Northern Tohoku Castle Tour


Northern Tohoku Castle Tour


My second Tohoku tour making use of the JR Welcome Pass took me to Aomori and Akita to visit some castles I missed on my trip from 2 years ago. At the time, I ran into rain and foul weather forcing me to skip some castles that I had wanted to visit. Unfortunately, I ran into rain or snow at some point on every part of this trip too and cut my visit short again. This could be some conspiracy by the Tohoku weather gods to make me visit yet again!

Wherever possible, I like to visit a cluster of related castles. There were a lot of good connections between all the castles on this trip with the exception of the ancient fortified village of Takayashikidate. See the visit notes below for details and follow through to the individual castle profiles for the histories and photos.

This is the last update of castle profiles from my 2020 travels. Despite much of the year being on-hold for COVID19 and recovering from a shoulder injury in early 2020, I visited 44 new castles in 2020, which was actually a one year record. I need to get out to visit some more sites once this State of Emeregency is over !


Chausudate / 茶臼館


Chausudate is not well marked and fairly difficult to find. You need to look for the small white signpost along the side of the road. If you look towards the hill in the background you should be able to see a white sign. Cut through between the two rice fields to get there. There is not much to see but you can make out some trenches and leveled areas for baileys on the hilltop. It is actually more visible in person than these photos show. Chausudate is a National Historic Site combined with Hiyama Castle and Ohdate
Hiyama Castle / 檜山城


It's about 7km from the station and no busses. I had my Brompton with me so I could bike there. There is a road up from the base of the mountain to the Sannomaru area but it is quite steep. I'm surprised cars could get up it. The castle covers 2 ridges in a horseshoe like formation, which is also easy to see in the map of photos below. You could go up one ridge and down the other but I had to turn back at the Nakadate to get to my bike which I left at the Sannomaru parking area.

There are some signs and well worn trails so it is not hard to get around. There are also signs to beware of bears but the only wildlife I saw was a Kamoshika who protested my invasion of his home at tha Nakadate. Near the castle are also satellite fortifications Chausudate, Ohdate and the Tagayashi Yakata. Although slightly inconvenient this area seems much more suitable to a large scale castle town and a much more defensible base than the other Ando related castles as Wakimoto Castle and Minato Castle.

Hiyama Castle is a National Historic Site combined with Ohdate and Chausudate
Horikoshi Castle / 堀越城


Horikoshi Castle was a surprisingly great visit and one castle that definitely deserves more attention. The castle was known from historical documents but was "rediscovered" in the 70's while constructing the highway that runs through part of the castle. The site was added to the National Historical Site registration for Hirosaki Castle in 1985. The castle site has the Kumano Shrine in the Honmaru Bailey but was otherwise mostly undisturbed until recently. Excavations from 1998-2013 laid the groundwork for the restoration of the site that took place from 2012-2019. The site was fully completed and opened in April 2020.

Across the highway, beyond the Sannomaru Bailey there is a an old farmhouse that was moved to this location. It is used as a museum for Horikoshi Castle and local history. The diorama is also located here. It is open daily from 9am to 4pm, April 17 - November 23.

As noted in the Access field, there are 2 train stations that could be used to access Horikoshi Castle, but both are a bit far from the castle. Nisato Station has about one train per hour and Ishikawa Station has far fewer. There is a bus from Hirosaki Station to a bus stop called Horikoshi, which is only a short walk to the castle which might be your best option. The bus also runs about once per hour.
Namioka Castle / 浪岡城


Namioka Castle was a large plains flatland castle bordered by a river with several baileys divided by trenches. In the photos you will see a lot of wooden fences dividing off sub sections in the castle. Excavations have show that some kind of fence was here because they found posts and post holes but the actual type of fence is unknown. These "reconstructions" are only a guess.

Namioka Castle is quite close to Hirosaki and could be a good side trip along with a visit to Hirosaki Castle. Horikoshi Castle is also highly recommended so the three together would make an excellent two day castle tour.

You can rent bicycles at the station, but I did not see exactly where. I had my own bicycle with me. The Chuusei-no-Yakata also has a small museum and materials about the castle. It looks like it is worth visiting, but on the day I was here the building was closed, perhaps due to COVID19.
Ohdate / 大館


Ohdate is about 5.5km north of Hiyama Castle. It is basically one large bailey at the top of a hill. It was sectioned off by some embankments and trenches but through weathering or high weeds, unfortuantely, I could not make out any of them. There are a couple small signs along the road pointing out the castle but once you get there, there is only one small sign that has rotted through and fallen down into the weeds near the trailhead. The view from the distance is probably best and gives you a good understanding of the strategic importance of this site near the entrance of the valley to Hiyama Castle. Ohdate is a National Historic Site combined with Hiyama Castle and Chausudate
Tagayashi Yakata / 多賀谷氏居館


The sign along the road at the trail to the site is very nice, but unfortunately, the signs and maintenance of the rest of the site have lapsed over the years. I've seen better photos of the interior where you can see the baileys and embankments much more clearly. Regardless, if you visit Hiyama Castle, this site is easy to locate and a quick stop near the castle. Further down the road is the Jomyoji Temple, where you will find a (relocated) original gate of Hiyama Castle.
Takayashikidate / 高屋敷館


This is an interesting little site and would have been more enjoyable without the unexpected early snowfall. If you rent a bicycle from Namioka Station to go to Namioka Castle you might as well make the short trip to Takayashikidate too. It is well worth it.
Wakimoto Castle / 脇本城


Wakimoto Castle is one of the Next 100 Castles and the last of the three famous Ando castles, including Hiyama Castle and Minato Castle. The castle is on a hilltop along the coast of the Oga Peninsula. Across the hilltop are several terraced baileys of living quarters. The outer baileys were also encircled by an earthen embankment. Typically these embankments are for defensive purposes, but when I was here on this very windy day I noticed that they also make a great wind block. Given the location of this castle on a notoriously cold and windy peninsula I can only think that these embankments were more for fighting back the wind and snow than fighting back attackers.

There is a small building partway up the mountain where you will find a model of the castle and some very good pamphlets. The same pamphlets are available on the website so check the link there too. This castle is much more accessible than I thought (a castles that's easier than I thought for once!). There were maps at the station and the castle did not seem as far from the station as I thought either, followed by a quick climb up the hill. There were maps at the station about how to get to the castle too. The biggest problem is that there are not many trains along this train line. On the way back, I waited over an hour for the next train, having just missed one.

The Umanoriba is a bailey about a 10min walk from the main part of the castle. It's a nice walk, but a little slippery and narrow in some places. If you're interested in castles enough to visit Wakimoto Castle it's worth walking out here too but the trail from the northern part of the castle is easy to miss. Look at the map of photos below and you can clearly see how this section looks like a different castle location.
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