Tatsuoka Castle

From Jcastle.info



Matsudaira Norikata founded the castle in 1864. Unfortunately, it was never totally finished by the time the Meiji Restoration began and it was abandoned in 1871. Rather than a huge fort like that of Goryokaku, Tatsuoka Castle is comparatively smaller and it's thought that it was intended as a residence rather than a large scale castle. Also, despite taking in the elements of a European star shaped fortress the moats are fairly narrow and shallow so it would not have been a very strong fortress. Norikata was well respected and served the shogunate in several high ranking positions. After the Meiji Restoration he helped found Hakuaisha, which would later become the Japan Red Cross.

Visit Notes

This is one of only two 5 point sar shaped forts in Japan. Be sure to view the Google map where you can very easily see the star shape that you can't get from this pictures. The castle is about the same distance from either Usuda or Tatsuokajo Stations. I walked from Usuda to the castle and then out to Tatsuokajo. The castle grounds are now occupied by an elementary school, but apparently they are open for walking around. Be sure you don't miss the original gate and wall about a 10 min walk from the castle. the town also has some old temples that are worth a visit if you're there.

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  • moat and stone walls
  • Oteguchi entrance
  • moat and stone walls
  • kitchen
  • original gate and wall
  • stone walls
  • stone walls
  • moat and stone walls
  • entrance to the inner grounds
  • moat and stone walls
  • moat and stone walls
  • moat and stone walls
  • moat and stone walls
  • stone walls of a masugata gate
  • map

Castle Profile
English Name Tatsuoka Castle
Japanese Name 龍岡城
Alternate Names Tatsuoka Goryokaku, Tanoguchi Jinya
Founder Matssudaira Norikata
Year Founded 1864
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations Next 100 Castles, National Historic Site
Historical Period Edo Period
Features gates, turrets, water moats, stone walls, walls
Visitor Information
Access Tatsuokajo Sta./Usuda Sta. (JR Yatsugatake Kogen Line); walk 20 mins
Visitor Information
Time Required
Website http://www.city.saku.nagano.jp/cms/html/entry/783/262.html
Location Saku, Nagano Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 11' 46.14" N, 138° 30' 5.94" E
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Added to Jcastle 2011
Contributor Eric
Admin Year Visited 2011
Admin Visits September 21, 2011

(4 votes)
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13 months ago
Score 0++
On 10/05/2023, I took a Shinkansen from Ueda station to Sakudaira. There I changed for the Koumi line. This is a small line and not a lot trains deserve it. I took the train to Tatsuokajō station. Be careful if you want to go there, because even fewer trains stop at this station. Plan accordingly. On my way to the castle of Tatsuokajō, which is one of the 2 star-shaped fortifications in Japan, I first met a remnant gate, followed by Banshōin temple, which was the place of the manor of lord Yoda(not related to Star Wars). I read that a trail was leading from behind this temple to Taguchi castle ruins. From those ruins you can take pictures of Tatsuokajō from the heights. But the trail was closed there, so I went on to visiting the castle of Tatsuokajō. Touring around the site, I met 2 other castle fans, which weren't related. I showed my stamp books and the lady showed her next 100 stamp book. She already completed the first book and this second one was almost complete too. In the information building, where I got my stamp, 2 female attendees were amazed by my visits and they showed me another trail to get at the viewing point on Taguchi castle. They gave me also a map to get there. They told me that the ascend would take 30 min. I did it in about 20, and with the nice weather, I could take nice pictures of the castle.


43 months ago
Score 1++

Tatusokajō (Saku, Nagano)  龍岡城 [長野県佐久市]

Tatsuokajō is famous as one of two pentagonal star forts in Japan, although there are other "star forts", properly called bastion forts, in Hokkaidō, other than the famous Goryōkaku. Tatsuokajō was the only bastion fort built outside of Hokkaidō in Japan. In fact traditional castles were still being built (such as Sonobejō) when Tatsuokajō was built. Tatsuokajō is best understood as an experimental fort, as it was not built on a large enough scale to be effective as a functional bastion fort. These latter day innovations by the Tokugawa Shogunate make for some strange stories. At least one Tokugawa domain had plans for a submarine! Can you imagine samurai in a submarine? Another part of this arcanery concerns samurai riding camels to Egyptian pyramids! That actually happened. To be sure they were strange times, and Tatsuokajō is a strange castle. Furthermore, even as it was built, Anglo-European powers had already moved on from the bastion fort model and were constructing polygonal forts (for context the Statue of Liberty was built less than two decades later on a bastion fort in New York Bay which had long been obsolete).

Tatsuokajō is bounded on all sides by ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) and around most of the central star-shaped bailey by a narrow mizubori (water moat). The ishigaki is special, its like being found otherwise only at goryōkaku, because a lip of projecting oblong stones creates an impediment to any attacker that would try to scale the ramparts. The stones are otherwise hewn and slotted together very precisely (kirikomi-hagi). Earth is piled up above the ishigaki into embankments which are set back a little (the stone and earth combination being known as koshimaki-ishigaki when the ishigaki is lower). There are three entrances into the compound, set in the northwest, northeast and east. The south is bounded by the Ama River and the west slopes off into farmland - here the moat ends and becomes a rivulet. An original structure from the castle also survives, o'daidokoro; it is a large kitchen building. It was retained after the castle's closure to function as a school house. It was then later moved away from the castle but has since been re-relocated, though not in the exact same place. The castle's inner compound is now a primary shool, and in one spoke a shrine is located.

The castle also possessed some outer defences, and a masugata (gate complex) ruin remains a little distance from the main site. A relocated gate from the castle apparently stands in the vicinity, now used as the gate of someone's residence. These pictures are ordered larger as taken, apart from some highlights at the front of the set. I've also included a picture of the route I took. Technically I visited two more sites after Tatsuokajō: Tanokuchi-jin'ya, of which nothing remains, and the Yoda-yakata, which is now the temple Banshōin. It was from this latter site that I had intended to climb to Taguchijō, a yamajiro, where there is a viewing area for appreciating Tatsuokajō from above. However, the trail was closed because landslides wiped it out back in March. Hopefully I can go back when I have more time and find a different way up the mountain.


The Ôgyū-Matsudaira, a branch family of the ruling Tokugawa, were originally based at Okutono-jin'ya in Mikawa, but Matsudaira Norikata relocated his main base to Tanokuchi-jin'ya in Saku (the clan's holdings in Saku were three times larger than those of Mikawa). From here he began constructing a new, modernised castle between 1864-1867. Completed (or, stopped being worked on) in 1867, Tatsuokajō was an experimental fort which served as the headquarters of the Ôgyū-Matsudaira Clan. The castle was decommissioned in 1871.

Frank T.Gunshi

155 months ago
Score 0++
This is one of what I thought were only two western-style star forts in Japan until two more near Hakodate were recently posted on this site. These new two are small and not really stars but rather diamonds or rectangles. Tatsuoka is not as grand as Goryokaku in Hakodate, but it is a genuine star fort. It's occupied by an elementary school, although they don't seem to mind people walking around with cameras. As is often the case, I also pulled up my motorcycle on the grounds and parked. As long as you're not causing problems or arriving in large numbers, I don't think anybody will mind. Having said all that, Tatsuoka is historically interesting, but go to Goryokaku in Hakodate if you want to see a much better preserved star fort and feel free to explore it.