Friday, August 8, 2014

Castles of Ogasawara clan -Castles at 1000 meter above sea level-

Castles of Ogasawara clan

-Castles at 1000 meter above sea level-

Brief History

Ogasawara clan, a house of the governor of Shinano country (Nagano prefecture), had their teritory at east half of current Matsumoto city.

Matsumoto area is a highland above 500 meter, and the highest place with large population in Japan. Further, Matsumoto basin is surrounded by Chikuma mountains for its east edge, and mountains directly connected to flat land without low hills.

Ogasawara clan built castles such as Kirihara castle, Yamabe castle and Haibara castle at mountains surround their territory and main base Hayashi castle, and due to its geographical conditions, these castle existed about 400 meter from hillside, and 1,000 meter above sea level.

There are three famous mountain castles (Takatori castle, Iwamura castle and Bicchu Matsuyama castle) in Japan, but they all are about 400 meter high from hillside and 500 meter above sea level. Of course some castles such as Misaka castle (Yamanashi prefecture) is located at higher place than above Ogasawara castles, but they are border fortress used temporary for military purpose. Probably above Ogasawara castles are castles located at the highest place ordinally operatated. 

As they are located at steep mountain it is recommended for visitor to equip trekking gears. Being located at high mountains, the huge structure of castles clearly remain and it is valuable for medieval castle lovers to visit these castles in spite of long walk.

Kirihara Castle -Layer of stone walls surround hilltop area-


Kirihara castle is located on a mountain at the northeast of Hayashi castle, 2 kilometer apart and placed at the opposite of valley. Kirihara castle is said as originally built by Kirihara clan, a local clan in 1460, but also worked as branch castle of Hayashi castle.

The mountain on which Kirihara castle locates is small but steep one. Main areas of the castle spread from halfway to the top of the mountain, and the castle area is separated by two layer dry moat at the ridge from outside area. Inside the castle there are several layer of terraces covered by low stone walls of about one meter tall. Along the path into central area, there are several Masugata gate (combined gate), even though small but guarded by stone walls.

At the top of the mountain there is a central area, a round shepe one of 20 meter diameter. Inside of central area there is a turret basement to attack enemies came from backward of the castle, same as other Ogasawara castles. As the backside connecting to behind mountain is a weak point of the castle, thus this point is securely guarded by combination of above turret basement, stone walls and multi layered deep dry moats. Even though a small castle, stone walls is best remained among these three castles.

Pictures (Click to enlarge)

Yamabe Castle -Multiple deep dry moats guard the backward-


Yamabe castle is located at the 5 km east of Haibara castle, the most inner area of the valley. Yamabe castle is also built at the mountain of 200 meter height from hillside, and castle area widely spread over the ridge of the mountain.

Roughly Yamabe castle is divided into two part by continuous deep moat at the saddle of the mountain. The front part of the castle is later expanded area, equipped large dry moat. At the inside of front part there is a central area of the castle, and at the side wall of central area there remains a large stone wall of three meter height remain.

The most distinctive feature of Yamabe castle is a continuous deep moat seperate inner and outer area. Five continuous dry moat are dug at the ridge, and each of the moat have about five meter width and depth. Inside this continuous moats there are inner castle, consist of large but not so secure flat spaces.

Pictures (click to enlarge)

Haibara Castle -Huge forefront castle toward southward-


Haibara castle is located at a ridge connecting to Hachibuse mountains, about five kilometer southward from Hayashi castle. Originally built by Murai clan, a retainer of Ogasawara clan, but later directly used by Ogasawara clan as a forefront against southward. Haibara castle is a huge castle of about 1 kilometer length, and about 1 hour walk is necessary to reach to the center of the castle from hillside.

Central area of Haibara castle is located at the top of mountain, at the point of just 1,000 meter above sea. The central area is almost mere flat place of 50 meter square, and covered with broken stone walls. Below the central area many terraces spread to the halfway of the mountain, and outer areas are separated by large and deep dry moat from outside area.

Behind the central area there is a saddle continue to backside mountain, and this point is the most important weak point of the castle. To protect attack from this side, the way from backside mountain is built as a narrow way sandwitched by side walls, and this area is covered by continuous vertical dry moats to obstruct the movement of enemies.

In 1550, Takeda army intruded Matsumoto area attacked Haibara castle. It is likely that such kind of huge and secure castle is not easily captured, but Haibara castle fell almost without resistance. There might be a plot of Takeda clan in advance, or Ogasawara clan already lost their confidence. Anyway even though having large and secure castle, it was not possible to survive without support of soldiers and people. Ogasawara clan who head the news of fall of Haibara castle gave up resistance and left their land.

Above three castles had been used under Takeda clan, and subsequent to the extinction of Takeda clan in 1582, Ogasawara clan came back to this area also utilized them. Finally along with the transfer of Ogasawara clan to Kanto region in 1590 these castles ceased operation. 

Related Castles

Hayashi Castle -Two castles used for residence and fortress-

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