Shinagurajō is said to have been constructed as early as 1335 by the Akazawa Clan. The Akazawa Clan was originally an off-shoot of the Ogasawara Clan, the hegemonic rulers of Shinano Province, founded by Ogasawara Kiyotsune, second son of Ogasawara Nagatsune in the Sengoku Period. In 1550 Takeda Shingen invaded the area, and Lord Akazawa Saemon of Shinagurajō, siding with the Takeda, took the opportunity to attack the neighbouring Ibukajō where Ogasawara forces were encamped, seizing it. It seems that the Akazawa were never to be trusted – but then, what samurai were? When the Ogasawara returned to Shinano with the aid of the Tokugawa following the fall of the House of Takeda, the Akazawa initially re-swore fealty to them, but soon they were plotting alongside the Unno, based at Tōnoharajō, and the Furumaya, based at Koiwatakejō, to overthrow the Ogasawara yet again in 1583. This plot was discovered, however, and Akazawa Kiyotsune fell on his sword, ending the clan. Shinagurajō was abandoned at this time.
I initially attempted to reach Shinagurajō last year alongside Ibukajō, but ran out of time. This is a local site for me so I set off from my apartment in the late morning and simply cycled up the long slope to the village of Shinagura were the castle is located. The agrarian valley where the village is situated curves around as it narrows towards the deep mountains, and Shinagura is at the zenith of this curve, just as one comes out of sight of Matsumoto below. The castle ruins sit atop of the mountain ridge, and there are impressive karabori (dry moats), hori (trenches) and dorui (earthen ramparts) to be found, as well as other features such as baileys and terracing. Beneath the castle site are extensive remains of stone-clad terracing on the mountain slope. This stonework, I conjecture, ranges in age from the Edo through to early Shōwa periods. It is likely that the mountainside was cultivated with mulberry trees throughout this time for the production of raw silk. There were silk weaving factories located in Matsumoto below. This extensive ishigaki (piled stone walls) is fascinating but it likely isn’t part of the protected historic site of the castle, and nor are there any information boards pertaining to it, though I found several markers for the castle, starting from the village below. Following the largest ishigaki segments I came to a near vertical side of the castle mount and recklessly climbed up from there. I can’t imagine doing such a thing during a battle! I found several bulbous cocoons the size and colour – but smooth - of peanut shells, spun from an infinitely elastic material which could not be torn with any force; they had spiders inside. There is often some natural highlight or another at each mountain castle site, and so that was Shinagura’s I suppose.
|English Name||Shinagura Castle|
|Year Founded||1335 (traditional)|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Local Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Artifacts||Kuruwa, Hori, Karabori, Dorui|
|Access||Closest station is Matsumoto Station|
|Visitor Information||Free; 24/7; Mountain|
|Time Required||60 minutes|
|Location||Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 17' 40.92" N, 138° 0' 0.54" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2021|
|Admin Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|
|Friends of JCastle|