The castle ruins we see today date to the Sengoku period, and this castle was built by Nishina Morinobu on the orders of Takeda Shingen as a defensive position against any possible incursions by Uesugi Kenshin from the north. Nishina Morinobu was Takeda Shingen’s fifth son who became the heir to the leadership of the Nishina Clan following the fall of Nishina Morimasa at the hands of Takeda Shingen in 1561. The medieval castle utilised the waters of the lake for its defence, and at that time it was a peninsula of land. Moats were dug across the peninsula to create baileys for the castle.
Nishinahonjō is believed to have been the original home castle of the Nishina Clan from the late Heian period, during which time the Nishina received land in the area, a territory known as the Nishina Manor. However, in the Kamakura period the Nishina relocated to the Tenshōji-yakata, a manor hall also called Nishinajō (‘Nishina Castle’). Nishinahonjō is also called ‘Morijō’ to distinguish it from Tenshōji-yakata.
Nishina Moritô was deposed following by the Kamakura Shogunate for joining the court of Emperor Go-Toba, sparking the Jōkyū War of 1221, and the Abe Clan took over (the Nishina Clan is believed to have descended from the Abe Clan). In 1233, however, under orders from the Kamakura Shoguante, Kiso Yoshishige, the second son of Kiso Yoshinaka, attacked Nishinahonjō, expelling its castellan, Abe Sadataka.
The Kamakura Shogunate was, of course, overthrown in the Kenmu Restoration of 1333, and, with the establishment of the Ashikaga Shogunate, there followed a period of intermittent civil war known as the Nanbokuchō period. The Nishina fought for the Southern Court, and, with its defeat, they were marginalised in Shinano when the Ogasawara Clan took over as governors. The Nishina Clan never seemed to truly accept their new overlords, and they fought against and defeated the Ogasawara in the battle of Ôto in 1400.
When the Ogasawara regained control of Shinano the Nishina Clan were incorporated into their vassalage network. In 1550, during the battle of the Shiojiri Pass, Nishina Michisoto betrayed the Ogasawara by retreating, leading to victory for Takeda forces. The Nishina Clan were incorporated into the Takeda’s vassalage system with that clan’s conquest of Shinano, but in 1561 Takeda Shingen had Nishina Morimasa killed after he suspected him of plotting with Uesugi Kenshin. The Nishina Clan was not abolished but taken over by Takeda Shingen’s fifth son who became Nishina Morinobu.
Nishinahonjō, ‘the main castle of the Nishina (clan)’, also commonly called Morijō (‘Forest Castle’), is a flatland castle ruin on the shores of Lake Kizaki. It is now the site of a shrine, Nishina-jinja. Ruins of the castle include dorui (earthen ramparts), mizubori (water moats) and kuruwa (baileys). The main bailey, the site of the shrine hall, sits on elevated land. Beneath to the north is the second bailey, and there is a mizubori between the first and second bailey. To the south there is the third bailey, also on elevation, and between the third and first bailey is a road, but another moat used to run here. There used to be at least one further bailey to the south but this area is now housing and inns, and any moats have been filled in, probably for use as roads. There is a lot of information about the site’s history on-site, and when I went there were streamers showing the crest of the Nishina Clan with its famous swallowtail butterfly motif.
|English Name||Nishinahon Castle|
|Alternate Names||Morijō / Nishina-Morijō|
|Founder||Nishina Clan; Nishina Morinobu|
|Year Founded||16th Century|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Artifacts||Mizubori, Dorui, Kuruwa|
|Access||Shinano-Kizaki Station on the Ôito Line; 20 minute walk; or rent a bicycle from Shinano-Ômachi Station; 20 minute cycle|
|Visitor Information||24/7; free; shrine|
|Time Required||40 minutes|
|Location||Ômachi, Nagano Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 32' 49.70" N, 137° 50' 18.42" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2022|
|Admin Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|
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