Yamabe Castle

From Jcastle.info



A branch family of the Suwa Clan founded Tokuunji Temple at the foot of the mountain in the Kamakura Period and changed their name to Yamabe. They became the leaders of the town and built the first castle here. The Yamabe Castle we see today is from a later period and has likely undergone several renovations. The first historical mention of Yamabe Castle is 1490 when it was attacked by Ogasawara Nagatomo and came under the territory of the Ogasawara. Orino Masaharu, a branch of the Ogasawara clan came to Yamabe in 1505 and was renamed Yamabe Masaharu. Yamabe Castle was attacked by Takeda Shingen along with Kirihara Castle, Hayashiohjo Castle and other Ogasawara castles in the area in 1550. Yamabe allied with Takeda and became lord of Yamabe and Kirihara castles.

Visit Notes

I took a taxi (3000yen) from Matsumoto to Yamabe Castle (Tokuunji Temple). There is a bus that goes to the temple but they are very few and I would have had to wait 90 minutes for the next one. I also had my Brompton bicycle with me. From the Tokuunji Temple I walked up the western slope that starts from the back side of the graveyard (left side of the temple). There are no signs until you get close to the main part of the castle, but the “trail" is not difficult to follow. Along the way, there are several small baileys and trenches that a castle fan should be able to pick out. The stone wall is amazing. It’s definitely the tallest and longest around the Matsumoto area. It’s easy to get around the stone wall and lots of good angles for pictures. Just beyond the main bailey are a series of 4 large trenches and a couple more baileys. On the way down I took the more direct route via a bunch of switchbacks that lands you at the opposite side of the temple. Steeper and less to see, but I think it’s a good quick way down. I would recommend the same course to anyone visiting Yamabe Castle. After Yamabe Castle I cycled to Kirihara Castle.

Loading map...

  • Stone walls of the main bailey
  • Trail up the mountain along the western ridge
  • Small bailey on the west ridge
  • Small bailey on the west ridge
  • Trenches along the west ridge.
  • Vertical trenche along the west ridge
  • Small bailey on the west ridge
  • Vertical trench along the west ridge
  • Terraced bailey
  • Baileys on the western ridge
  • Bailey on the western ridge
  • Baileys and trenches
  • Trench
  • Vertical trench
  • Horikiri trench across the ridge
  • Path up to the central bailey
  • Horikiri trench
  • Bailey
  • Stone wall remnants
  • koshiguruwa bailey
  • Stone walls of the main bailey
  • Stone walls of the main bailey
  • Stone walls of the main bailey
  • Stone walls of the main bailey
  • Stone walls of the main bailey
  • Stone walls of the main bailey
  • Stone walls of the main bailey
  • Main bailey stone walls.
  • Stone walls of the main bailey
  • Stone walls of the main bailey
  • Cliff face and trench on the east side of the main bailey
  • Stone walls of the main bailey
  • Main bailey
  • Embankment around the main bailey
  • Horikiri trench
  • Stone wall in the upper right
  • Horikiri trench
  • Horikiri trench
  • East ridge baileys
  • embankment and bailey
  • View from the mountain
  • Tokuunji Temple.

Castle Profile
English Name Yamabe Castle
Japanese Name 山家城
Alternate Names Yanbe-jo, Nakairi-jo
Founder Yamabe Clan
Year Founded late 15th C.
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Prefectural Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features trenches, stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Matsumoto Sta. (Shinonoi Line), bus or taxi (3000 yen)
Visitor Information mountain, open any time
Time Required 150 mins.
Website http://takara.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/prefecture/060.html
Location Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 13' 19.13" N, 138° 3' 7.96" E
Loading map...
Added to Jcastle 2016
Admin Year Visited 2015
Admin Visits October 30, 2015

(2 votes)
Add your comment
Jcastle.info welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.



55 months ago
Score 0++

Yamabejō is a large yamajiro (mountain castle) ruin with several impressive features. Following jcastle's advice I ascended via Tokūnji, a temple which is also the former site of the fortified manor house of the Yamabe Clan which was in place before they built Yamabejō. I climbed this western ridge. At one point still close to the temple I came across ishigaki which looked almost like a gate ruin, but I think these were used as bases for stone lanterns in modern or proto-modern times. Further up the ridge there is a shrine area.

After a gradual treck up the ridge, finally with several trenches and terraced baileys the castle ruins start in earnest, comprising the western ridge ruins. I also went down the southern ridge which has some baileys and trenches, although much smaller than those along the western ridge. The castle then marches off to the east. At the center of all this is the shukuruwa (main bailey) which has dorui (earth-piled embankments) and ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) on the southern side, the tallest of all yamajiro ishigaki segments in the area. Like many castles of the Ogawara Clan, the dorui at the back of the shukuruwa is the tallest.

Beyond the shukuruwa is an undulating series of trenches. I started following them. After each trench the upper mountain ridge rose higher. It went on and on, trench after trench. I couldn't believe they kept on going like that. Certainly the rear of the shukuruwa was well protected. The castle ruins continue on beyond these many tiered trenches, but I didn't make it that far. I just expected the castle to end at some point, and eventually I came to a part where the ridge was no longer perforated by trenches. However, if one keeps climbing, according to maps, one will come to another large bailey and some more ruins. In this bailey is Akiba-jinja, and I found some men on their way there during my descent of the mountain. They were going with shimenawa to the shrine and with a paper charm they had brought from the head shrine in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Several maps I have seen - though I might've made a more careful study before coming (I was surprised to find no map at the castle itself; maybe I overlooked it, but there were two signboards with brief explanations) - split the castle into four major kuruwa-gun (groups of baileys), with two in the west, a sort of very small and now much deformed grouping closer to the old yakata site, and much more obvious ruins further up. There's the south group. I went here looking for a quick way down from the mountain. Then there is the fourth group which I didn't visit - yet! The shukuruwa connect all of these. Kuruwa whirl off around it like the spokes of a wheel.