It is thought that Nakatōjō was built by the Nishimaki Clan for in the event that their main base at Nishimakijō / Kitajōjō (Azumi Nishimaki Castle) fell and they had to retreat to an even more defensible area. The Nishimaki Clan built Nakatou Castle just 3km to the north on another mountain ridge at the height of their power in the early Sengoku Period. They were pushed back to Tayajō (Azumi Taya Castle) by the Ogasawara Clan, nominal rulers of Shinano, however, and lost Nakatōjō and Nishimakijō. In 1545, however, Takeda Shingen invaded Shinano, and the Nishimaki sided with him and re-captured their main castle. Ogasawara Nagatoki allied his clan with the Uesugi of Echigo but still suffered successive defeats, allowing the Takeda to swallow up Ogasawara territory. In 1549 Fukashijō (Matsumoto Castle) was beseiged, followed by Hayashijō in 1550. It seems that Nagatoki was a master at hopping from castle to castle. After retreating from Hirase Castle he holed up in Nakatōjō for over six months before being rescued by Uesugi Kenshin - this according to accounts made in records of the Futagi and Mizoguchi families some years later. At this time Futagi Shigetaka was the commander of Nakatōjō and it was apparently upon his advice that Nagatoki retreated there.
Castle of Monkeys and Toads, the ruins of Nakatōjō belong to the animal kingdom now. This site is not easy to explore and I might recommend it only for experienced castle explorers. Early on I encountered a large toad, the biggest amphibian I've encountered in the wild; who knows what rock it had been sleeping under. I came to an area with a pylon, situated half way along the ridge that the ruins occupy. I heard things moving in the forest up ahead - and the occassional strange call. I climbed a little up a leg of the pylon to try to get a good look but couldn't see anything through the trees. As I continued on trapsing through the medieval earthworks I realised there were monkeys climbing up the ridge ahead of me. Slowly I gained on them. I came particularly close to one. It seemed to move as I did but not look directly at me. At first I thought it hadn't seen me, but it proved to merely not react to my presence with any sense of urgency. As I came very close it moved a couple of branches higher in the tree it was in and went about its monkey business. I was directly below it. I took some pictures and moved on with my castling.
There is no hiking trail at Nakatōjō. The ruins are the trail! A forking configuration of climbing moats allow access to the ridge. These continue up to a series of minor baileys terraced into the ridge. Just after my encounter with the monkeys I found a large horikiri, a trench cut into the ridge to create an impediment of rock and earth. More climbing trenches streak below the ridge as well as up along it, passing now by increasingly evident terracing. The largest baileys are at the top of the ruins, and after so much climbing the relative flatness of the ground here is an incongruent boon. I continued on here until I saw that the ridge had narrowed once again and I came to one final trench. From here the ridge sweeped up again to the top of the mountain but I saw that the earthwork ruins were at an end. In a fraction of the time it took me to ascend I was able to fly down the mountain. Or, I might say, it wasn't flying, it was falling with style.
|English Name||Nakatou Castle|
|Year Founded||Sengoku Period|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Artifacts||Dorui, Horikiri, Tatebori, Yokobori, Kuruwa|
|Access||Nearest Station is Hata Station on the Kamikouchi Line|
|Visitor Information||24/7 free; mountain|
|Time Required||120 minutes|
|Location||Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 14' 25.69" N, 137° 49' 3.11" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2020|
|Admin Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|