Shiwa Castle




Shiwa Castle was built in 803 by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro. It was one of several josaku castles built in the Nara and Heian periods to pacify the Tohoku region. It took about 4000 soldiers one year to complete the castle. Shiwa Castle was the largest of these josaku castles. The immesne outer wall is 840 meters long. The outer moat beyond this wall was 930 meters long. It is also estimated that approximately 4000 soldiers and government officials lived within the castle. The war with the local Emishi peoples ended in 811. In 811 Shiwa Castle also suffered flood damage and was abandoned in favor of the recently completed Tokutan Castle.

Visit Notes

This is a place I've very much wanted to visit since I first heard about it. It is a great faithful reconstruction of this ancient type of Japanese castle. The combination of the large tsuijibei walls, topped by these old style yagura is very impressive. I just wish we could go up inside the yagura or gate. There was great weather this day so I went to great lengths to get a couple good pictures with Mt. Iwate in the background.

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Castle Profile
English Name Shiwa Castle
Japanese Name 志波城
Founder Sakanoue no Tamuramaro
Year Founded 803
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations National Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features gates, turrets, trenches, walls
Visitor Information
Access Morioka Sta (Tohoku Main Line, 15 min taxi)
Visitor Information
Time Required
Location Morioka, Iwate Prefecture
Coordinates 39° 41' 6.07" N, 141° 6' 21.89" E
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Added to Jcastle 2010
Admin Year Visited 2010
Admin Visits May 22, 2010

(6 votes)
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41 months ago
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Shiwajō was one of a series of fortified administrative centers built over two centuries in Japan’s classical era to protect the Yamato’s territorial expansion from the Emishi, an ethnically distinct people who inhabited Tōhoku before the medieval era. These huge constructions would not be eclipsed in scale until the Edo period, and it’s very interesting to see such forts, not dissimilar to walled cities, from these earlier times.

Shiwajō was built in 803 by Tamuramaro Sakanoue. After its location was re-discovered in the 1970s it was partially rebuilt using historic building methods and is the most extensive reconstruction of its kind with the exception of Heijōkyō in Nara, although the great earthen walls at Shiwajō are currently longer. The outer wall was a square of 840m to each side, and there was a moat 930m long in front of the imposing southern gate. Inside the center of the complex where the government buildings and Seiden (main hall) were located, an inner wall stood with each side 150m long. Inner moats ring both outer and inner walls on both sides: why did they dig moats at the back of the walls too?

Between 803 and 811 Shiwajō hosted officials and 4,000 soldiers. The officials worked at the Seiden and surrounding structures in the inner citadel and in the outer citadel the soldiers were encamped in sunken pit hovels with thatched peaked coverings. Wooden turrets were built over the outer wall suspended on wooden pillars behind and in front at an interval of 60m. By my maths, that’s at least 52 turrets. Each stood 7m tall. The roofed walls, called Tsuijibei, are made from compacted earth and are 4.5m tall.

This huge site was forgotten about and had to be unearthed by modern archaeologists because it only saw 8 years of operation: it was wiped out by flooding in 811. A nearby river changed its course and washed away half the fort. Since nearby Tokutanjō was completed that year, everybody at Shiwajō relocated there and Shiwajō was lost to history over the next 1,200 years


52 months ago
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@Lampshade, If i remember well you can walk around the reconstructed buildings. The walls are not completely finished and i think it isn't fenced off, since the grounds of the castle are partially used for agriculture. I presume the buildings will be closed, even perhaps the doors of the main door.


52 months ago
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furinkazan, do you know if it would be possible to visit this castle before official opening hours (10am)? I'll be arriving to Morioka at 5:05am and this would be a great way to fill in time.


77 months ago
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Since i ended visiting Moriokajô earlier than expected, i went to the informationdesk in Morioka station to get information to go to Shiwajô with the bus. She told me to take a bus for Motomiya at busstop 13 in front of the station. When i arrived at the busstop there was bus 502. This bus is bound for the castle-site. But beware there are only 2 busses in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. The bus ride is 410¥ and stops really on the site. When i got off i immediately went to the welcome panel to take a picture of it and of the reconstructed gate. When i turned around for the information office, a staff-member ran to me just to say that the site is free of charge and she had prepared a leaflet in english for me. In the information office are some artifacts on show and the lady started a video (15min) just for me. I bought the very small booklet for 200¥ about the castle. It's only in japanese but it contains nice drawings and photos. Then i went to the castle. The reconstructed buildings are very interesting. It is a little bit weird, because there are grain- and ricefields on the original place of the castle. I enjoyed this site, even in a muddy circumstance. It didn't rained during my visit, but the ground was soaked. When i returned to the busstop i realised i had to wait about 3.5hours for the next bus. I walked to the Iioka-jumonji stop but saw the bus passing in front of me. The next one would be 1 hour later. I decided to walk to my hotel (right in front of the Morioka station). It's about 5 km. I absolutely recommend this castle.


137 months ago
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The most well-reconstructed ancient (10th C.) castle with a huge gate, walls and yagura