Saturday, November 11, 2023

Kamogatake Castle -Fallen but survived-

 Kamogatake Castle

-Fallen but survived-



Name: Kamogatake castle (Kamogatake-jo)
Alias: Kamagatake-jo
Place: Nakano Nakano city, Nagano
Location: 36.74354585499974, 138.38941814182596
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: Unknown
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Kamogatake castle (鴨ヶ嶽城) is located over Kamogatake mountain, one of about 700 meter above from sea level and 300 meter above from hillside at backward of current Nakano city central. Being surrounded by Chikuma-gawa river and Yomasegawa river, Kamogatake mountain is long and narrow ridge spread northward from Misawayama mountain, and due to its sheer slope it has spectacular view of north part of Nagano basin and backward mountains.

Nakano area is half round shaped flat area spread at east of Chikuma-gawa river, being located at middle of Nagano city and Iyama city and separated by bottlenecks from these two areas. Backward of Nakano area is Shiga-Kogen height, and connected to Kusatsu area of Gunma province across Shibu-Toge pass. From castle site whole part of Nakano area and backward mountain road is seen and it was good place to manage the territory.

Origin of Kamogatake castle and Takanashi clan

Kamogatake castle was built as mountain fortress of local lord Takanashi clan, that was branch family of Inoue clan around 1500. Inoue clan originally lived at Inoue area in the south part of current Susaka city, and spread their relative around east part of Chikuma-gawa river such as Suda clan or Takanashi clan. Takanashi clan lived at northernmost area of Inoue territory, and had room of expansion.

Being surrounded in turbulence at collapse of Kamakura Shogunate or conflict between Muromachi Shogunate and South Court, Takanashi clan grew their territory toward north and expelled Nakano clan which formerly held Nakano area. Takanashi clan moved their main base to Nakano area and built traditional style square shaped residence at hillside of Kamogatake mountain. They also built Kamogatake castle at peak of mountain as emergency fortress.

Structure of Kamogatake castle

As it stands at narrow ridge between quite sheer slopes, its structure is simply shaping ridge to terraces and separating them by dry moats. It structure spreads over 600 meter along ridge line, and is separated by five huge V shaped dry moats of over 10 meter width and  height processing original height difference of terrain. 

Central area of castle is long and narrow oblong shaped one of 40 meter long and 10 meter width, having structure of watching tower at its south edge. Ahead of huge dry moat, northward of central area is layered terraces built toward Hakoyama-Toge pass and Hakoyama castle at further ahead of pass.

At southward of central area, ahead of another huge dry moat there is square shaped secondary area where direct climbing road arrives. Ahead of small terraces and shallow dry moats there is third area that is triangle shape of 20 meter long. This area is protected by huge clay wall and dry moats and it might be the end of original castle.

About 100 meter ahead of this third area, there is Kamagatake castle area which was added at later period. Kamagatake castle is consist of huge 150 meter long and 20 meter wide area, that south end is securely protected by line of stone wall and largest dry moat of 30 meter wide. This defense line clearly assumes combat utilizing matchlock guns.

Peak and crisis of Takanashi clan

Around 1500 Takanashi clan reached to the border of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture) across Chikuma-gawa river and had connection with Nagao clan, the deputy governor of Echigo province and managed Joetsu area ahead of Sekita mountains. In 1507 Tamekage Nagao (1486-1543), leader of Nagao clan and son of daughter of Takanashi clan, raised against governor Fusayoshi Uesugi (1474-1507) and killed him.

In response to this incident main family of Uesugi clan sent large army to Echigo province then Tamekage once escaped to Sado island, but later returned and broke Uesugi army at the battle of Nagamorihara. At this time Takanashi clan sent reinforce army to Tamekage and contributed to his victory, then importance of Takanashi clan in Uesugi clan significantly increased. On the other hand, at this time Murakami clan grew at south half of Nagano basin and both power fell into conflict.

However, Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), the warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture), intruded into Shinano province and expelled Murakami clan from its main base Katsurao castle (Nagano prefecture) in 1553. Murakami clan asked assistance to Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), son of Tamekage Nagao, and Kenshin intervened to Shinano province to support both of Murakami clan and Takanashi clan.

Fall and survival

Shingen Takeda and Kenshin Uesugi fight five times at battle of Kawanakajima for dominance of Nagano basin, and there was no decisive result of battle but Takeda army expanded their territory by plots. Gradually Takahashi clan was suppressed by Takeda army and finally left Nakano area in 1559, retreating to Iiyama castle (Nagano prefecture).

At this time Takanashi clan barely survived by support of Uesugi clan, and gradually became retainer of Uesugi clan. Later Iiyama castle was directly managed Uesugi army, and among internal conflict of Uesugi clan after the death of Kenshin Uesugi, Iiyama area was gave to Takeda clan. Takanashi clan totally lost its position as local lord.

After the fall of Takeda clan in 1582, Uesugi clan once recovered Nagano basin and Takanashi clan was sent to Nakano area again, but as retainer of Uesugi clan. At this time Uesugi clan had to protect this area against Tokugawa clan at south half of Nagano basin or Sanada clan at Kusatsu area with small army then Kamagatake castle area was added at this time to increase security of castle. 

Afterward of castle

In 1597, probably for the intention of centralization of Uesugi clan, leader of Takanashi clan was expelled along with other major retainers. Next year Uesugi clan was moved to Aizu area of Mutsu province (Fukushima prefecture) by Toyotomi government, and Kamogatake castle might be abolished at this time. Later Takanashi clan was forgiven and became retainer of Uesugi clan and continued as retainer of Yonezawa domain.

Currently no building remains but terraces, clay walls and dry moats well remain over ridge line. Direct climbing line from hillside temple is quite tough but rewarded by panoramic scenery from hilltop castle. Structure of castle that is long line with up and down is like the history of Takahashi clan, that once experienced peak period but fell in midst of many turbulence but stubbornly survived.


20 minutes drive from Joshinetsu Jidoshado Expressway Shinshu-Nakano interchange to parking of Higashiyama-Koen park. 30 minues walk from entrance of climbing road to hilltop castle.

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Pictures (click to enlarge)

Kamogatake castle

Takanashi Clan Castle

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Zeze Castle -Last water castle at west coast of Lake Biwako-

Zeze Castle

–Last water castle at west coast of Lake Biwako-


Name: Zeze castle (Zeze-jo)
Place: Honmaru-cho Otsu city, Shiga
Location: 34.99492395588524, 135.89530561400554
Type: Flat Castle
Built: 1601
Remaining remnants: Gates and stone walls 

Brief History

Zeze castle (膳所城) is located at Zeze area that is east part of current Otsu city central. It was originally small cape named Zeze-saki protruding the south edge of the lake where the width of water becomes narrow and changes to Seta-gawa river. The castle stands at a corridor between the lake and eastward mountain of Kyoto basin, and many roads and railroads pass through this narrow area.

As Tosando road and Tokaido road those are artery from Tokai region and Kanto region passed Seta-gawa river by Seta bridge at 2 kilomater south of this castle, then run along with the coast of lake, crossed the mountain and entered to the capital Kyoto city, Otsu area had been important east gate of Kyoto city. To control both of land transportation and water shipping, castles were built at lakeshore as water castles.

Water castles of Lake Biwako

During Oda government, Sakamoto castle and Seta castle were built at north and south edge of Otsu area. Sakamato castle was built to control Sakamoto town and Hieizan Enryakuji-temple, and also prepared for westbank road of the lake toward Hokuriku region. On the other hand, Seta castle that resided directly next of Seta bridge was used to control Seta bridge, and actually at the incident of Honnoji Yamaoka clan which was the lord of Seta castle burnt down Seta Bridge and it delayed move of Akechi army toward Omi province.

Toyotomi government merged these two castles and built Otsu castle at current Otsu port area. It was a magnificent castle that has an island like central area and three layer land area surrounded by water moats. Toyotomi government placed their trusted retainer at this castle, but at the battle of Sekigahara Kyogoku clan restraint large detached force of West army at this castle. Finally the castle opened but detached army could not participate in the main battle, then it contributed to the lose of West army lead to later extinction of Toyotomi clan.

Tokugawa clan won the battle of Sekigahara and became the ruler also had to keep Otsu area to protect capital Kyoto city with Imperial Household, and prepare for Toyotomi clan remaining at Osaka castle. But Otsu castle was severely damaged in the battle, had a image of former government, and was too close the backward mountain that enabled indirect attack by cannons. Considering these factors Tokugawa clan decided to build new castle at Zeze area that is closer to Seta bridge and has plenty space at front and backward.

Struture of castle

Due to similarity of geographic condition, the plan of Zeze castle is close to Otsu castle or Sakamoto castle those consist of island like central area and rectangular shaped land area separated by water moat. But central area of Zeze castle is larger than Otsu castle or Sakamoto castle and it could endure only by central area.

Central area is equivalent to current Zeze castle park and about 150 meter long square. It was originally separated into east half that was original central area and west half of secondary area but later it was connected to single enclosure. Four layer main tower and several turrets and gates are built at edge of the area.

Secondary area is a rectangular one of about 100 meter long and 50 meter width at south of central area, and third area existed at south of secondary area. Secondary area and third area are now connected and used for the ground water purification plant. In front of central area gate there was Umadashi buffer area, and outside that there was outer area of 300 meter long and 100 meter width enclosed by water moat used for residence of retainers.

Afterward of castle

As a east gate of Kyoto city, Edo Shogunate placed its hereditary retainers as lord of Zeze castle. After Meiji revolution this castle was abolished then buildings and stones were take away from castle site. Due to destruction and erosion central area became just a flat land but basement of stone walls slightly remain at lakeshore.

Original stone walls partially remains at outer wall of water purification plant of former secondary area and third area, and many gates are moved to neighbor shrines and still exist. Because of its flat shape water castle is easily disappear, but different from Sakamoto castle or Otsu castle completely disappeared, Zeze castle still has trace of former castle such as terrain or buildings.


15 minutes walk from Keihan Ishiyama-Sakamoto-sen line Zeze-Honmachi station. 15 minutes drive from Meihan Jidoshado Expressway Seta-Nishi interchange.

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Pictures (click to enlarge)