Ohtou Castle

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Ohtoujou (1).jpg


In 1399, Ogasawara Nagahide was appointed governor of Shinano Province (modern day Nagano Prefecture) by the (Muromachi) Shogunate. Tensions remained high in the province following the Nanbokuchō period, and it is said that Nagahide acted arrogantly toward the local lords. In short, it was time for a rebellion.

The Murakami Clan led the rebellion against Ogasawara Nagahide in 1400. The rebels, calling themselves the Kunijin-Ikki ('League of Provincialists'), were mostly drawn from the northeast of the province, and included the Inōe, Nishina, Takanashi and Shigeno clans. Meanwhile, Nagahide held onto some support from clans in the south of the province.

Ogasawara Nagahide mobilised from Zenkōji but was besieged by rebels at Yokotajō. The situation there was hopeless and Nagahide fled in the night with his cavalrymen. Wounded, he made it to Shiozakijō with a third of his troops. The rest, which were split off in the dark and confusion, found refuge at an old, small fort, Ôtōjō.

The siege of Ôtōjō followed. The defenders, some three hundred mounted warriors led by Sakanishi 'Banzai' Nagakuni and Iida Irimichi from Ina County, found the fort poorly provisioned, and as the siege progressed for over twenty days, the defenders ended up eating the horses they rode in on. Finally they broke out in desperation, but were either slaughtered in battle against waves of attackers, or fell on their swords.

The result of the rebellion was a ceasefire mediated by Ôi Mitsunori. Ogasawara Nagahide was dismissed from his position, and Shinano fell under the direct management of the Shogunate. Ôtōjō appears to have been destroyed at this time. Thereafter the clans of Shinano were distrustful of any authority, and no chief power emerged amongst them. This meant that they were largely autonomous, but in the Sengoku period soon found themselves forced to pick sides between outside forces such as the Takeda and Uesugi.

After the battle of Ôtō, it is said, townspeople from the nearby temple-town beneath Zenkōji, including monks and prostitutes, gathered the remains of the dead from the battlefield and held memorial services, as well as amassing keepsakes from the fallen and sending them home.

Visit Notes

Ôtōjō is a hirajiro (flatland castle) ruin in Shinonoi Township, Nagano Municipality. No ruins remain, unfortunately, but I had some time before the next express train back, so I decided to check the area, finding an explanatory board about the castle at a local community centre. The battle of Ôtō is a major event in the medieval history of Shinano, so I'm glad I had time to visit even though there isn't much to see. Some intrepid castle-bloggers have indicated which fields and roads represent the former courses of moats. A small river now flows through the site.

  • Community hall with signboard about Battle of Ohtou

Castle Profile
English Name Ohtou Castle
Japanese Name 大塔城
Alternate Names 大塔の古要害
Founder Unknown; Sakanishi Nagakuni
Year Founded Before 1400
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition Ruins only
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Visitor Information
Access Shinonoi Station on the Shinonoi Line; 25 minute walk
Visitor Information 24/7 free; fields
Time Required 10 minutes
Location Nagano, Nagano Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 34' 0.70" N, 138° 7' 51.28" E
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Added to Jcastle 2023
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Jōkaku Hōrōki

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