|English Name||Matsuo Castle|
|Alternate Names||Matsuokojo, Kakumanoshiro|
|Founder||Sanada Yukitaka (?)|
|Year Founded||early 1500's|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Local Historic Site|
|Historical Period|| Pre Edo Period
|Features||trenches, stone walls|
|Access||Ueda Sta. (Shinano Railway, Nagano Bullet train), 30 minute bus to Sanada bus stop (Sugadaira bus from #3 bus stop at Ueda Sta), 20 min walk from bus stop|
|Visitor Information||Mountain castle, open any time|
|Time Required||140 mins|
|Location||Ueda, Nagano Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 27' 30", 138° 20' 32"|
|Visits||December 14, 2015|
HistoryIt is very unclear when Matsuo Castle was founded or by whom. At the base of the mountain were the remains of a temple believed to be the funerary temple of the early Sanada Clan. Nearby was also an early Sanada residence so it was most likely a Sanada Castle. The mountain itself is quite steep and the baileys are very small. There are also no indications of a longtime residence so it was likely a well fortified lookout to watch over the highways that stretch through here and/or it could also have been a mountaintop fortification for times of unrest. This is also plausible because we often see a lord's lowland home combined with a nearby well fortified mountain castle for retreat during times of unrest.
Regardless of the original background, it is thought that it was further fortified by the Sanada after the death of Takeda Katsuyori (1582) as an important point of defense to help keep them independent as they were a fairly small domain surrounded by the very strong powers of the Hojo, Tokugawa and Uesugi. The well developed stone wall remains we see today are only a fraction of the fortifications that would have stood there over 400 years ago. This well fortified castle at the entrance to Ueda would have served to overwhelm visitors and offered commanding views of the valley all the way to Ueda.
Visit NotesThis was an amazing site. Despite visiting over 30 castles in 2015, I think this was my highlight. It vastly exceeded my expectations. Coincidentally, it was also my 200th lifetime unique castle visit, a memorable milestone. While there are not many baileys or trenches/moats, the extent of stone ruins high atop this mountain is really remarkable.
The climb up to the castle is not terribly difficult but the path is poorly marked and is covered in leaves and pine needles making it very slippery in parts. Once each way going up and down I mistook the path and went straight up the ridge making things more difficult than they should have been.
This castle is also called Matsukojo Castle to differentiate it amor Sanadahonjo Castle which is also called Matsuo Castle. The "ko" in Matsuokojo Castle mean "old" but that is incorrect since it is probably newer than Sandahonjo Castle.
There is another fortified lookout called Tohmi Bansho about another 300 meters higher in elevation amor here, but it is a very difficult, somewhat treacherous path and not recommended for anyone to tempt alone. According to one account I've read the effort required to get to the Tohmi Bansho from Matsu Castle is more than double what it took to get to Matsuo Castle in the first place. Someday I'll make it there when I find someone to tempt it with me.If you don't have a car the best way to get around the Sanada historic sites in the Sanada Township area is by electric bicycle. Electric bicycles can be borrowed for free at the <a href="http://www.city.ueda.nagano.jp/ssangyo/tanoshimu/kanko/shisetsu/yumekobo/index.html">Yukimura Yume Kobo</a>. This tourist information center also has all the maps and other information you'll need. I highly recommend stopping here before exploring the area. During the peak tourism season there is also a <a href="https://www.city.ueda.nagano.jp/ssangyo/kankojoho/bus/index.html">local tourist bus</a> that circles through all the major historic sites you're likely to see. If there is something not on this route, then try a bicycle too.
登山道はちょっと険しいけれどそれほど難しい道ではありません。但し、もちろんトレッキングにあったそ装備は必要です。落ち葉も多くて滑りやすいところがあるし、道がよく分からない所もあるけれど気をつけて登れば大丈夫です。松尾城より約３００メートル高い位置に遠見番所という砦もあります。その道は結構大変らしいので今回は一人で登るのが心細くて諦めました。またいつか一緒に登る人がいれば是非行きたいと思います。真田町は車がない観光客には優しい町です。<a href="http://www.city.ueda.nagano.jp/ssangyo/tanoshimu/kanko/shisetsu/yumekobo/index.html">ゆきむら夢工房</a>という観光案内所で電動アシスト自転車を借りることができます。地図や周辺の資料も充実ししているので、真田町の観光の際はまずここに立ち寄ってください。私はここから自転車を借りて松尾城、真田本城、天白城、真田氏館を一日で回ってきました。観光シーズンは<a href="https://www.city.ueda.nagano.jp/ssangyo/kankojoho/bus/index.html">観光バス</a>も走っています。