Monday, February 24, 2014

Komoro Castle -Castle with nostalgic atmosphere guarded posting town-

Komoro Castle

-Castle with nostalgic atmosphere guarded posting town-



Name: Komoro Castle (Komoro-jo)
Alias: Nabebuta-jo (Pan cover castle) 
Place: Tei Komoro city, Nagano
Location: 36.32714360078836, 138.41735880191754
Type: Flat castle
Built: Expanded around 1550
Remaining remnants: Main gate, third gate, stone walls, clay walls and dry moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles, Designated national historical site

Brief History

Komoro castle (小諸城) is located at the edge of river terrace of Chikumagawa river, in the center of Komoro city, which is a major city in the middle eastern part of Nagano prefecture.

Komoro area is a narrow path between Asamayama mountain and Mimakigahara height, at the western edge of Saku basin. Saku basin is a small basin of 5 kilometer long square formed by curving Chikumagawa river, and had been an important connecting point of roads runs along the river. 

In particular, Nakasendo road which one of major roads of Japan which passes inland mountainous area runs from southwest to northeast toware Usuitoge pass, Hokuriku kaido road goes along Chikumagawa river downstream to Nagano area, and Saku Okan road from Yamanashi prefecture merges and diverges around this area. Because of this geographical point, Komoro area had been important area for Shinano province (Nagano prefecture).

Origin of Komoro castle

The origin of Komoro castle is unknown but there might be a small residence of local lord since medieval era. In 1473, local lord Oi clan built Nabebuta castle at a small hill at the north of current Komoro castle and this was the origin of Komoro castle. 

In 1540's, Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), the warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture), started invasion to Shinano province. Shingen at first captured Suwa province at the middle part of the province, and next turned his army to Saku region. After the fierce battle with local lords, Shingen seized Saku area by 1550. Next Shingen ruined Murakami clan which was the strongest lord of the province which held current Ueda area and Nagano area, and stabilized his dominance in the east part of  the province.

Shingen Takeda thoroughly reformed Komoro castle as a local military base. It is said that this reform of Komoro castle was planned by Kansuke Yamamoto (?-1561), a legendary military staff of Shingen. Castle area was expanded to the flat area between two creeks, and core area of the castle moved to a flask like terrace formed by deep natural valley. 

Considering its location and size Komoro castle was one of the most important castles of Takeda clan, but commander of the castle is not clear and might be directly managed. At the time of fall of Takeda clan in 1582, Nobutoyo Takeda (1549-1582), a cousin of clan leader Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), escaped to Komoro castle, but being revolted by the commander of this castle then Nobutoyo suicided with his family at secondary area.

Hidehisa Sengoku and Komoro castle

After the fall of Takeda clan, Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) temporally possessed this castle and placed Nobushige Yoda (1548-1583). But after the movement of Ieyasu to Kanto region under Toyotomi government in 1590, Hidehisa Sengoku (1552-1614) was appointed as a lord of Komoro castle. Hidehisa was one of the old retainer of central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), and promoted to governor of Sanuki province (Kagawa prefecture) in 1586.

But at the battle of Hetsugigawa against Shimazu clan in 1587, he forced his subordinate loads into the ambush trap of Shimazu army and was seriously defeated. Masayasu Sogo (1554-1587), leader of Sogo clan and Nobuchika Chosokabe (1565-1587), eldest son of Chosokabe clan were both killed in the battle, but Hidehisa himself ran away from the battlefield. Due to this fatal mistake, Hidehisa was once expelled by Hideyoshi.

Hidehisa seek chance and participated in the Odawara campaign against Hojy clan in 1590 and fought as a unemployed troops. Hidehisa could appeal himself to Hideyoshi by attaching bells to his army and came back to feudal lord in 1591. Under the order of Hideyoshi, Hidehisa significantly improved this castle as a gate against Ieyasu Tokugawa remained as the largest lord under Toyotomi government.

Structure of Komoro castle

Komoro castle is built utilizing river terrace along the Chikumagawa river divided by deep natural valley from both side of the castle. Central area was built at the edge of the terrace, but the height of central area was lower than outer area and was easily looked down. 

Thus secondary area in front of central area and outer area were protected by tall stone wall, to obstruct the view of enemy and guard the attack from outside. A three story main tower with gold roofing block was built by Sengoku clan, but lost by lightning in 1626. 

As current structure of Komoro castle was built in 1590's and not so much reformed later, the style of stone wall is mainly "Nodura-dumi", an old style consists of rough stones. A combination of dynamic terrain and old style but well remained stone walls give a nostalgic feeling to visitors.

Afterward of Komoro castle

At the time of the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Hidehisa accompanied with Hidetada Tokugawa (1579-1632), son of Ieyasu Tokugawa and who lead the reinforcement army of Tokugawa clan. Hidetada attacked Ueda castle which was kept by Masayuki Sanada (1547-1611) from Komoro castle. But being trapped by plots of Masayuki, Hidehisa and Hidetada only spent time and they couldn't reach the battlefield by the opening of the battle. Even though this fault, Hidehisa was trusted by Hidetada.

After the movement of Sengoku clan to Ueda castle in 1622 (later they moved to Izushi castle (Hyogo prefecture) in 1706 again), Komoro castle has been functioned as a guarding point of Nakasendo road throughout Edo era and managed by hereditary retainers of Tokugawa clan. 

Subsequent to the Meiji revolution most buildings were lost, but third gate remains as original. The site of the castle is used as a park named "Kaiko En". Main gate building was temporarily modified and used as a restaurant, but recently restored to the original shape. 

Many traditional style buildings still remain in castle town, and nostalgic atmosphere of the castle and castle town encouraged creativity of literary persons such as Toson Shimazaki (1872-1943) or Kyoshi Takahama (1874-1959). Even though not a large one, the ambience of the castle with flowers of each season is worth seeing.


10 minutes walk from JR East Koumi line /Shinano Tetsudo line Komoro station. 15 minutes drive from Joshinetsu Jidoshado Expressway Komoro interchange to parking.

Related Castles

Ueda Castle -Beat overwhelming enemy twicn with small troops-
Arikoyama Castle and Izushi Castle -Castle looking down small basin from high place-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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