Kurobanejō was established in 1576 when Ōzeki Takamasu relocated the clan stronghold from Shirahatajō. During the 1590 Siege of Odawara, whilst the powerful Nasu Clan failed to send troops for the war effort and were subsequently demoted in the new order that followed Toyotomi Hideyoshi's victory, Ōzeki Takamasu was prompt in sending troops and when Tokugawa Ieyasu took over former Hōjō territory in Kantō he expanded Ōzeki Clan lands to 13,000 koku at the expense of the Nasu. At the Battle of Sekigahara, Takamasu's son, Ōzeki Sukemasu, fought for the Eastern Army, fighting with the Uesugi Clan in Aizu, and upon the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Ōzeki were therefore enfranchised with a territory increase to a value of 19,200 koku. In the Edo Period the number of castles decreased as the Shogunate tried to limit the power of local lords, and this led to Kurobanejō being reconstituted as a Jin'ya, a fortified administrative center typically smaller than a castle. Nevertheless, the extensive earthworks and defences at Kurobanejō were retained and it must have been one of the strongest Jin'ya in the land. Despite not having the prestige of other Daimyō, the Ōzeki were trusted servants of the Shogunate and Ōzeki Masuhiro, the penultimate lord of the Kurobane Castle, served in several important government posts, such as Naval Commissioner and Junior Elder. Masuhiro also imported Spencer repeating rifles to defend the castle and his territory. During the Boshin War, the last lord, Ōzeki Masutoshi, fought for the Tokugawa and was defeated. Shortly after the Domain System was abolished by the new Meiji Government, and Kurobanejō was abandoned.
Kurobanejō is a Sengoku Period Mountain Castle and Edo Period Jin'ya ruin. It has sweeping earthworks, moats, trenches, gate complex ruins, and a reconstructed miyagura (watchtower). There are many impressive dorui (earth-piled ramparts) at Kurobanejō. Between the Honmaru (main bailey) and Umadashi sub-bailey is a deep trench, and the earthwork ramparts around the Honmaru are up to 50m high. Following the Ōtedō (castle's main road) and entering through the main gate ruin one passes a deep trench whilst ascending to the Honmaru flanked on both sides by tall dorui, a double-rampart configuration. The Honmaru is accessed by another gate complex after the trench, and here one finds a wide open space where the lord's palace used to be surrounded by high earthen ramparts. Along with the reconstructed watchtower, there is a Noh Stage here now. A museum to the poet Matsuo Banshō now stands in the castle's sannomaru (third bailey), and it is built with ishigaki (stone walls) beneath an elevated walkway to simulate a castle gate, but this, whilst nice, is not a historical structure. It is immediately adjacent to the Koguchi (Tiger's Maw) of the Umadashi (Horse's Flight) next to the Honmaru. The ninomaru (second bailey) is now the site of large modern structures with traditional flare. They're sort of like traditional architecture fused with brutalism. Objectively they are ugly, but one of them is clearly "castle-esque" in its design, although now it is abandoned. Mizubori (water moats) and tall dorui enclose an area where the Jin'ya building was subsequently erected, now covered in bamboo. In the area beneath the sannomaru bukeyashiki (samurai homes) existed, and this area is now a garden, but a gate there is a nod to the bushi residences that used to be. Sharing the castle mount is Daioji, a temple with thatched roof structures designated important cultural properties, which I recommend you don't overlook.
|English Name||Kurobane Castle|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Local Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Artifacts||Dorui, baileys, horikiri, hori|
|Features||water moats, trenches|
|Access||Bus from Nishi-Nasuno Station|
|Visitor Information||Free 24/7|
|Time Required||1+ hours|
|Location||Ōtawara, Tochigi Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 52' 11.03" N, 140° 7' 19.70" E|
|Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|
|Added to Jcastle||2018|