visits April 4, 2015

(2 votes)
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74 months ago
Score 0++
Minagawajō is made up of many layered concentric terraces roughly in the shape of a kofun (ancient burial mound). In the cover photo you can see about five of these tiers climbing like a staircase up the mountain, although there are at least eight tiers around the central kuruwa (bailey), rising 100m in total. The layout of the Ichinokurawa relative to the more expansive Ninokuruwa (first and second baileys respectively) reminded me of the motte-and-bailey style fortifications of early European castles, although any resemblance is coincidental. The castle has karabori (dry moats) around the mountain and dorui (earthen ramparts) facing the plain. There are two tatebori (climbing moats) cut into the mountainside, the largest of which appears kinked when viewed from above. Minagawajō is well maintained and when we came monochrome yellow daffodil flowers lined many of the paths, their trumpet coronas making for a pleasant procession up to the top of the castle.