135.Masuyama Castle Part2

You can learn a lot about mountain castles there.


Going to Castle Ruins through Uranagi Route

Today, the ruins of Masuyama Castle have been well developed for visitors. There are two trails to visit the ruins, but I highly recommend using the Uranagi Route. This is because there is an information center called Masuyama Jinya with a parking lot near the route. If you park there and walk to the entrance of the route, you will see an interesting modern facility. In fact, the Wada-gawa River which flowed around the castle was turned into the Wada-gawa Dam. You will walk through the crest of the dam looking at Masuyama Lake on the right and a hydroelectric plant on the left. Part of the ruins of the castle town is under the lake now.

Masuyama Castle[/leaflet-marker]

The information center called Masuyama Jinya
The crest of the Wada-gawa Dam
Masuyama Lake
The hydroelectric plant

Featured Horikiri and following Enclosures

By now, you should be able to see the ruins at an altered gate called Kaburagi-mon beside a large signboard. The Uranagi Route goes up on a slope and eventually goes in a valley between the ridges on both sides. You will first see the enclosure called the F Enclosure whose name originates from the numbering system which historians used. it is therefore not known what the original name was. You should check out the ridges that are cut artificially, called Horikiri, in front of the enclosure which prevented enemies from attacking the ridges.

The Kaburagi-mon at the entrance of the Uranagi Route
The Uranagi Route goes in the valley
The Horikiri in front of the F Enclosure
The F Enclosure

Above the F Enclosure, there is the Umanosego Enclosure which is shaped like a horse’s back. This is where the Uranagi Route and Nanamagari Route meet. The enclosure was an important spot for controlling visitors or enemies.

The Umanosego Enclosure
The map around the F Enclosure and the Umanosego Enclosure (from the location map at the site)

First Enclosure, pivot point of the defense

After that, the First Enclosure stands out in front of you. The cliff around the enclosure is cut vertically, which is called Kirigishi, however, it is impossible to climb it. Unfortunately, you will also have to walk around the cliff to reach the entrance of the enclosure. This location would have been where enemies were counterattacked from above. From there, you will see the remaining well called the Matabe-Shimizu which still filled fresh water to this day located near the entrance.

Looking up the First Enclosure
The Kirigishi of First Enclosure
The well called the Matabe-Shimizu
The map around the First Enclosure (from the location map at the site)

From the inside of the enclosure, you can see a good view of the area around the castle as well as a view of the route you went through. That means this enclosure would have been the pivot point of the defense.

The inside of the First Enclosure
A view from the First Enclosure
A view of the route you went through

To be continued in “Masuyama Castle Part3”
Back to “Masuyama Castle Part1”

135.Masuyama Castle Part1

An important mountain castle in Ecchu Province

Location and History

Ecchu Province in Sengoku Period

Masuyama Castle was a large mountain castle which was located in Ecchu Province (what is now modern day Toyama Prefecture). In the first 16th Century, Ecchu Province didn’t have a strong warlord, but was divided between the Jinbo Clan, the Shina Clan, the Ikkoshu Sect and others. The province had the Toyama Plain in the center, which was surrounded by hills in the south, the east and the west. They built a lot of mountain castles on the area of the hills to maintain their territories. Masuyama Castle was called one of the three greatest mountain castles in Ecchu Province followed by Moriyama Castle and Matsukura Castle.

The location of the castle

Masuyama Castle was located on the western edge of the hills sticking out of the Toyama Plain from the south. The Wada-gawa River flowed alongside the edge, so it could be a natural water moat. There were a lot of enclosures on the hill such as the First Enclosure and the Second Enclosure.

The relief map around the castle

The map around the castle

Defensive system of Masuyama Castle

To protect these enclosures, the castle had several defensive systems using natural terrains like ridges, cliffs and valleys. For example, some ridges were cut artificially to look like a trench, called Horikiri. Some cliffs were cut vertically, called Kirigishi. Some valleys were used as the dry moats called Karabori.

A typical defensive system of mountain castles (from the signboard at the site)

The soldiers could also get water from several wells easily in order to survive a long siege. Other castles such as Kameyama Castle were built on the hill next to Masuyama Castle so that they could work closely with each other. Even the castle town was developed on the foot of the mountain castle at its peak.

The imaginary drawing of Masuyama Castle

Kenshin Uesugi attacked it three times

It is uncertain when the castle was first built, but the Jinbo Clan owned the castle in the middle of the 16th Century during the Sengoku Period. In 1560, a great warlord by the name of Kenshin Uesugi invaded Ecchu Province and supporting the Shina Clan from Echigo Province (The east of Ecchu Province). The Jinbo Clan was sieged in Masuyama Castle to protect themselves. Kenshin wrote in his letter that Masuyama was an essentially dangerous place and impenetrable with lots of defenders. Kenshin attacked Masuyama Castle three times, and finally captured it in 1576.

上杉謙信肖像画、上杉神社蔵 (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

After Kenshin died in 1578, Narimasa Sassa under the Oda Clan took over Masuyama Castle from the Uesugi Clan in 1581. After that, the Maeda Clan supporting the ruler, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and the Tokugawa Shogunate later owned the castle. Some senior vassals from the Maeda Clan stayed in the castle. That meant Masuyama Castle was always an important castle to rule that area. However, the castle was finally abandoned in 1615 due to the Law of One Castle per Province created by the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was said that a wife of the senior vassal who was called Sho-hime was also a daughter of Toshiie Maeda, the founder of the Maeda Clan who managed the castle around the end of its history.

The portrait of Narimasa Sassa, owned by Toyama Municipal Folk Museum (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The portrait of Toshiie Maeda, the founder of the Maeda Clan, private owned (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

To be continued in “Masuyama Castle Part2”

55.千早城~Chihaya Castle

The origin of typical Japanese mountain castles

立地と歴史~Location and History

楠木正成の活躍~Activities of Masashige Kusunoki

Masashige Kusunoki was a great general based in Kawachi Province (what is now the eastern part of Osaka Prefecture) in the 14th century. He first worked under the Kamakura Shogunate, a government body for warriors in the middle ages, but when Emperor Godaigo was against the Shogunate in 1331, he supported the Emperor fighting with the Shogunate in Akasaka Castle. However, the castle was built in a hurry and wasn’t very strong enough to protect against enemies, so Masashige had to run away and disappear. The Emperor was caught by the Shogunate and brought to Okinoshima Island in Japan Sea.

楠木正成肖像画、狩野山楽筆、楠枇庵観音寺蔵~The portrait of Masashige Kusunoki, attributed to Sanraku Kano, owned by Nanpian Kannonji Temple(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
後醍醐天皇肖像画、清浄光寺蔵~The portrait of Emperor Godaigo, owned by Shojokoji Temple(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1333, Masashige wanted to take revenge, so he started making his new network of castles: Kami-Akasaka, Shimo-Akasaka, and Chihaya. Chihaya Castle was the last one of the network. It was located alongside Chihaya Road connecting Kawachi and Yamato (now Nara Prefecture) Provinces, and
on the way to Mt. Kongosan which was known for the training of Shugen-do, i.e., Japanese mountain asceticism. The castle was also on one peak, surrounded by valleys on all sides.

城の位置~The location of the castle

千早城の模型、千早赤阪村郷土資料館蔵~The miniature model of Chihaya Castle, owned by Chihaya-Akasaka Folk Museum(licensed by Wikiwikiyarou via Wikimedia Commons)

千早城の戦い~Siege of Chihaya

正成と僅か千名の兵士からなる部隊は、千早城に籠城し、幕府の大軍から何回も攻められました。 これは千早城の戦いと呼ばれ、日本で最初の本格的な山城での戦いでした。幕府軍の武士たちはこのような戦いでどう攻撃してよいかわからず、陣地や攻めどころといった戦略や計画もなく、しゃにむに城に突進していきました。正成とその部下たちは、敵と戦うのに大抵は盾や矢を使ったのですが、更には岩、丸太、油と火、煮えた汚物までも使って幕府軍を撃退したのでした。また、夜襲をかけて、敵を更に疲弊させました。この籠城戦は3ヶ月間続きます。
Masashige, with his small army of one thousand soldiers, was besieged in Chihaya Castle, by the massive Shogunate troops several times. It is called Siege of Chihaya, and it is the first big battle to occur in a mountain castle in Japan. The shogunate warriors didn’t know how to attack in such a battle, so they straightaway charged the castle without any strategies or planning, with regards to position or location of attack. Masashige and his army mostly used shields and arrows in order to fight the enemies. In addition, they also used rocks, logs, oil and fire, and even boiled filth to repel the Shogunate. They also delivered night attacks to further tire the enemies. The siege lasted for three months.

千早城合戦図、歌川芳員筆、江戸時代、湊川神社蔵~The illustration of Siege of Chihaya, attributed to Yoshikazu Utagawa, in the Edo Period, owned by Minatogawa Shraine(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

During the siege, Emperor Godaigo escaped from the island, and requested all the warriors, even those that backed Shogunate, to support him. Some influential retainer of the Shogunate, such as Takauji Ashikaga and Yoshisada Nitta, took sides with the Emperor. The troops attacking Chihaya heard about it and withdrew. Finally, Masashige won and the Shogunate was destroyed in just 12 days after the Siege of Chihaya ended.

足利尊氏肖像画、浄土寺蔵~The portrait of Takauji Ashikaga, owned by Jodo-ji Temple(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

正成と城の最期~End of Masashige and Castle

Emperor Godaigo started Kenmu Restoration, but the kingdom was soon divided into his Southern Court and the Northern Court that Takauji established with another Emperor. Masashige followed Godaigo till the end, but was unfortunately defeated by Takauji in the Battle of Minatogawa, 1336 in Settsu Province (now part of Hyogo Prefecture). Chihaya Castle was kept by Masashige’s descendants, but eventually fell due to the attack of the Northern Court in 1392.

河内千破城図、湊川神社蔵~The illustration of Chihaya Castle, owned by Minatogawa Shrine(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)


急坂を登る~Climbing Steep Slope

Now, the entrance to the ruins of Chihaya Castle is still the gateway for Mt. Kongosan. You have to climb up over 500 steps of stones along the steep slope. The steps were not there originally, instead they were developed when a shrine was constructed . The trail is partly zigzagged to prevent enemies in the past.

千早城跡入口~The entrance of Chihaya Castle Ruins
石段の急坂~The steep stone steps
曲がりくねっている山道~The zigzagged trail

城の中心部は神社に~Center of Castle becomes Shrine

After about 20 minutes of 150m high climbing, you will reach the Fourth Enclosure which is the roomiest space in the castle. You can go further the route on a saddle of the mountain to the Third Enclosure. The enclosure has the shrine office and the monument of the castle.

第四郭~The Fourth Enclosure
山の鞍部~The saddle part of the mountain
第三郭~The Third Enclosure
城の記念碑~The monument of the castle

Chihaya Shrine that worships Masashige is on the Second Enclosure in at the back of the Third Enclosure. The First Enclosure is also at the back of the Second Enclosure, but it is closed to visitors of the shrine as it is considered the sanctuary. It is thought that a building, like a watchtower, stood on the First Enclosure in the past.

千早神社~Chihaya Shrine
第一郭は立ち入り禁止~The First Enclosure is closed

残っているものはあるか?~Does something original remain?

The side tail goes from the shrine. From the trail, you can look down at something like bounded enclosures. I wonder if they are original or not. If you go back to the saddle between the Third and Fourth Enclosures, you can go down from the mountain using the side pathway to the shrine. One of the valleys’ bottoms has become a forest road. When you look up at the mountain from the road, you can see how steep the slope is, and how well the castle used natural terrain.

腰曲輪のように見えます~They can look like bounded enclosures
自然の断崖~The natural cliff

その後~Later History

Chihaya Castle had been abandoned for a long time. However, after the Meiji Restoration, the situation dramatically changed. Emperor Meiji who was a descendant of the Northern Court decided that the Southern Court was orthodox for some reasons. Masashige, who had been recognized as a great strategist only popular among historians, suddenly transformed into the most famous historical figure. His strategies and ideologies were used to educate all the nations in Japan, which was to be loyal subjects, until World War ll. As a result, Chihaya Shrine was built on the castle ruins in 1879.

皇居外苑にある楠木正成の銅像~The statue of Masashige Kusunoki at Outer Gardens of the Imperial Palace(licensed by David Moore via Wikimedia Commons)

Even now, many old people in Japan think Masashige is just a loyal retainer. On the other hand, some young people even don’t know his name. Historians are recently studying about him as some parts of his personality still remain a mystery. The site has been designated as a National Historic Site since 1934.

私の感想~My Impression

I think that Chihaya Castle is the forerunner of typical mountain castles in Japan, because it used natural hazard at maximum to protect from enemies. Later warriors must have learned a lot from the castle and the battle on it. I am pleased to see that the shrine are is well maintained and Masashige’s name is kept intact .I hope that the shrine will allow visitors to enter the First Enclosure, and that the local government will preserve the ruins really like a historic site to let so that people know more about real Masashige more.

第一郭を見上げる~Looking up the First Enclosure

ここに行くには~How to get There

By car, it takes about 30 minutes away from the Mihara-Mnami IC on Hanwa Expressway. There are several parking lots around the entrance of the castle ruins.
By bus, you can take the Kongo Bus on Chihaya Line bound for Chihaya-Ropeway-Mae or Kongo-Tozanguchi from Tondabayashi Station on Kintetsu Nagano Line, or take the Nankai Bus on Kobuka Line bound for Kongosan-Ropeway-Mae from Kawachi-Nagano Station on Nankai Koya Line or Kintetsu Nagano Line. Get off at the Kongo-Tozanguchi bus stop in both cases.

リンク、参考情報~Links and References

千早城 千早神社、千早赤阪村観光協会(Chihaya-Akasaka Village Tourism Association)
・「日本の城改訂版第103号」デアゴスティーニジャパン(Japanese Book)
・「日本の攻城戦55/柘植久慶」PHP文庫(Japanese Book)