Tateyama Castle (Yamagata)
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 castellan at Tateyama Castle. When Terumune retired in 1584 he took over the castle and renovated it for his own. This was completed in 1585 but Terumune died soon after. Historical records indicate that in 1587 Date Masamune also renovated the castle and reorganized the nearby lands, but was ordered by Hideyoshi to Iwadeyama (Miyagi Pref.) 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 reassigned to Iwadeyama in 1591, the Yonezawa Castle, and by extension Tateyama Castle, came under the control of Gamo Ujisato. Game ruled for 8 years until Uesugi Kagekatsu moved into Yonezawa. Uesugi made Naoe Kanetsugu castellan of Yonezawa Castle. The Uesugi continued to rule over the lands around Yonezawa until the Meiji Restoration. It's not know what happened to the castle during this time, but due to the one castle per province law of the Tokugawa it was likely abandoned.
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, possibly due to the one castle per province edict or it may have been abandoned even earlier. We know it was never completed 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 and other forts in mountains across the valley too, 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 size, location and importance 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. You can also rent a bicycle for the day at Yonezawa Station and explore all the historical sites around Yonezawa too. I used the cycling option but took my own bicycle.
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.
|English Name||Tateyama Castle|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Top 100 Mountaintop Castles, 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' 43.42" N, 140° 3' 47.74" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2017|
|Admin Year Visited||2017|
|Admin Visits||November 3, 2017|