Saturday, November 19, 2022

Shinowaki Castle

–Castle of culture and combat-


Name: Shinowaki castle (Shinowaki-jo)
Place: Yamato-cho Gujo city, Gifu
Location: 35.807833549142046, 136.92553423876194
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 14th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Shinowaki castle (篠脇城) is placed over Shinowaki mountain, that is about 200 meter height from hillside at middle of the valley of Kurusu-gawa river which is a tributary of Nagara-gawa river. The valley itself is not so large but at middle of Gujo area and Shirotori area, those have large flat area and important road to outer areas, then it might be good point to manage whole part of Gujo area.

Precise year is unknown but the castle might be built in former half of 14th century by local lord To clan. To clan was a tributary of Chiba clan that was a large samurai group spread Shimousa province (north half of Chiba prefecture) and contributed to establishment of Kamakura Shogunate. To clan was originally a holder of To-sho manor near current Choshi city but later achieved another territory at Gujo area.

History of To clan

Taneyori To (1155-1228), the origin of To clan, was not only a brave leader of army but also sufficient knowledge on culture such as Japanese poem or calligraphy then participated in negotiation between Shogunate and nobles at Kyoto city. Later To clan have relationship with Japanese poets and learned interpretation of old Japanese poems. 

Later To clan was separated in the family at original territory of Shimoura province and the one at Gujo area, then due to closeness to Kyoto city the cultural history of To clan was inherited to Gujo area. To clan at Gujo area originally resided at Achiba castle (Gifu prefecture) at 5 kilometer north from Shinowaki castle but later moved to Shinowaki castle 

Structure of castle

Shinowaki castle is located over mountain between two valleys. As the size of mountain is not so large, the size of the castle is only about 80 meter long and 50 meter wide. Shape of core area is an oblong one, and divided into three layers. The highest one is 20 meter long square and main hall might be built at this castle. Southward of castle faces backward mountain is securely protected by thick dry moat that might used as watchtower basement and huge dry moat.

In addition to this, other directions of the castle is protected by vertical dry moats. Especially east and west line is wholly covered by combination of dry moats without gap, to prevent side attack and limit the enemy to front ward. This facility was frequently used by warlords of Hokuriku region such as Uesugi clan or Asakura clan then brought to north part of Mino province (Gifu prefecture) such as Takayama area or Gujo area.

This castle was an evacuation place of emergency then To clan normally resided at their hillside residence. At the flat area between the river and Shinowaki mountain there was a square shaped on of 60 meter long, which might have Japanese garden at backward of main hall. Retainer of To clan also might lived at southward of river.

Castle of culture and combat

In 15th century, Tsuneyori To (1401?-1484?) who was the leader of To clan fully learned the interpretation of Kokin Wakashu that was edited in 10th century then lectured it to Shogun or high class nobles. Especially lecture to professional poets Sogi (1421-1502) was regarded as legitimate lecture called as “Kokin Denju” continued to later generation.

But also at the same time, fall of authority of Muromachi Shogunate bring warfare to whole part of nation. Among the absence of Tsuneyori To due to the military operation in Kanto region, Myochin Saito (1411-1480), the deputy governor of Mino province, attacked Shinowaki castle and captured it. Tsuneyori wrote his sadness to the poem, then Myochn also familiar with culture heard it then request to exchange the poets between Tsuneyori. After exchange of poets Myochin returned Shinowaki castle to Tsuneyori.

Next in 1540, Asakura clan that was warlord of Echizen province (Fukui prefecture) became hostile to Saito clan of Mino province then intruded into Gujo area. To clan intercepted Asakura army at Shinowaki castle and rejected it, but this time the castle was significantly impaired. Facing this situation To clan moved their main base to Todonoyama castle (Gifu prefecture) at south of Gujo city central, that is securer castle at higher mountain. But Shinowaki castle might be used as front fort of To clan continuously by middle of 16th century.

Now no building remains but terraces and surrounding dry moats well remain at the peak of mountain. Vertical dry moats fully covers slope of castle well shows strong military pressure To clan faced, but remnant of pond of Japanese garden built at hillside residence also shows cultural background of the clan. Finally To clan disappeared taken over by their retainer Endo clan that became the lord of Gujo area, but remnant of Shinowaki castle well introduced the history of this lost clan.


20 minutes drive from Tokai-Hokuriku Jidoshado Expressway Gifu-Yamato interchange.

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Pictures (click to enlarge)

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