Tateyama Castle (Yamagata)
|English Name||Tateyama Castle|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||National Historic Site|
|Historical Period|| Pre Edo Period
|Features||trenches, stone walls|
|Access||Yonezawa Sta., Yamako bus for Onogawa Onsen, 20 mins, 10 min walk.|
|Visitor Information||Park, open 24 hrs.|
|Time Required||120 mins|
|Location||Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture|
|Coordinates||37° 54' 43", 140° 3' 48"|
|Visits||November 3, 2017|
Date Harumune moved his main castle from Koorinishiyama Castle (Fukushima Pref.) to Yonezawa Castle in 1548. During this time his retainer Nitta Yoshinao was in charge of the lands west of Yonezawa Castle and was likely living in Tateyama Castle. When Terumune retired in 1584 he took over the castle and renovated it for his own castle. This was completed in 1585 but Terumune died soon after. Historical records indicate that in 1587 Date Masamune also renovated the castle and reorganized nearby lands, but was ordered by Hideyoshi to Iwadeyama in 1591. It is not known if those plans were ever completed, but this is the last time Tateyama Castle appears in historical records. When Masamune was re-assigned to Iwadeyama (Miyagi Pref.) in 1591, the castle came under the control of Gamo Ujisato. Game ruled for 8 years until Uesugi Kagekatsu took control of the castle. Uesugi made Naoe Kanetsugu the lord of Yonezawa Castle.
The stone wall remains that were recently discovered are of a much more advanced technique than was likely used when the Date controlled the castle. Even though there are no records of Uesugi utilizing this castle, it is likely that they were renovating and fortifying it as a branch castle of Yonezawa Castle. However, the work was never completed. We know this because there are piles of backfill stones around the gate that were never used for the stone walls. Also, it seems that the stone walls were intentionally destroyed and much of the finished stone was carried off. That's why you only see the lowest layer of big stones and piles of the backfill stones and earth behind them.
The structure of the castle is like many Sengoku Period castles. The mountain in the background provides the defense during attack. The lord's home was at the base and a part of the local community or castle town. In this case there is large enclosure between the base of the mountain and a nearby river. Recent excavations have found the ruins of a bridge that crossed the river and wells and other structures in the fields across the river indicating that it was all part of the castle town at one time and that the castle was much bigger than expected. Based on the estimated size of this castle, some theories also claim that this was actually the home of the Date and that Masamune was born here too, not at Yonezawa Castle.
There are only a few busses per day here so plan carefully. There is also a local train that goes to the nearby Nishi Yonezawa Station from which you could walk, but again, there are not many trains per day. A combination of the bus and train will likely serve you well to get there and bike. I biked from Yonezawa Station, stopping by Yonezawa Castle on the way back.
This is a fascinating castle to visit and it exemplifies some of the best in recent castle research. First, the trails are well maintained with signposts pointing out the different features of the castle. it is actually on private property, but the owner (whom I met) is very open to visitors and does a lot of work to keep up the site. The stonework around the masugata entrance was only discovered a few years ago and theories about the size and history of the castle are changing as people study the area more. As a result of these efforts and new discoveries, Tateyama Castle was named a National Historical Site in 2016.