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)

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!

「116.沼田城(Numata Castle)」への4件のフィードバック