Southern Tohoku Castle Trip Update

From Jcastle.info

Southern Tohoku Castle Trip Update

2021/01/26


This updates brings 3 new castles and updates for 2 that were already on the site. See the below visit notes for details. I took advantage of the JR East Welcome Pass this fall to visit some castles in Fukushima and Miyagi. Koori Nishiyama Castle] and Iwakiri Castle are two of the more famous mountaintop castles in Tohoku. They are along the same train line so they were fairly easy to visit together. Tokoji Castle is a fortification at the base of the mountain where Iwakiri Castle is located. Miharu Castle is in the Next 100 Castles and nearby Ogoe Castle is in the town where I once taught English but I didn't know much about castles then. I think I put this train pass to good use to visit some important sites in Souther Tohoku. I hope they extend the campaign for this pass beyond February and into castle season again!


 

Iwakiri Castle / 岩切城

Iwakiri15.jpg

Iwakiri Castle is a sprawling mountaintop castle mainly covering three ridges of the mountain. It offers some nice views of the surrounding plains. The castle itself has few ruins but you can find some horikiri trenches and baileys. The ridge along the paved path to the top of the mountain is particularly interesting. I probably would have missed it if I hadn't had a good map with me. It should be clear from the pins of photos on the map below what I'm referring to. Find a place to climb up to the top of the ridge on your left and backtrack along it to see the full length. The castle was quite a bit farther from the station than I imagined (~40 mins walk) and up a rather steep mountain so plan accordingly.
 
Koori Nishiyama Castle / 桑折西山城

Koori20.jpg

The castle is easy to get to, a short walk from the station and an easy climb up the main road. It also offers some great views of the valley making it highly recommended for castle fans. It was a bit cloudy and hazy this day so you can't quite see the great views in these photos but you get the idea.

The castle is situated along the top of a fairly flat mountain. The east side with the Honmaru and Ninomaru are separted by elevation and steep banks, but the western side of the castle (Nishidate and Nakadate) have trenches and the remains of stonework around the site. This difference seems to indicate that this section is newer. In particular, the masugata type entrance to the Nishidate is magnificent. It has huge embankments and a steep pathway into a stone lined entrance.

On your way to the castle from the station you will probably first encounter what looks like a tatebori trench or simply a water runway down the mountainside but this is actually the original main entrance (oteguchi). See the photo below. There is a trail marked that you could climb up from here, but it maybe wasn't worth the trouble to fight through the weeds and fallen trees.
 
Miharu Castle / 三春城

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The Honmaru has some good stonework around the top but it is mostly buried in leaves and brush now so you can only see a bit along the top. It is deceptively steep and slippery so I would not recommend trying to go out on the steep side to see them better ! You can see some of the Honmaru stone walls well from the road up to the Ninomaru/Honmaru area.

There are busses from the station, but they are not frequent. The bus stop closest to the castle is Miharu Machiyakuba (Town Hall), which can be reached on the bus bound for the famous Takizakura of Miharu. I've also heard that the bus from Koriyama to Miharu is actually the best route because it stops near the castle along the route to the station and is actually faster than the train + bus combination but there are only a few busses per day.

Original profile contributed by ART (2016), Profile updated and photos replaced by Eric (2021)
 
Ogoe Castle / 大越城

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Ogoe Castle is actually quite a large and interesting mountaintop castle. There are terraced baileys down two or three ridges, a few trenches, embankments and huge boulders scattered about the site. It is moderately well marked for some of the main areas. I went off trail and tried to go down a couple of the ridges but the dense woods make it impossible to get photos that show off much of these baileys or other ruins.

The story of the Jcastle.info website actually begins when I was an assistant Junior High School English Teacher in a little town in Fukushima called Ogoe (now part of Tamura City) in 1997. At the time I started to develop some interest in castles through my "blog" (even though the word didn't exist yet) about travels around Tohoku. One of the Board of Education people told me there was a large castle on the mountain right behind the Board of Education offices (Ogoe Budokan). We once took the afternoon off and walked up there to look around but I didn't see any castle. I only saw weeds and mosquitoes. At the time I was only interested in castles that had "something to see" (buildings, big stone walls). Ohh, how naive I was back then! Had I known more I could have easily made it a daily walk since I lived nearby too.

Original profile contributed by ART (2016), Profile updated and photos replaced by Eric (2021)
 
Tokoji Castle / 東光寺城

Tokoji2.jpg

Most of the castle remains have been turned unto graveyards but if you go through the woods behind the temple you can find 2 horikiri trenches. There are no signs or markings so you have to make a good guess and look around. It was my third and last try of randomly going into the woods before I found the first trench.
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