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)

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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