Aoyagi Castle




The early history of this castle is unknown. It was held by the Aoyagi clan who were retainers of the Ogasawara. When the Ogasawara fell to Takeda Shingen, the Aoyagi became retainers of Takeda. During the first Battle of Kawanakajima (1553), Shingen used the castle as his base. During the battle Uesugi forces set fire to the castle. After the death of Takeda Katsuyori, Aoyagi Yorinaga switched allegiance to Uesugi Kagekatsu. There were some skirmishes between the Uesugi with Aoyagi on their side, but eventually Uesugi pulled back from Aoyagi Castle and Aoyagi Yorinaga made peace with the Ogasawara. However, Aoyagi was called to Fukashi Castle (Matsumoto Castle) in 1587 and executed. The Ogasawara held the castle briefly but it was abandoned shortly thereafter.

Visit Notes

There are 2 ways up to Aoyagi Castle, follow the road that takes you up the side to the ridge at the reconstructed gate and watchtower, or go to the base of the mountain and follow the switchbacks straight up the face of the mountain.After walking back down, I’m pretty sure it was worth the cost of the cab ride (1700 yen) to take the road to the parking lot by the gate and tower.

From the reconstructed gate and watchtower, it’s a pretty easy trail that crosses several baileys and trenches until you get to the central kuruwa. The central kuruwa has a well defined entrance and a nice section of stone walls. The view from the edge across the valley and on to the snow capped mountains is incredible. The site is well maintained and signposted. If you don’t have to walk up it’s an easy visit. At the base of the castle was also a well developed post town of the Zenkoji Highway. Unfortunately, there are no well maintained buildings left to see.



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  • Gate and yagura tower
  • Gate and watchtower
  • Kabukimon Gate
  • Yaguramon gate
  • Gate and watchtower
  • View from inside the gate
  • Yaguramon Gate
  • Vertical trench, tatebori
  • Horikiri trench
  • Double horikiri trench
  • Horikiri Trench
  • Horikiri trench
  • trail
  • Stonework
  • Vertical trench
  • Horikiri trench
  • Horikiri trench
  • Embankment of the Fifth Bailey
  • Fifth Bailey
  • Main bailey
  • Main bailey stone wall
  • Main bailey stone wall
  • Main bailey stone wall
  • Main bailey and gate
  • View of the Second Bailey from the First Bailey
  • Main Bailey
  • View from the main bailey
  • View from the Main Bailey
  • Main Bailey
  • View from the Main Bailey entrance
  • Stone walls
  • Obikuruwa
  • Aoyagi Castle as seen from below.
  • Old building in the castle town.
  • Pass for the Zenkoji Highway
  • Other old buildings
  • Castle town road
  • Another old building
  • Map of the post town
  • Map

Castle Profile
English Name Aoyagi Castle
Japanese Name 青柳城
Founder Aoyagi clan
Year Founded unknown
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations Prefectural Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features gates, turrets, trenches, stone walls, walls
Visitor Information
Access Sakakita Sta.
Visitor Information Mountain, open any time
Time Required 120 mins
Location Chikuhokumura, Nagano Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 25' 51.20" N, 138° 2' 1.93" E
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Added to Jcastle 2016
Admin Year Visited 2015
Admin Visits November 1, 2015

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59 months ago
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In addition to Aoyagijō, the village beneath the castle, Aoyagi-juku, served as a post town on a subroute coming off the Nakasendō highway (from Seba-juku) heading toward Zenkōji, an important pilgrimage site in modern day Nagano City. This shukuba (post station town) continued into the Edo Period even after the castle was long abandoned. No original structures survive today, but many homes retain traditional architectural features and are rebuilt along the same plots of the former inns and shops of the village, and are marked as such by little tags near their doorways. The large dwelling with the elaborate gate and roof is a home reconstructed on the site of Aoyagi-juku's former Honjin (main inn, reserved for bushi). Furthermore, since the village is located on a slope which inclines up toward the castle, the plots are terraced with ishigaki which have an irrigation ditch which carries water down the slope built into them. In order to facilitate access to Aoyagijō and Aoyagi-juku from the direction of Zenkōji, the lord of Aoyagijō, Aoyagi Yorinaga, in 1573 ordered a cutting made into the ridge between two small mountains.

Aoyagijō (Chikuhoku) 青柳城 [筑北]

Aoyagi Castle is a Sengoku Period mountaintop castle ruin. The layout of the castle is linear, following the mountain ridge, with the final and most well-defended portion being the ichinokuruwa (first enclosure), and subsequent baileys running down the mountain ridge, numbering six in total. There are earthworks such as tatebori (climbing moats), nijūbori (double moats), horikiri (trenches cut into the ridge) and dorui (piled earthen embankments). Some speculative reconstructions have been carried out: at the start of the trail at the castle's main entrance there is a Sengoku Period style yaguramon (gatehouse) and small miyagura (watchtower); at the entrance to the third bailey there is a quaint kabukimon; and here and there are some fences. Around one of the corners of the main bailey some rudimentary stonework remains. The ishigaki is made up of smaller rocks piled together haphazardly. The ishigaki bulges a little and is not easy to walk alongside. The second and first baileys are protected with koguchi gate layouts, their deformed ruins still discernible. Although quite compact, Aoyagijō has a fair bit to see.

We (a fellow jcastle user and I) took a taxi from Sakakita Station to get to the trail head. It starts at the reconstructed gatehouse and watchtower where there is a small parking area. This is the best place to start one's exploration of the castle even though it is the furthest point away from the station. Coming back we came down by a series of switchbacks starting between the first and second bailey, called the "restored old road" on signs, proceeding through an obikuruwa (ring bailey). Descending here on the way back we were able to inspect the former site of the yakata / kyokan / yashiki, a residential compound where the clan leader lived, at the foot of the mount. The actual fortification atop of the mountain was not usually lived in, but used in times of conflict (in a Sengoku Period context the "bukeyashiki" may refer to this kyokan arrangement). It is now the site of a temple, but this in turn has also been abandoned and is now in a state of dilapidation. The temple contains a main hall with a thatched roof, now covered up with sheet metal to forestall its inevitable decay, a shōrōmon (gate with belfry), and some auxillary structures which I took to be the former priest's quarters, a store house and outhouse, all very traditional, but now regrettably falling to pieces. Behind the temple is a graveyard which includes interestingly shaped markers bearing family crests and names, which I assumed to be related to the historical persons of the locale, including the Aoyagi Clan. From this point, which is the end of the castle ruins, it's only a twenty-or-so minute walk back to Sakakita Station. Coming from the station to the yakata ruin and switchback trail first would necessitate retracing every single step to see all of the castle so I don't recommend it. This is pointed out on this page I was sure to pre-arrange a taxi, and it only cost us 750¥ each (1,500¥ in total), so it was totally worth it.

Coming down from the road and passing through the reconstructed gatehouse the path dips rather than rises at first. Here one passes a tatebori before coming to the double trenches which form a deep and impressive "W" shape dicing up the ridge. Passing by another tatebori and through the remnants of several trenches and embankments we came to a sub-bailey, possibly the sixth bailey, and then another double trench arrangement. Surmounting this opens up a view of the fifth and fourth baileys which form an undulating - for they are perforated with earthworks - pine-clad vista. Thereafter the reconstructed kabukimon marks the entrance to the small third and second baileys arranged close to each other with a koguchi (tiger's maw) choke-point between them. Finally the largest bailey, and most important, the ichinokuruwa, is at the furthest point of the castle, surmounting the peak of the ridge which looks across the valleys and mountains below.