27.上田城(Ueda Castle)

Location and History

The Ueda castle is one of the most famous symbols of Ueda city in Nagano prefecture. The castle was founded by the Sanada clan. You can see a lot of Sanada’s flag of “Rokumonsen” (six one-mon coins), which is the fee for crossing the Styx, which is beside the castle.

「六文銭」旗印と上田城(The flag of “Rokumonsen” and Ueda Castle)taken by 松波庄九郎 from photo AC

Masayuki Sanada, a lord in the late Civil war period first built Ueda castle in 1583. He aimed to make his clan more independent against the Tokugawa clan which would become the Shogunate. Tokugawa attacked the Sanada castle twice, but they couldn’t be defeated. The second one was particularly a well-known battle among the fateful battles in 1600. That had made Sanada and this castle famous from then on. However, Tokugawa was so angry that they ordered to have the castle completely destroyed after the clan came to power.

真田昌幸像、個人蔵(The picture of Masayuki Sanada, privately owned)licensed under Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As a result, in fact, the structure of Sanada’s castle is uncertain. In the Edo period, when Tadamasa Sengoku was transferred to the lord of the feudal domain of Ueda, he was allowed to rebuild the castle. He tried to recreate the Sanada castle, but he died before it had done. Now we can see part of the remaining buildings and constructions made by Sengoku.

仙石忠政像、上田市立博物館蔵(The picture of Tadamasa Sengoku, owned by Ueda City Museum)licensed under Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Now, the main enclosure “Honmaru” with the buildings of three turrets “Yagura” and the second enclosure “Ninomaru” remains. Honmaru is highly elevated and it is surrounded by a water moat and Ninomaru in north, east and west directions. In the past, the outside of the three directions were also protected by rivers and waterlogged areas.

最新の城周辺地図(The latest map around the castle)

The south of it has natural hazard with a steep cliff which can be seen today. In addition, a pool called “Amagafuchi” which drys up now, connected to the Chikuma River that flows alongside the cliff. it was another hazard.

本丸の南面(The south side of Honmaru)

(’19-9-10 追記 added)
It is uncertain whether Ueda Castle had the keep “Tenshu” or not. While an old book “Buke-Jiki” calls the early castle “A small castle even without the Tenshu”, another old map in the Kanei Eea, Edo peried records “The ruin of the Tenshu”. So historians’ opinion remained devided. But, recently an old roof tile with gold leaf that might have been used for Tenshu was excavated from the Honmaru area. Now, many historians think the castle had the Tenshu or a similar luxury turret “Yagura”.

「御天守跡」の記載がある古地図「上田城構之図」部分(The part of the old map called “Ueda-Jo-Kamae-no-Zu” recording “The ruin of the Tenshu”)、協力:上田市マルチメディア情報センター

Later Life

After the Meiji restoration, two of those turrets were sold and used as Geisha houses. At the worst time, only one turret (the West Yagura) remained and the others were removed.

西櫓(The West Yagura)

After the World War II, citizens were successful to get the bought turrets back and placed them to their original positions (the North and South Yagura). Recently, the East entrance gate and side walls were rebuilt in the original way connecting the north and south Yagura. Their appearance has become an accurate representation of the past, and has become a good photo spot.

東虎口櫓門と南北櫓(The East Entrance between the North and South Yagura)taken by チャコ from photo AC

My Impression

As mentioned above, we can’t see the structure of Sanada’s castle. But I imagine that the following lord Sengoku was wondering if he could build his castle after the brave Sanada. So I think the idea behind Sanada’s castle could led to the castle by Sengoku. If that was true, we can understand how Sanada created their castle by examining the castle now.

忠政が掘り起こした本丸の水堀(The water moat at Honmaru that Sengoku dug up once again)

I can say the castle was made compact to prevent enemies with a small number of soldiers, using different elevations, natural hazard, and artificial structures.

本丸から二の丸を見下ろす(A view looking down Ninomaru from Honmaru)

I recommend you see the south side cliff where you can also find many kinds of stone walls to prevent the cliff from collapsing in different times.

南面の様々な石垣(The different kinds of stone walls on the south side)

How to get There

It takes about 15 minutes on foot from the Ueda train station.
There is a direct train from Tokyo to Ueda via the Hokuriku Shinkansen super express.

Links and References

上田城・上田城跡公園~信州上田観光協会(Uedajo Castle~Ueda City Tourism Association)

投稿者: Yuzo

城巡りが好きなYuzoです。日本には数万の城があったといわれています。その内の200名城を手始めにどんどん紹介していきます。 I'm Yuzo, I love visiting castles and ruins. It is said that there were tens of thousands castles in Japan. I will introduce you top 200 castles and ruins of them, and more!

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