Morioka Castle




Nanbu Nobunao, lord of Sannohe Castle was awarded lands around Morioka for his loyalty to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He founded Morioka Castle in 1598 to better control the important riverways of the Kitakami and Nakatsu rivers. Unfortunately, Nobunao died before finishing construction. The castle was completed by his son Shigenao in 1633. The Nanbu family retained control over this castle for the entire Edo Period until the coming of the Meiji Restoration. Nanbu Nobunao also contributed to the construction of Hizen Nagoya Castle which may have influenced him to make such a vast stone walled castle. During the construction there were some problems with flooding and weak foundations of the castle site. You will see some smaller stone walled buttresses against some of the walls that seem to serve no purpose. They may have been built like that to further strengthen the walls.

Visit Notes

If you are in the area, Morioka Castle is highly recommended. There are few such vast Edo Period castles in the Tohoku region. As you will see from the photos, the walls are immense and well preserved.

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Castle Profile
English Name Morioka Castle
Japanese Name 盛岡城
Founder Nanbu Nobunao
Year Founded 1592
Castle Type Hilltop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Top 100 Castles, National Historic Site
Historical Period Edo Period
Features water moats, trenches, stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Morioka Station (Tohoku Honsen), 15 minute walk
Visitor Information park, open anytime
Time Required 90 mins
Location Morioka, Iwate Prefecture
Coordinates 39° 41' 59.68" N, 141° 9' 2.09" E
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Added to Jcastle 2002
Admin Year Visited 2002, 2018
Admin Visits October 14, 2002; May 11, 2018

(16 votes)
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36 months ago
Score 1++

I highly enjoyed this castle site with well-preserved stone walls. At the tourist office at the station they gave me a great, detailed map of the castle in Japanese. It points out every place of interest with an arrow and some comments (this is the highest part of the wall; this is the oldest part; there's a drain here; etc.)

Have a look at the shrine within the compounds, there's an absolutely enormous rock as one of the objects of worship. There was a sign at the shrine saying one of the gates might have been made using material from the castle.

I agree with Kris that this seems a park rather than a castle, but I appreciate that about the more humble castle sites like this one. It makes people want to come there. I'd rather have a well-maintained place where people enjoy coming rather than an obscure place for history buffs.

I guess this castle can be easily combined with Shiwa Castle, but sadly I didn't have the time to go there.


59 months ago
Score 0++
Many castles in Tōhoku have little stonework and rely on earthworks and so I was surprised to see how tall and admirably constructed were the stonewalls of Moriokajō. Although they are all that remains of the castle, the ishigaki certainly make visiting the castle worth the trip. Moriokajō, a Hirayamashiro (hill top castle), also has several humungous boulders scattered around. The ishigaki are arranged roughly as two rings within a single outer ring. Inner walls containing the honmaru and ninomaru, and a bridge that connects the two over the koshikuruwa between them, ensconce the uchikuruwa (inner compound). In the sotokuruwa (outer compound) are the sannomaru and awajimaru baileys, and many kuruwa (enclosures). Today at the centre of the honmaru there is a pedestal without a statue. It’s oblong so you know the statue was someone on a horse. It was actually melted down during the war and has not been replaced. The castle now is a lovely park area, its gardens originally designed in 1906 with benches and flowering plants. If you squint hard enough, I suppose the gazebos at the corners of the stonewalls could look like yagura…?


77 months ago
Score 0++
Been to this site in the morning rain. I don't have a lot to add at the other comments. It's easy to reach. I discovered that the museum is closed on every 3rd tuesday of the month, but you still can obtain the 100 meijô stamp at the Plaza Odette building a little bit further from the museum.


116 months ago
Score 0++
Morioka Castle – not very accessible in winter but everything being under 10 - 20cms of snow makes the stone walls aesthetically pleasing. (To be fair that amount of snow is unseasonable, although it did make my brother happy). We had a lot of fun walking around the honmaru and taking photos with what looked like a giant stone wardrobe and a lone inexplicable lamppost. The Morioka History Museum we wandered into to escape the heavy snow was certainly interesting with plenty of interactive displays, a good scale model of the castle, helpful staff (but random souvenirs), so I`d suggest seeing the displays in there first to get a sense of history and then seeing the park. Also, they had this fascinating moving picture animation of a daimyo-gyoritsu, among other things; it was a bit too wide to focus on everything going on at once so watching it became a game. I really want to support Iwate prefecture and talk this castle up but it does come across as a park first and a castle second. That said, I'd like to go again in spring to compare and see the famous rock-splitting cherry tree; also there is a relocated gate, I think, that I missed.

Frank T.Gunshi

120 months ago
Score 0++
Nice park, but nothing but stone walls. No buildings or plaster walls.