Gifu Castle

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Gifu20.jpg

History

Gifu-jo, originally called Inabayama-jo, is built atop the 338m Mt. Kinka in Gifu prefecture. A castle was first established here by Nikaido Yukimasa in around 1201, but the Saito clan built the first proper castle here in the 15th C. Saito Dosan became the master of Inabayama-jo In 1539 and renovated it into mostly into what you see today. In 1567 Oda Nobunaga invaded Mino and took Inabayama-jo from Saito Yoshitatsu, the grandson of Saito Dosan. Nobunaga moved his headquarters here from Komaki Castle and renamed it Gifu Castle. Nobunaga built the tower atop the mountain and his great palace at the base. Nobunaga stayed here until he built Azuchi Castle in 1579. Nobunaga's descendents continued to rule Gifu Castle until the Battle of Sekigahara. During the Battle of Sekigahara (1600) Tokugawa's forces captured Gifu Castle which was then controlled by Nobunaga's grandson Hidenobu. Tokugawa had no need for a small mountaintop castle so it was abandoned and replaced by a new flatland castle, Kano Castle nearby. It is said that Kano Castle was built using some materials including the main keep from Gifu Castle.


Visit Notes

Trees and brush around the stone walls of the top have been cleared to make much better views of the stonework and the main keep together. Other than the foundation and some walls around it, there is not much remaining stonework around the top of the mountain, but every now and then new discoveries are being made. On a good day, the views from the top are stunning and simply worth the trip to the top just for the views. You can easily understand why a castle was built here. With such a commanding view you could feel on top of the world.

The most exciting parts of Gifu Castle however are actually at the base of the mountain. The past several years has seen several excavations, discoveries and restorations in the area where Nobunaga built a lavish palace. Work continues today so look forward to more developments in the future.

The mountain is a bit steep but there are also hiking trails you can use to climb rather than the cable car.

My GPS device was not working well at Gifu Castle so some of the photo locations may be off.


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Gallery


Castle Profile
English Name Gifu Castle
Japanese Name 岐阜城
Alternate Names Inabayama-jo
Founder Saito Dosan
Year Founded 1509
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Reconstructed main keep
Designations Top 100 Castles, Top 100 Mountaintop Castles, Local Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Main Keep Structure 3 levels, 4 floors
Year Reconstructed 1956 (concrete)
Features main keep, trenches, stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Gifu Sta. (Tokaida main line), 15 min bus to Gifu Park
Visitor Information Open 830am-530pm (930-430 during some seasons); 200 yen for the castle museum; 1100 yen for the ropeway
Time Required 120 mins
Website http://lifelong.lifelong.city.gifu.gifu.jp/gy71user/2018.htm
Location Gifu, Gifu Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 26' 2.08" N, 136° 46' 54.84" E
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Admin
Added to Jcastle 1999
Contributor Eric
Admin Year Visited 1992, 1996, 2019
Admin Visits July 1992; May 1996; Aug 2, 2019
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3.32
(25 votes)
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avatar

ARTShogun

44 months ago
Score 1++

I arrived at the base of Kinkazan too early to use the ropeway up to the top of the mountain, so I hiked up. Much of the trail is steep rocks and boulders, but the scenery is beautiful and worth the tough climb (and it felt like a climb more than a hike). It took me 45 minutes at a gambol and when I reached the summit the castle still had not opened, but this gave me time to catch my breath and look up at the castle admiringly. The exhibitions inside the modern castle, reconstructed from concrete in 1956, were intriguing to say the least, and included a section on ninja tools (what I call “ninjer p0rnz”: shuriken, grenades, caltrops and all the rest of it (all replicas, needless to say)). The architecture of Gifujō is representative of earlier castles of the Sengoku-jidai.

The view from the top of the castle (329m above sea level, the tenshu itself being 18m), is utterly magnificent. One does get a sense of how it may have fuelled old Oda Nobunaga’s famous ambition. Gifujō fancies itself something of the cradle of unification.

History:

A fort was first built on Kinkazan by the Nikaidō clan in 1204. Gifujō as it is seen today is a reconstruction of the original castle built by Saitō Dōsan, the son of an oil peddlar, around 1544. A self-made man, Saitō was known as “the Viper of Mino (Mino no Mamushi)” due to his ruthless tactics (the humbly born must be ruthless to ascend the ranks it seems). After a dispute over inheritance Saitō was usurped and killed by his son, Saitō Yoshiatsu, in battle in 1556. Saitō Yoshiatsu was succeeded by his son, Saitō Tatsuoki, aged 18. Saitō Tatsuoki was not the capable ruler that his father and grandfather had been, and he is remembered mostly for his repeated failures. One such embarrassing incident occurred at Gifujō. A Saitō retainer called Takenaka Hanbei entered Gifujō under the pretext of visiting his sick brother. Once inside, however, Takenaka attempted to assassinate Lord Saitō. When he struck at Saitō, Saitō ran away, thinking there must be some sort of take-over of the castle afoot. Takenaka took over command of the castle for a short while but eventually gave it back to Saitō. Saitō would not regain his reputation as easy as he did his castle. It seems Takenaka was forgiven by his lord because he was still around at the battle to defend the castle from Oda Nobunaga in 1567. In fact he led the defence. However, owing to Saitō’s weak leadership, many Saitō retainers had already defected to Oda or surrendered. Despite this Gifujō remained a seemingly impossible castle to take, almost impregnable atop of Kinkazan. Toyotomi Hideyoshi fought for Oda at this time. He had already built a forward base in enemy territory and came up with a bold plan to take Gifujō. He took 15 warriors and stole into the castle, opening the gates and allowing Oda’s forces to enter. And so, Gifujō, seemingly unbreakable, fell to just 15 men. Toyotomi had been impressed with Takenaka’s strategies during the war and subsequently took him on as a strategist. Many former Saitō retainers joined Oda’s forces. Saitō himself fled again and continued fighting against the unifiers until his death in battle in 1573. Saitō was pig-headed, but at least he never gave up.

In 1600 after Sekigahara, Tokugawa had Gifujō demolished and the materials were re-used in the creation of Kanōjō on nearby flatland. Gifujō was known as Inabayamjō under the Saitō lords. Oda Nobunaga renamed the area of Inoguchi as Gifu after his conquest of Mino-han.
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SuupaahiirooAshigaru

59 months ago
Score 0++
As others have mentioned, the reconstructed castle keep is nothing spectacular, but the views from it are. The little shiryōkan near the main keep is hardly worth being called shiryōkan: they only had a simple (but nice) poster collection of castles throughout Japan. The perk: they had free brochures of some twenty-odd castles, so I took some of a few castles I have yet to visit. I recommend hiking up the mountain, it makes you appreciate the location of the castle better. It's a steep and rocky climb but it shouldn't be a problem for anyone of average health. Near the ropeway station and the three-storied pagoda at the foot of the mountain, they are currently doing excavations at the site where Nobunaga's palace once stood. Be sure to visit the daibutsu while you're in Gifu.
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FindlayjamiePeasant

59 months ago
Score 0++
I agree that the location is amazing (for the view) and the castle rather dull. One thing that surprised me was that the keep is completely different from the one that was destroyed in the war, of which photos can be seen inside. Why not reconstruct something that looks like the original, if you know what it looked like? So far as I know the other castles of which photos survive were reconstructed more like the originals.
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ARTShogun

71 months ago
Score 0++
I arrived before the ropeway was open so I climbed Kinkazan. It might've killed me but visions of Gifu Castle kept me climbing. A lot of the route is rocky and steep but I enjoyed the climb and it took me about 45 minutes at a gambol.
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Kiddus i2003Gunshi

79 months ago
Score 0++
Quite a hike if you walk up to it, taking the gondola up is sensible, the walk down is tough, fantastic views.
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RaymondWHatamoto

125 months ago
Score 0++
Some ishigaki have recently been found in the area where they think the palace once stood. The excavations are still ongoing.
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Alamo6400Peasant

132 months ago
Score 0++
gifu castle or before when the saito ruled the province of mino inabayama castle did you know saito retainer hanbei takenaka betrayed the saito clan and joined the oda clan and killed saito or mino daimyo tatsuoki saito and owari's daimyo oda nobunaga conquered mino province and the saito clan
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Alamo6400Peasant

132 months ago
Score 0++
oda nobunaga was one of the first ruthless miltary daimyo to control all japan
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RaymondWHatamoto

134 months ago
Score 0++
Not a lot going for this reconstructed concrete castle except for its spectacular views and a decent museum. If you are in Gifu, it is worth going to this castle for its view, but if you are strapped for time, you are better off visiting Inuyama Castle, Nagoya Castle, and Kiyosu Castle before making a bee-line for this castle. In a way, it is like Hamamatsu Castle but one with a view. I came here again because a friend visiting from overseas wanted to see it. To get to this castle, take the bus from Bus Stop No.11 just outside JR Gifu Station. The bus trip cost 200yen. I went to this place on Culture Day, and it was overrun with tourists. Note to self: give the popular Japanese castles a miss on public holidays.
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KrisGunshi

135 months ago
Score 0++
Gifu castle has some amazing views. I really wanted to do the hike but didn't have the time. The mascot, Nobusama, is dignified and yet kawaii; he is also hekigan for some reason. You can also buy Gifu castle Nobunaga playing cards - Nobunaga is the King of Diamonds, I think. (Oichi should be the Queen of Hearts). The 100meijo stamp is on request in the castle museum.
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FurinkazanHatamoto

135 months ago
Score 0++
I hiked up to this castle today.(@Webmater: little hike lol)It's a pitty that the montain is covered with trees, it's impossible to make a lot of nice photos of the castle. The castle itself isn't that fine(concrete), but the artifacts are interesting. Don't miss the little museum, which is in the price of the castle(=200yen).