120.菅谷館(Sugaya Hall)

This castle is between legend and reality.

現在の菅谷館本郭の入り口(The present entrance of Sugaya Hall Hon-Kuruwa)

Location and History

The name “Sugaya Hall” needs a small explanation. The term “hall” means ”warrior’s hall in the early Middle Ages” in this case. It usually consists of a hall with earthen walls or fences, and a surrounding moat on a plain, for example, like the Ashikaga clan hall.

足利氏館跡(Ashikaga Clan Hall Ruins)

Sugaya Hall has a local tale about Shigetada Hatakeyama, a senior vassal of the Kamakura Shogunate, living there at that time. An old document called “Aduma-Kagami” also says he lived in Sugaya Hall. That’s why these ruins are called Sugaya “Hall” and the statue of Hatakeyama is standing on the ruins.

畠山重忠像(The statue of Shigetada Hatakeyama)

However, the appearance of the ruins is different from such descriptions. They look like the ruins of a castle in the Warring States Period obviously. Old documents in the period also call them Sugaya “Castle”, not “Hall”. In addition, the result of excavation says the castle was used around 1500 in the Warring States Period. Overall, the name “Sugaya Hall” seems to come from a kind of compromise between legend and reality by the officials.

菅谷館跡全景(The whole view of Sugaya Castle Ruins)~埼玉県立嵐山史跡の博物館ウェブサイトより引用

Anyway, the castle was in the important area where warlords battled each other such as “The battle of Sugayahara” in 1488. Records say that one of the warlords, the Ogigayatsu Uesugi clan, restored the old Sugaya Castle for the battle, but they were defeated and kept under arrest in the castle. Another document says that the Hojo clan used the castle about 100 years later. After all, the castle seemed to be used and abandoned several times.

二の郭前の堀(The moat in front of Ni-no-Kuruwa)

Sugaya Castle is located on a low plateau in what is now the western part of Saitama pref. where the Kamakura road, a main road in the Middle Ages was passing nearby. The main enclosure, “Hon-Kuruwa”, was protected by the Tokigawa river behind it and natural valleys both sides. The entrance of Hon-Kuruwa is strictly guarded and several enclosures including “Ni-no-Kuruwa” and “San-no-Kuruwa” spread out in front of Hon-Kuruwa.

菅谷館跡の地図(The map of Sugaya Hall Ruins)~現地案内板写真に追記


The ruins of Sugaya Castle retain their foundation but with no buildings. The foundation is well preserved, and is all made from soil which is a typical method of building castles in eastern Japan in the Warring States Period.

菅谷館跡の土塁(An earthen wall of Sugaya Hall Ruins)

Let’s look at Hon-Kuruwa for instance. This enclosure is thought to be Hatakeyama’s hall. If it’s true, it must have been strengthened as the center of the castle later.

菅谷館跡の地図、アルファベットは以下の写真を撮った位置(The map of Sugaya Hall Ruins, Alfabetic characters show the points pictures below were taken)~現地案内板写真に追記

Hon-Kuruwa is surrounded by a high earthen wall and deep dry moat. That makes it easier for defenders to protect them from an enemy’s attack. Its entrance, called “Koguchi”, is narrow and the route to it is made zigzagged so that attackers are unable to enter inside directly.

A.本郭の土塁と空堀(The earthen wall and dry moat of Hon-Kuruwa)
B.本郭の入り口(The entrance of Hon-Kuruwa)

In addition, the wall is partly stuck out on purpose. This allows defenders to attack from the sticking point to an enemy’s front and sides. Such a structure is called a “Dematsu” shaped earthen wall. It is an advanced system when combined with other defensive features for castles in the Warring States Period. So some historians speculate Hojo might have improved the castle.

C.出桝型土塁(The “Dematsu” shaped earthen wall)
D.本郭の内部(The inside of Hon-Kuruwa)
E.二の郭の入り口、最も高くなっている(The entrance of Ni-no-Kruwa, the highest point)

Later Life

The castle seemed to be abandoned for a long time since sometime at the end of the Warring States Period. Since then, the ruins were private owned and thought of as Hatakeyama’s heritage. His statue was built when the ruins were first investigated in the Taisho Era about 100 years ago. In 1973, the ruins were designated as a National Historic Site, then were newly designated one of the “Hiki Castles Ruins” in 2008.

明治初期の城跡周辺の地図、土塁が残り畑・林となっていた(The map around the ruins in the early Meiji Era, there was a field and woods)

My Impression

Warlords in the Kanto region built castles as many as they needed. When they didn’t need the castles, they immediately abandoned the castles. On the other hand, when warlords wanted to reuse abandoned castles, they restored or improved the castles. As a result, when warlords abandoned castles, they didn’t completely destroy the castles. Instead, they often destroyed part of the castles, or just remove their buildings. Probably it could be because it is more efficient and easy to reuse. I think that’s why the foundation of Sugaya Hall (Castle) remains well.

本郭の裏手(The back of Hon-Kuruwa)

There is the Ranzan Historical Museum on San-no-Kuruwa of the ruins now. It shows the exhibition of history and the excavation about Hiki Castle Ruins including Sugaya Hall, Sugiyama, Matsuyama and Ogura Castles. Let’s look into their history and visit Sugaya Hall first. Out of the others, Sugiyama Castle ruins is only about 5 km from there. So, how about visit the set of them.

嵐山史跡の博物館(the Ranzan Historical Museum)

比企城館跡群の4つの城(The four castles of Hiki Castle Ruins)

How to get There

When using car, the ruins is near Ranzan-Ogawa IC on Kan-Etsu Expressway. Ranzan Historical Museum offers a parking lot.
When using train, it takes about 15 minutes on foot from Musashi-Ranzan Station on Tobu Tojo line.
From Tokyo to Musashi-Ranzan Station: Take the train on Tobu Tojo line from Ikebukuro Station.

Links and References

埼玉県立 嵐山史跡の博物館(the Ranzan Historical Museum)

116.沼田城(Numata Castle)

Numata Castle is the one that Sanada stuck to strongly, but lost in the end.

沼田城西櫓跡(The ruins of Nishi-Yagura of Numata Castle)

Location and History

Numata City, in the northern part of Gunma pref., is famous around the whole country for its terrain with river terraces. The height is over 70m higher than Tone River near the JR Numata Station. The urban area of the city is on the top of the terraces and now called “Castle Town in the Sky”.

沼田市の河岸段丘、左側が段状になっている(The river terraces in Numata City, they are on the left side)taken by igamania from photo AC

The area was probably first focused on in the Warring States Period in the 16th century by major warlords such as the Uesugi, Hojo, Takeda, Oda and Tokugawa clans who battled over the right to rule of the Kanto region . The Numata area was the northern entrance of Kanto and had a main road passing through from the east for Tohoku region to the west for Shinano Province (now Nagano pref.).

城周辺の地図及び起伏地図(A normal and relief map around Numata Castle)

Numata Castle was first built on the tip of the terrace in 1532 by the local clan Numata, but the castle became a very important site after the Uesugi’s Kanto invasion in 1560. Eventually, Masayuki Sanada under Takeda held the castle at the end of the Warring States Period. Though his master Takeda was beaten in 1582, he struggled against other major warlords to keep the castle.

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

The climax was that the castle was turned over to Hojo in 1589 by the decision of the ruler, Hideyoshi Toyotomi. However, Sanada was successful to get it back after Toyotomi’s Kanto invasion and the fall of Hojo in 1590. It is said that the event was caused due to Hojo breaking the rule and taking Sanada’s Nagurumi Castle. The fact is mysterious because dead men tell no tales.

名胡桃城跡(The ruins of Nagurumi Castle)licensed by Qurren via Wikimedia Commons

After that, Masayuki’s son Nobuyuki Sanada under Tokugawa inherited and completed the castle with building the castle Tenshu keep around 1600. The Tenshu was the only five-story one in Kanto region, excluding Edo Castle owned by the Shogun.

上野国沼田城絵図部分、江戸時代(Part of the illustration of Numata Castle in Kozuke Province in Edo Period)|出典:国立公文書館

There was internal trouble in the Sanada clan over the inheritance of the castle in 1658. The Tokugawa Shogunate decided to make the branch Sanada, Nobutoshi separate from the head Sanada in Matsushiro, Sinano Province as the Numata Domain.

真田信利肖像画、加納永泰筆、大法院蔵(The Portrait of Nobutoshi Sanada, attributed to Eitai Kano, ownd by Daihoin)licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Nobutoshi accepted hard tasks from Shogunate and built luxurious halls against the head Sanada. The result was that people in Numata Domain suffered from high taxes. Nobutoshi was fired in 1681 inspired by his failure of preparing materials for the Ryogoku Bridge rebuilding and the direct appeal to Shogunate by a farmer called Mozaemon. At last, Numata Castle that Sanada were so much devoted to, was completely destroyed by Shogunate in 1682.

天守があったと思われる場所(The place where there seemed be Tenshu)


Now, the ruins of Numata castle have been turned into a park called the Numata Park. Though it has a beautiful flowers and trees garden, only unearthed stone walls of the west turret and the restored clock tower remain.

沼田公園(Numata Park)
掘り出された西櫓石垣(The unearthen stone walls of the west turret)
復元された時計台(The restored clock tower)

Later Life

After Sanada’s castle was demolished, some lords like the Toki clan governed the area in the Edo Period. They just had a few office halls to govern. After the Meiji Restoration, the buildings of the castle were removed, and moats were filled. The good thing was that a former warrior Taminosuke Kume bought the ruins and donated them to the city for a park.

公園からの眺め(A view from the park)

Now, some people in this city are considering how they could restore the Tenshu after a popular NHK drama called “Sanada-Maru” aired in Japan in 2016. The drama was about the lives of the Sanada clan, mainly about Nobushige Sanada, Nobuyuki’s little brother, famous for the fights with Tokugawa for Toyotomi in Osaka Castle. (Sanada clan were divided into Tokugawa and Toyotomi on purpose.) The drama which also featured Numata, led to an increase in tourism for the city.

現地案内板にある天守の想像図(The imaginary drawing of Tenshu on the sign board at the site)

People in the city seem worried about the decrease in the near future. They are searching for a new symbol like the Tenshu, and researching successful cases such as the Shiroishi Castle.

復元された白石城(The restored Shiroishi Castle)

However, there will be big problems that come with it. At first, the details are not clear at all because of the castle being destroyed. Stone walls of Honmaru, and few items like roof tiles with gold leaf and utensils have been excavated so far. In addition, the Agency for Cultural Affairs instructs local governments not to restore historical buildings without clear evidence. Secondly it needs a large budget. If they ever decide to construct the Tenshu in a traditional wooden style, it will require a fund as much as their annual general budget. That is too controversial.

発掘された本丸石垣(The excavated stone walls of Honmaru)

The city is also trying to identify itself as “Sanada’s Hometown”. I will keep watching what they are doing now.

My Impression

To keep the population, I think that a reasonable idea is holding events together with other municipalities having relative castles and ruins to Sanada such as Osaka, Ueda, Nagurumi and Iwabitsu.

大坂城(Osaka Castle)
上田城(Ueda Castle)

Then, one possible solution could be rebuilding a gate or a turret based on excavation. There are similar cases, for example in Hachigata.

鉢形城の再建された門(The rebuilt gate in Hachigata Castle)

For another possibility, how about creating the image of virtual Tenshu with LED like Oita-Funai.

大分府内城の仮想天守(The virtual Tenchu in Oita-Funai Castle)taken by ぴょんにゃん from photo AC

But if they actually want to construct a real Tenshu building, they might have to be prepared for using it as their office hall.

How to get There

It is useful to access Numata Castle Ruins by car. It takes about 10 minutes from Numata IC on Kan-Etsu Expressway. When using train, it takes about 20 minutes on foot from JR Numata Station. It needs to climb up a steep hill on the river terraces, but it may be interesting.
From Tokyo to Numata Station: Take the Jo-Etsu Shinkansen super express to Takasaki, then transfer to Jo-Etsu local line.

Links and References

沼田市観光協会(Numata Tourism Association)
・沼田市議会新政同志会平成29年第1回会派調査・研修報告(Japanese Document)

41.駿府城(Sunpu Castle)

Sunpu Castle is returning to a castle associated with Ieyasu Tokugawa.

復元された駿府城東御門、背景は静岡県庁舎別館(The restored Higashi-Gomon of Sunpu Castle, the background is the Shizuoka Prefectural Government Office)

Location and History

Ieyasu Tokugawa, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate lived three times in Sunpu which is the old name of Shiuoka City. The first time was in his childhood when he lived there as a hostage under the Imagawa clan. The second one was in his middle age as a warlord in the Tokai region, and the last one was in his old age as the ruler of Japan. It is said that the hall of the Imagawa clan was there, that’s why Tokugawa was sent to the castle as a hostage.

駿府城公園の徳川家康像(The statue of Ieyasu Tokugawa in Sunpu Castle Park)taken by 松波庄九郎 from photo AC

Tokugawa built a new Sunpu Castle with the first “Tenshu” keep in 1589 after he took over Suruga Province where Sunpu was the capital. But he was soon transferred to the Kanto region by the Toyotomi clan. Instead, the Kazuuji Nakamura under Toyoyomi came to the castle and replaced Tokugawa’s Tenshu with another one against Tokugawa.

中村一氏像、東京大学史料編纂所蔵(The portrait of Kazuuji Nakamura, owned by Tokyo University)licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, Tokugawa returned to Sunpu again, and renovated the castle in 1607. At its peak, it was surrounded by triple moats. The third Tenshu keep had the largest stone base in Japan, and many turrets and gates prepared for fighting with Toyotomi clan in the west direction. Tokugawa died at this castle in 1616 after he had beaten Toyotomi clan in 1615. After that, the Shogunate directly governed Sunpu and the castle for many years.

駿州府中之城図家康公縄張、岡崎市立図書館蔵(The layout of Sunpu Castle by Ieyasu Tokugawa, owned by Okazaki City Library)licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately there was a big fire in 1635 which burned the castle down. After the fire, facilities such as the East Gate “Higashi Gomon”, the South-East turret “Tatusmi Yagura” and the South-West turret “Hitsuji-Saru Yagura” were rebuilt, but Tenshu was not rebuilt, only its base remained.

現在復元された巽櫓(左)と東御門(右)、大火の後再建された建物を元にしている(The current restored Tatsumi-Yagura(left) and Higashi-Gomon(right), based on the buildings rebuilt after the fire)

At the end of the Edo Period, Sunpu Castle regained its importance in the East-West confrontation. The castle became the stronghold of the New Government Military which negotiated the treatment of Edo Castle and the Shogun with the Shogunate.

駿府城近くにある西郷隆盛・山岡鉄舟会見の地跡(The site of the meeting between Takamori Saigo and Tesshu Yamaoka near Sunpu Castle)licensed by Halowand via Wikimedeia Commons


Now, Shizuoka City officials are trying to recreate the castle ruins as a historic site. They have renamed the ruins from the former name Sunpu Park to the Sunpu-Castle Park recently. They have also restored Higashi Gomon, Tatsumi Yagura and Hitsuji-Saru Yagura in the original wooden style based on their remaining detailed drawing and excavation.

復元された東御門と巽櫓(The restored Higashi-Gomon and Tatsumi-Yagura)
復元された坤櫓(The restored Hitsujisaru-Yagura)taken by アド・ミラー from photo AC

They are consulting with historians and specialists about how they should reorganize the park and rebuild the Tenshu keep. Their answer right now is that they should restore the base of Tenshu first, and wait for a while. That’s because the details of it are unclear, and rebuilding it requires a huge budget. You can now see the excavation site of Tenshu prepared for the rebuilding of the base. There are mixed stone ruins both from the second Nakamura and the third Tokugawa periods.
That’s fascinating.

天守の発掘現場(The excavation saite of Tehchu)
こちら側が徳川の石、向こう側が中村の石(The near side is Tokugawa’s stones, the other is Nakamura’s)

Later Life

After the Meiji Restoration, all the buildings of the castle were demolished, and Shizuoka City used the ruins as a park. But the city decided to offer the park for the ground for a military base in mid Meiji. The 34th infantry regiment used the base between 1897 and 1945. As a result, the remaining Tenshu base was completely destroyed and many moats were filled with waste. The area became plain-looking without part of the second and third concentric moats and their stone walls

現在の駿府城の航空写真(An aerial photo of the present Sunpu Castle)

内堀もわずかですが復元されています。(A few inner moats are restored)

After the World War II, the ruins of the castle became a park again called “Sunpu Park”. The city seems to be looking for a new symbol of Tokugawa to strengthen ties with its citizens.

堀から発見された家康時代の鯱(The grampus in Ieyasu’s era which was discovered from a moat)

My Impression

I can see why they want to increase the number of historical parks for citizens and tourists. I am really pleased to see the buildings of castles restored like the original ones. But, how far will they go with that? Is it really necessary to rebuild the Tenshu as the city symbol? More than enough is too much. Though there is not one answer, it might be an answer in the case of the military base in the past.

再建された巽櫓の内部(The inside of the restored Tatsumi-Yagura)

How to get There

It takes about 15 minutes on foot from the JR Shizuoka station.
From Tokyo to the station: Take the Tokaido Shinkansen super express direct to Shizuoka st.

Links and References

駿府城公園(Sunpu Castle Park)
・大御所徳川家康と駿府城公園、田中省三著(Japanese Book)