Maruoka Castle, located in Maruoka town, Fukui pref, is the oldest standing castle with a remaining donjon. The castle, built with an old style stone wall that uses natural found stones, is rather small but has a simple beauty that remains unchanged to this day. The castle was built in 1576 by the order of Katsuie Shibata who was awarded the Echizen territory, now a part of Fukui pref., by Nobunaga Oda, who ruled a vast area of Japan in the Sengoku Period. The castle was built originally in Toyohara town, however, for more convenient road access, it was moved to Maruoka by Katsuie’s nephew, Katsutoyo. The castle employs a unique architectural method. It is three stories high with two layers of roof and there is a watch tower with handrails going around the donjon on the top story. The castle was roofed with Shakudani stone, a local stone, and has thick lattices and black wooden walls, which are unmistakable characteristics of the early style of castle making. The castle has lived through many war-torn periods of deadly strife and carnage. The castle is also known as Kasumiga Joh, Mist Castle, owing to a legend that, at a time of battle, a giant serpent appeared and blew mist over the castle and concealed it from attackers. In 1934, it was designated as a National Treasure. It was destroyed by an earthquake, then later reconstructed and was designated an Important National Property.
Hie Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. The enshrined deoty is Oyamakui-no-kami, the god of Mount Hie in Shiga prefecture. It is said that when Ota Dokan constructed Edo Castle in 1478, he erected a Sanno-Hie Shrine in the compound for a guardian deity of the castle. When Tokugawa Ieyasu was enfeoffed with Edo (present-day Tokyo), he relocated it to the grounds of Edo Castle, and worshipped the deity as the protector of Edo. The citizens of Edo also had strong faith in Hie Shrine as the founding god of their town. In 1607, when Ieyasu’s son, Tokugawa Hidetada, planned to make improvement on the castle, he moved the shrine out, so the people of Edo could worship there.
Sanno Festival held in June every year is one of the three great festivals of Edo; the others are Kanda Festival at Kanda Shrine in Chuo-ku and Fukagawa Hachiman Festival at Tomioka Hachiman Shrine in Fukagawa in Koto-ku. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Sanno Festival and Kanda Festival were also called “Tenka Matsuri,” which means the Shogun’s Festival, because the festivals were protected by the Tokugawa Shogunate and the festival processions were allowed to enter the grounds of Edo Castle for the Shogun to view them.
The high-spiritted Edokko (natives to Edo) would have said, “Sanno Festival is too refined, isn’t it?” Any way, why don’t you try experiencing one of these great festivals of Edo, if you have time?
Akizuki-jou, or Akizuki Castle, was once located in Akizuki-cho, Asakura, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The origin of the castle dates back to 1203 when Harada Tanekatsu built a mountain castle in Mt. Koshouzan (856m above sea level) and his residential castle at the foot of the mountain. He changed his name to Akizuki Tanezane and the residential castle was occupied by generations of the Akizuki family.
In 1587, faced by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s massive army surrounding the mountain castle, Akizuki Tanezane surrendered to Hideyoshi and the mountain castle was abandoned.
In 1924, Kuroda Nagaoki, who was granted the land of Akizuki, transferred the residential castle to the old mountain castle and made extensive renovations. The ruins we see today are from this castle, in which successive lords of Akizuki family of Kuroda Clan resided until Meiji Period.
The castle’s main gate, Kuromon, is still remaining and the area is known for its fall foliage.
The ruins of Akizuki Castle is a historical site dating from Kamakura Period.
Kurume-jou, or Kurume Castle, was once built in Sasayama-machi, Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The castle originated from a fortress made by a local clan during the period of Eihyou Era (1504 ~ 1521). It is believed that it was after Toyotomi Hideyoshi conquered Kyuushyuu region that the castle was renovated extensively using a more modern building technique by the order of Kobayakawa Hidekane in 1583.
In 1620, the castle was given to Arima Toyouji as recognition of his contribution to the victory of Osaka no Jin Battle. Since then, until the end of Edo Period, the castle was occupied by the Arima family, the lord of Kurume Clan.
The Chikugo River ran along the Northwest side of Kurume Castle and it functioned as a natural protective moat and the castle was built making the most use of other natural geographical advantages to protect it. The castle compound had seven castle towers with two or three stories soaring above high white stone walls. Among them, the three storied Tatsumi castle tower, the main castle in the southeast corner, was the most imposing and impressive.
Now only the stone wall remains and inside the castle compound are Sasayama Shirine, worshipping the Arima lord, and Arima Kinenkan Museum that exhibits reference materials related to the Arima family.
Kurume Castle is an old castle ruin that is also designated as a prefectural cultural asset.
Koriyama Castle located in Yoshida-cho, Aki Takata City, Hiroshima Pref. was a large-scale castle which covered the whole mountain of Koriyama. The original castle was built on a ridge in the southeastern part of the mountain in 1336 by Mori Tokichika, who was appointed as the Jito (an official to manage manors) of Yoshida manor. Since then the successive heads of the clan had resided at this castle until the time of Mori Motonari, who fortified the castle and expanded the castle area in the whole mountain. In the Battle of Yoshida Koriyama in 1541, the castle was attacked by Amako Haruhisa’s forces with 20,000 soldiers, but the Mori clan succeeded in beating them back. In 1589, the Mori clan shifted its bases to Hiroshima Castle. Koriyama Castle was dismantled in the early Edo period. Most of the castle compounds were destroyed at this time. At the present time, there are about 130 remains of kuruwa (castle compounds) spreading all over the mountain, from which we can easily imagine how large the castle was.
Ichigoyama Castle is located at the eastern peak of Mt. Ushibuse (491 m) in Yoshii-cho, Gunma Pref. It is said that the castle was built in the late Muromachi period (1336-1573) as an attached castle of Hirai Castle, which was resided by the Uesugi clan. Located at the top of such a high peak, the castle is thought to have been used as a base to send smoke signals during the Warring States period (1493-1573). The castle fell in 1563 by the attack of Takeda Shingen. It is presumed that several outer compounds separated by dry moats were constructed but there are almost no ruins remaining now. The area was arranged into Ushibuseyama Natural Park to provide citizens with recreation and relaxation. On the castle ruin stands a three-story mock donjon with a commercial museum of Yoshii-cho on the 1st floor, a historical museum on the 2nd floor, and an observatory on the 3rd floor, from which visitors can command a 360°panoramic view.
After the Kasai clan, the ruler of the southern part of Tohoku region, was destroyed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Oshu Shioki (punishment given to the powerful clans in Tohoku are to prevent their expansion) in 1590, Ichinoseki Castle was given to a Hideyoshi’s retainer, the Kimura clan, and then became a part of the Date domain. In 1604, Date Masamune transferred his uncle, Rusu Masakage, to this castle, but later in the Kanbun era (1661-1672) his 10th son, Munekatsu was feoffed to this castle. Munekatsu, however, was exiled to Tosa province (present-day Kochi Pref.), being accused of causing Date Disturbance in 1671. In 1682, Tamura Tatsuaki, Masamune’s grandson, was transferred from the Iwanuma domain to this castle, and his 10 successors had resided at this castle until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The ruin of Honmaru (the main castle) called “Senjojiki” is a rectangular land of 100 m by 50 m at the altitude of 90 m above sea level. A ruin of dry moat can be seen on the adjacent hill at the same level as Honmaru, and several other outer compounds were presumably arranged on the terraced land below Honmaru. Koguchi (the main gate) was located in the northeast to Senjojiki. A square land in the southwest is presumed to have been another outer compound such as a watch tower. Now at the side of a small hill in the west of the castle ruins stands Tamura Shrine built by the Tamura clan.
Zakimi gusuku was a castle located in Zakimi, Yomitan-son, Okinawa Pref. It was built in the early 15th century by the renowned Ryukyu military architect Gosamaru. It was a middle-sided castle with a circumference of 365 meters and an area of 7,385 square meters. From the excavated items, the castle is thought to have been abolished in the 16th century.
During the Battle of Okinawa in the World War II, it was used as an antiaircraft artillery base by the Japanese air forces, and in the postwar period as a radar station by the U.S. forces. After the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, the preservation effort as a historic site was made. Up to the present the walls have been restored. The walls are said to be the oldest stone walls in Okinawa. The arched gate and its both sides are piled in orderly “Nuno-zumi” style (cloth piling), while the rest are piled up in “Aikata-zumi” style or Turtleback curvilinear shapes, which is typical to Okinawa.
Zakimi gusuku was designated as a National Historic Site in 1972, and was named a World Heritage Site, along with other Okinawa’s castles, in 2000.