Karasawayama Castle is one of the seven most famous castles of the Kanto area and is considered by many to have been the best mountaintop castle. It earned this recognition from withstanding 10 attacks by the Uesugi during the Sengoku Period. In Hideyoshi's campaign against the Hojo, Sano sided with Hideyoshi. At that time, the Sano were in good relations with the Hojo so he removed all the Hojo from the castle. At the Battle of Sekigahara the Sano sided with Tokugawa. It is said that in 1602 when there was a great fire at Edo Castle, the fire could be seen from the top of Karasawayama Castle. When he saw this, Sano sent his messengers to Edo Castle to relay his condolences. However, from this event it came to the attention of the Tokugawa that Karasawayama Castle looked down upon Edo Castle so the Sano were forced to abandon it and rebuild a new castle (Sano Castle) on a lower elevation. It is also said that the Tokugawa claimed there was a law against mountaintop castles in the vicinity of Edo. Unfortunately, there is no proof that either of these stories is true. Regardless, the Sano moved their castle from Karasawayama to Sano Castle in 1602.
There are few castles in the Kanto region with this much stonework. Karasawayama Castle is an interesting blend of the late Sengoku Period stonework that was more common in Western Japan with the earthworks and trenches more common to Kanto region castles. At a Yamajiro Summit lecture, I heard it said that the Sano were impressed by the stonework they saw at Hizen Nagoya Castle when working on that for Hideyoshi and borrowed the techniques to build the large stone walls of Karasawayama Castle. Even though large stoneworks weren't necessarily needed at most Kanto castles they make for an impressive sight to impress or intimidate visitors.
There are hiking trails approachable from Horigome and Tada Stations too but the route from Tanuma is probably the fastest and easiest. There is also a road to the castle if you want to drive or take a taxi to the top.
|English Name||Karasawayama Castle|
|Alternate Names||Ushiga-jo, Nekoya-jo|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Next 100 Castles, Top 100 Mountaintop Castles, National Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Features||trenches, stone walls|
|Access||Tanuma Sta. (Tobu Sano Line); 45 min. walk|
|Visitor Information||mountain trails, open any time|
|Time Required||120 mins (longer depending if you search for some of the more elusive ruins)|
|Location||Sano, Tochigi Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 21' 14", 139° 36' 3"|
|Year Visited||2007, 2018|
|Visits||June 30, 2007; Feb 25, 2018|
|Added to Jcastle||2007|