Numata Castle was located in Numata City, Gunma Pref. It is said to have been built by Bankisai Akiyasu, the 12th generation head of the Numata clan. The castle was called Kurauchi Castle in those days. As it stands at the strategic spot on the way to Kanto region, a lot of battles to capture this castle were fought among warring lords such as the Uesugi clan of Echigo region (present-day Niigata Pref.), the Hojo clan of Odawara, and the Takeda clan of Kai province (present-day Yamanashi Pref.). In the Edo period, this area came under control of the Sanada clan. Sanada Yukinobu started its modification work in 1597, and in several years it was modified into an early modern-styled castle with the five-story donjon, Ninomaru (the second castle), Sannomaru (the third castle), and the stone walls, which were rear for Kanto region. At the present time, only a part of stone walls and moats remains, which remind us of the ancient times. In spring, a 400-year-old cherry tree called “Goten-zakura (palace cherry tree)” is in full bloom. It looks as if it were talking of rise and fall of the castle.
Tatsuki (Dragon Castle) Shrine is located next to Okazaki Castle in Okazaki Park in Kosei-cho, Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture. Enshrining Tokugawa Ieyasu and Honda Tadakatsu, this historic shrine is closely associated with the Tokugawa clan and its retainer, the Honda clan.
On the day when Saigo Tsugiyori, the deputy governor of Mikawa province, completed the construction of Okazaki Castle in the mid-15th century, a heavenly maiden, who called herself the Dragon God, appeared in the donjon and told Tsugiyori to worship her as the guardian god of the castle. He built a shrine on the top floor of the donjon to enshrine the Dragon God, from which the castle was called “Ryugajo (Dragon Castle).”
During the Kanei era (1624-1643), Okazaki Toshogu Shrine was founded in Honmaru (the main castle) site to enshrine Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was born in this castle. In 1766, Honda Tadatoshi, the lord of the Okazaki domain moved Toshogu Shrine to the Sannomaru (the 3rd castle) site and built a new shrine named Eisei Shrine in the Honmaru site to enshrine Honda Tadakatsu, one of the four powerful retainers of Ieyasu, as Eisei Daimyojin. Toshogu Shrine was, however, relocated to the Honmaru ruins site again in the Meiji period (1868-1912), where it was integrated with Eisei Shrine and became Tatsuki Shrine.
Shibata Chrysanthemum Festival is held in Funaoka Tateyama, Shibata-cho, Miyagi Pref. Since 1970, when the festival was first held, it has been held in Sanno-maru Hiroba (plaza) of Funaoka Joshi (castle ruin) Park from the mid-October through the mid-November every year. Not only gorgeous chrysanthemum dolls but also the scenes expressed with chrysanthemum dolls, gardening exhibition, and objet d'art made of chrysanthemum flowers are displayed. During the same period, Grand Chrysanthemum Flower Contest is held in the park, where about 1,000 pots of chrysanthemum flowers that chrysanthemum fanciers in the prefecture raised with loving care are exhibited. Visitors can see the only female chrysanthemum craftworker in Japan dress up the dolls. There is also an exhibition space, where the works made by town people are displayed. It’s the best place for families to enjoy autumnal atmosphere.
Dekansho Festival is a Bon dance festival held in the middle of August in Sasayama City, Hyogo Pref. With the hope of preserving and passing down various local Dekansho-bushi songs in the Tanba Sasayama area, the festival was first held in 1952 on the riverbed of the Sasayama River. Dekansho-bushi song, to which Dekansho Dance is danced, is said to have originated in “Mitsu-bushi,” which was sung around the end of the Edo period by the people from Sasayama, thinking of their hometown. In the later periods, it was sung with various lyrics and spread all over the country. At the present time, the festival is held in the field of the Sannomaru (the third castle) ruin, where people dance in multiple circles around a large yagura tower at the center. The highlight of the festival is the vigorous “Yagura So-Odori,” in which even the people coming from outside the prefecture join the circle dancing to the ohayashi music and the refrain of “Yoi-Yoi-De-Kansho!” If you want to have one more summertime memory, why don’t you join it?
Yagura was a weapons storage house in old-day Japan, and yagura with high ceiling was used as a watch tower, which was called monomi (lookout) yagura.
The residence of the Masuda family, who acted as Eitaigaro (the first rank feudatories) of the domain, used to be located in San-no-maru (the 3rd castle) area of Hagi Castle. It was a one-storied house in Irimoya-zukuri style, standing on the stone wall of 1.8 m tall. It functioned as the watch tower to check the visitors going through the Somon Gate.
The Masuda family’s residence was one of “yagura nagaya (a tenement house with the watch tower),” which were constructed at every Somon Gate of the castle. Today, this is the only existing yagura nagaya in this town. Elaborate decorative techniques such as ridge tiles, embellishment of gable pediments and lattice windows can be seen.
The area around the residence is designated as a preservation district for historic site, where many nagaya-mon (the gate of yagura nagaya) remain and create an atmosphere of old-fashioned castle town.
Ohtawara Castle was built in 1545 by Ohtawara Sukekiyo, known as one of the 7 valiant warriors of the Nasu clan. The castle had been resided only by the Ohtawara clan for as long as 326 years till the domain system was abolished in 1871. The Ohtawara clan was once driven out of this area by the Ozeki clan in 1518, but put down the Ozeki clan to regain its territory in 1541. The clan was given an important position by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, but joined in Tokugawa forces in the Battle of Sekigahara, which resulted in its prominence as a great daimyo with the fief of 14,400 koku of rice. The Ohtawara clan is a rare example of the daimyo that had survived the Warring States period and never lost its power till the Meiji Restoration. Ohtawara Castle was a large-scale castle with Honmaru (the main castle), Ninomaru (the second castle), Sannomaru (the third castle), Kita-kuruwa (the north compound), Nishi-kuruwa (the west compound), and the riding ground. At the present time, only Honmaru, Ninomaru and Kita-kuruwa are in a perfect state of preservation.
Sasayama Castle ruin is located in Sasayama City, Hyogo Pref. This castle is famous for having been constructed in only 6 months in 1609 under the order of Ieyasu Tokugawa and directorship of Takatora Todo, a daimyo and renowned castle designer. The castle is also called “Kiriga-jo (the castle of paulownia).” Its large shoin (reception room) and dignified stone walls represent Ieyasu’s power at the time. A Sasayama Castle ruin is also famous as cherry blossom viewing site, where about 1,000 cherry trees are planted along the moats and stone walls. In spring a lot of citizens enjoy commanding the cherry blossoms beyond the moats, sitting on the mound at the top of the stone wall. In the open space at San-no-maru (the third castle), Dekansho Festival is held in August every year, which is one of the charming sights of the city in summer.
Tanaka Castle, or popularly called “Kame-jo (Turtle Castle),” was located in Fujieda City, Shizuoka Pref. The castle was originally called Tokunoisshiki Castle, but it was captured by Takeda Shingen in 1570. Shingen ordered his retainer, Baba Mino-no-Kami, to build an extension and renamed it Tanaka Castle. In the battle with Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1582, when the castellan of nearby Ejiri Castle, who had sided with the Takeda clan, defected to the enemy, Tanaka Castle was completely detached and the castellan, Yoda Nobushige, was obliged to take the advice of peace settlement by the Tokugawa forces and surrendered the castle. Later in 1601, the outmost compound was added by the new castellan, Tadatoshi Sakai, and the castle had been resided by the successive domain lords until it was dismantled with the Meiji restoration in 1868. The castle compounds were built in a concentric circle, which is very unique in the nation. At the present time, Nishimashizu Elementary School stands on the site of Honmaru (the main Castle) and Ninomaru (the second castle) and Nishimashizu Junior High School on Sannomaru (the third castle).