|English Name||Minagawa Castle|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Local Historic Site|
|Historical Period|| Pre Edo Period
|Access||Tochigi Sta. (JR Ryomo Line or Tobu Nikko Line), 5km walk or 1900 yen taxi.|
|Visitor Information||Open anytime.|
|Time Required||90 mins|
|Location||Tochigi, Tochigi Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 23' 49", 139° 41' 0"|
|Visits||April 4, 2015|
If you look around the internet and books and you'll find different dates for the original establishment of this castle dating from the 1200s to the 1400's. Earlier dates seem to be referring to a history written in the latter Edo Period about the Shimotsuke region which is actually referring to a smaller fortified home type castle of the Naganuma (forefathers of the Minagawa) at a nearby location and not actually this Minagawa Castle. The castle we know of today was likely founded by the the Minagawa in 1438-1439 in the Eikyo Rebellion.
In 1523, the Minagawa were attacked by Utsunomiya Tadatsuna. The lord of the castle, Munenari, and his brother Noriaki were mortally injured. The clan was saved by their allies the Oyama and the Yuki. As the Hojo extended their influence into the Kanto plain, the Minagawa fought them off until Munenari's grandson Toshimune acceded to the Hojo. After Munenari's death, his son Hiroteru joined forces with the Satake against the Hojo in 1578. They could not stand up to the Hojo and Hiroteru yielded in 1586. In 1590, while Hiroteru was besieged with the Hojo at Odawara, Minagawa Castle fell to the Hideyoshi forces. Before the Hojo yielded to Hideyoshi, Hiroteru managed to escape the castle and joined up with Tokugawa Ieyasu. Owing to this bit of luck, Hiroteru would become a retainer of Ieyasu's son, Matsudaira Tadateru. In 1591, he built Tochigi Castle and abandoned Minagawa Castle.
Visit NotesBe sure to take the small trail from the honmaru back into the woods, or from the West Gate around into the woods to see the less developed part of the castle. It's not well signposted or labelled but the area occupied by the community center was the former palace grounds. If you look down from the honmaru area you can see that it is a rectangle nicely marked out by a moat.
This is a fascinating and unique design for a castle. It has concentric baileys built up the mountainside and gates offset to force any attackers to zigzag back and forth but there are also large vertical trenches cutting off their ease of movement. It seems like it would be easy to defend and provides limitless good angles to shot down at attackers.