Yamana Castle has a long history dating back to the 1300's. It was originally one of 3 castles along a ridge in the mountains south of Takasaki: Terao Kami Castle (Terao Upper Castle), Terao Naka Castle (Terao Middle Castle) and Teraoshimo Castle (Terao Lower Castle, aka, Yamana Castle). In the Sengoku Period, it was the mountaintop castle of refuge (tsume-no-shiro 詰の城) for the plains castle, Kibe Castle.
In the Sengoku Period Yamana Castle was the Tsume-no-shiro, or last redoubt, of the Kibe Clan whose Fortified Manor or lowland castle was located about 2.5km east. The Kibe were allied with Takeda Shingen. Along the same ridge line as Yamana Castle, Takeda Shingen built Negoya Castle (Gunma) to further fortify this border, so Yamana Castle then functioned as a satellite fortification of Negoya Castle. After the death of Shingen, the Kibe supported the Hojo. The castle was likely abandoned in 1590 after the fall of the Hojo. Another legend associates the castle with the Yamana clan (related to Yamana Sozen) who supposedly held the castle for eight generations. There is no historical evidence to support this but it could be possible that they held it in the years before the Kibe.
It is interesting to note that Yamana Castle is much more developed than Terao Naka Castle with multiple layers of baileys and trenches, structures more typical of later Sengoku Period castles. This shows that it was probably renovated around the same time that Negoya Castle was built and shows similarities in structure that you don't see at Terao Naka Castle or Terao Kami Castle.
Yamana Castle was the first stop of a 15km hike that included Negoya Castle, Terao Chausuyama Castle and Terao Naka Castle. Part of the hike goes along the Takasaki Nature Trail which is a very nicely groomed hiking trail. I wouldn't mind hiking more of that trail I had a chance to.
Yamana Castle was a really interesting site. First, on the way to the castle you'll find a well preserved kofun that you can climb inside. Outside the kofun is the Yamanoue Stela, one of only 18 surviving stelae from the Asuka/Nara Period. 3 of these are in Gunma around Takasaki, making them a source of pride for the area. There is even a local free bus that visits them all several times a day on the weekends. On this day, I only visited this one, but for for more information visit this site: https://www.city.takasaki.gunma.jp/info/sanpi/en/01.html
There are no good maps or signs on the castle site but if you know your way around mountain castles and have some diagram or map with you, you can take some time to explore the site. Most people will follow the trail to the main bailey and go home (I talked with one such person), but to find the really interesting parts you need to go off trail and scramble around the brush and fallen trees and through some horikiri to find the rest of the much more interesting parts of this castle
The Kibe Clan had a Fortified Manor 2.5km to the east of here, but nothing remains of the castle today so I skipped it on this stop.
|English Name||Yamana Castle|
|Alternate Names||Teraoshimo-jo, Mae-jo, Teraomae-jp|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Local Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Pre Edo Period|
|Access||Nishi Yamana Sta (Joshin Dentetsu), 20 min walk|
|Visitor Information||mountain trail, open 24/7|
|Time Required||60 mins|
|Location||Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture|
|Coordinates||36° 16' 44.33" N, 139° 1' 46.60" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2020|
|Admin Year Visited||2020|
|Admin Visits||February 11, 2020|
|Friends of JCastle|
|Shirobito - Yamana Castle|
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|Jokaku Horoki - Yamana Castle|