Minowa Castle and Ina Yashiki

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Minowa Castle and Ina Yashiki


This is a brief update for 2 castles I visited on a day trip from Tokyo last April. I re-visited Minowa Castle for the first since 2008. In over 10 years the castle has been vastly restored. in 2008 it was mostly overgrown but for a couple dark trails through the woods and the trenches were not even recognizable in some areas. Alongside the general improvements to the site a gate and bridge have been reconstructed. See more details below. I'm really amazed that this castle site is mostly in tact despite being on ground that could easily have been developed over in recent years. This is definitely a must-see for castle fans and look for further improvements in the future.

The second site Ina Yashiki was the result of just searching Google Maps on the way back to Tokyo from Minowa Castle to see if there was something that I could quickly visit along the way. This was a brilliant site and I'm really surprised I had not heard of it before. It is well maintained despite being partially urbanized and is much larger than I had expected. Needless to say I spent a little too much time here and was delayed for dinner plans (sorry again guys!)


Ina Yashiki / 伊奈氏屋敷


The Ina Yashiki was a hidden gem. This site has been partially developed over so you'll be walking between private properties, fields, houses, an apiary, a junkyard and the Ina Yashiki Historical Site at the same time. Still it was a fascinating site and much bigger than expected. There is a road that cuts through the middle of the castle today, which you might think is new, but is actually the original road through the castle! From this road several embankments and trenches radiate out from it dividing the castle into areas for the encampment (west of the road) and warehouses (east side) until you reach the farthest point where the yashiki (fortified home) was found. Alongside the shinkansen tracks and the northernmost area of the castle, a series of shojibori was also uncovered during an historical excavation. We have seen many places around the Tokyo area where shojibori have been discovered but they're always reburied. I really wish some castle would restore them so we have more than just Yamanaka Castle to see how this defense may have been employed. A lot of the signs look new and one of them says that there are plans for further excavations so this may be a site to keep watch on.
Minowa Castle / 箕輪城


This vast castle has a little bit of everything for casual castle fans and castle mania people alike. There is a beautifully reconstructed gate and bridge as well as stone walls and extensive earthworks. The castle is so huge you can easily spend a half day here exploring all the baileys, trenches, former gates and bits of stone walls. The town has had a castle redevelopment project in progress for over ten years now and is finally nearing completion. They have rebuilt the large Umadashi Gate (2016) and now the bridge to the Honmaru (2022). Much attention is drawn to these two reconstructions, but even more has been done to improve the site that is easy to overlook. Trees have been cut, baileys cleared and some of the earthworks around the Honmaru and Umadashi have been restored. You can see other baileys that are in the process of being cleared or look like they will be cleared soon too. This will be an even more amazing site when the honmaru gate on the inner side of the bridge is completed (completion date: TBD). Construction work on this last part is scheduled to begin this fall (2022). When construction starts you will no longer be able to cross the bridge so if this interests you, do so while you can. There are a couple different busses that will get you near the castle. The best one is less than a 5 min walk from the castle but these are rather few. Busses that stop about 15 mins walk away from the castle are more frequent so don't confine your search to just the nearest bus stop.
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