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Castle Gifu Castle

This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
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Gifu Castle (岐阜城 Gifu-jō) is a mountain castle built on Kinkazan (金華山, 329 meters above sea level) in the northern part of Gifu City. It was the residence of Oda Nobunaga and was designated a Historical Site of Japan in 2011.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

The first fortification on Kinkazan was built in 1201 by Nikaidō Yukimasa (二階堂行政), a steward (地頭 jitō) of the Kamakura Shogunate. At that time, it was a small fortress with wooden gates and watchtowers. In the Muromachi period, Saitō Toshinaga (斎藤利永, d.1460), shugo (守護) of Mino Province, expanded and reinforced the original fortification. Due to internal strife, the Toki clan (土岐氏) displaced the Saito as provincial governors. Since the Toki were residing in a castle in Kawate (川手, 革手), the Saitō moved to Kanō (加納) on the other side of the river and built their headquarters on Kinkazan.

At that time, the castle was called Inabayama (稲葉山城 Inabayama-jō). In 1542, Toki Yorinari (土岐頼芸, 1502–1582) was forced out of Mino by a former monk and oil vendor calling himself Saitō Toshimasa (斎藤利政), later known as the "Viper of Mino". Adopting the name Saitō Dōsan (斎藤道三, 1494-1556), he expelled Yorinari and defeated an invasion by Oda Nobuhide, the father of Nobunaga and a daimyō from Owari. Dōsan strengthened the castle complex and considerably expanded the castle town at the foot of the mountain.

In 1564, when Dōsan's grandson Saitō Tatsuoki (斎藤龍興, 1548-1573), was daimyō , a famous incident occurred when Takenaka Shigeharu (竹中重治, 1544-1579), also known as Hanbei (半兵衛), occupied Inabayama Castle with only 13 retainers. He had pretended to visit the castle to call on his sick brother, overpowering Tatsuoki and his vassals, who fled the castle. Hanbei later returned Inabayama to his master, but the incident had already tarnished Tatsuoki's reputation.

In 1567, Inabayama Castle fell to Oda Nobunaga, who had been planning to attack Mino for some time. Many former Saitō retainers, disappointed with Tasuoki, switched sides and supported the Oda cause. Nobunaga moved his headquarters from Komakiyama Castle (小牧山城 Komakiyama-jō) and renamed the castle and castle town 'Gifu' (岐阜). Gifu is said to have originated from Qishan ("岐"山), where the ancient Chinese Zhou dynasty founded their empire, and Qufu (曲"阜"), the home town of Confucius. This choice of name, along with Nobunaga's red seal, 'Tenka Fubu', (天下布武) which came to be used after Gifu's relocation, may indicate Nobunaga's strong desire to unite the country under his rule. The castle tower and other fortifications were built on top of the mountain, and the castle town and residence were laid out at the foot of the hill.

In 1576, Nobunaga moved his headquarters to Azuchi Castle (安土城 Azuchi-jō) and handed over the Oda family governorship and the Mino and Owari regions to his heir, Oda Nobutada (織田信忠, 1557-1582). Nobutada continued to develop the castle area as lord of Gifu Castle. In August 1600, before the Battle of Sekigahara, the castle was attacked by the Eastern Army and fell because the then lord Oda Hidenobu (Sanpoji, who was chosen as Nobunaga's successor as a result of the Kiyosu Treaty) had joined the Western Army. After the war, Hidenobu forfeited his territory, and Gifu Castle was abandoned. The castle tower and turrets were moved to Kanō Castle, which was built as a replacement.

Highlights of the castle ruins include the ruins of Oda Nobunaga's residence in Gifu Park at the foot of the mountain and the area around the restored keep on the top of the hill.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

Aerial photographs taken from Geographical Survey Institute maps. The location of the enclosures is estimated.

Since it is far from the station to Gifu Castle, we rented a car at Gifu Station and went there. First, we aimed for Gifu Park at the foot of the castle.

① Remains of the earthworks (総構土塁跡)
The embankment adjacent to the Gifu Park parking lot was built to enclose the castle town, using the earthen mounds of the Soukamae structure.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

② The Remains of Oda Nobunaga's Residence (織田信長居館跡)

In one corner of Gifu Park are the remains of Oda Nobunaga's residence. According to the reconstruction drawing, the kuruwa was set up like a step towards the mountain.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

From the local information board

The entrance to the residence.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

Both sides of the passage were lined with huge stones.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

Crank bending of stone walls (石垣 Ishigaki) is called irizumi (入角) and dezumi (出角). This is considered to be the original.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

This kuruwa (曲輪) is on the upper level.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

Excavations continue to this day. The three-storey tower on the left was built in the Taisho era.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

The summit can be reached by ropeway, but to experience steep Kinkazan, we decided to climb the mountain.

There are three main trails from Gifu Park: the Water Path (水の手道 Mizunote-michi), the Horseback Trail (馬の背登山道 Umanose-michi), and the Hundred-Curve Trail (百曲り道 Hyakumagari-michi). Of these, the Horseback Trail is straight and the steepest, the Water Path is relatively easy with plenty of shade, and the Hundred-Curve Trail has lovely scenery. We decided to ascend Umanose and descend Hyakumagari.

The Horseback Trail was quite challenging, according to local information. I have always been proud of the muscular legs I've trained climbing mountain castles, but the 30-minute hike up the steep slope took my breath away.

③ Tenshukaku (天守閣, castle tower)

When you finally reach the summit, the castle tower is right in front of you. The current building is the second reconstructed castle tower from 1956. It is said that the first replica donjon was built at the end of the Meiji period, so it is probably the oldest reconstructed castle tower.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

The stone wall of the castle tower has been restacked.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

From the top of the keep, visitors can enjoy a 360-degree panorama. When Nobunaga confirmed with his own eyes that the vast Nobi Plain was in his hands, I imagine that the words "Tenka Fubu'" (天下布武) crossed his mind.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)


Gifu Castle (岐阜城)


Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

The other enclosures at the top of the mountain can be visited when descending Hyakumagari Trail.

④ Den ni no Mon (伝 二ノ門) and the ruins of Shimodaidokoro (下台所)

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

⑤ Den Ichino Mon (伝一ノ門)

Traces of a megalithic column remain on the right-hand side.

Gifu Castle (岐阜城)

Date of visit: 22 March 2014

Gifu Castle before Sekigahara

Gifu Castle before 1600

The castle area became a public park in 1887. Around 1910, the castle tower was rebuilt but was lost to fire in 1943. In 1955, a cable car to the former Nanamagari-Kuruwa was inaugurated, and in 1956 the concrete castle tower was restored.

Access:

  • Address: 〒500-0000 Gifu, 18
  • Access: to Gifu Park from Gifu Station on the JR Tōkaidō Main Line or from Gifu Station on the Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line, take the bus for 15 minutes and get off at Gifu Park History Museum; 11 kilometres from Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway Gifu Kakamigahara Interchange via Route 156.
  • Parking: Gifu Park Car Park (Point 'P' on the map above).
  • Other sites: Kanō Castle
Next article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Kitagata Castle
Previous article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Kano Castle
About author
Hiroto Uehara
Hiroto is an ordinary Japanese office worker, but his true mission is searching for castles on the weekend.

Comments

This is a wonderfully written, in-depth article! Thank you for making it and perhaps I can contribute a few photos from my own visit.
 
This is a wonderfully written, in-depth article! Thank you for making it and perhaps I can contribute a few photos from my own visit.

@Eigo, we'd be more than excited if you shared some of your photos! Which castles have you visited so far?
 

Series table of contents

Iwatsuki Castle Shakujii Castle Oda Castle Tsuchiura Castle Miharu Castle Inohana Castle Setagaya Castle Konodai Castle Usui Castle Sakura Castle Kozukue Castle Masugata Castle Koga Castle Tenjinyama Castle Ogura Castle Sugaya Castle Sugiyama Castle Kogane Castle Kokokuji Castle Nagahama Castle (Izu) Nirayama Castle Hachigata Castle Futagamiyama Castle Edo Castle Kawahara Castle Kageishi Castle Wakasa-Onigajo Castle Tenjinyama Castle (Tottori) Tsuzurao Castle Ueshi Castle Jindaiji Castle Kururi Castle Mariyatsu Castle Narukami Castle Ryozen Castle Kori-Nishiyama Castle Tsutsujigasaki Residence Yogai Castle Kofu Castle Iwadono Castle Hachioji Castle Takiyama Castle Suemori Castle Nagoya Castle Inuyama Castle Kiyosu Castle Tatebayashi Castle Sano Castle Karasawayama Castle Ueda Castle Sanada Residence Sanada Honjo Toishi Castle Katsurao Castle Uchiyama Castle Hiraga Clan Castle Taguchi Castle Tatsuoka Castle Komoro Castle Matsushiro Castle Kajiki Castle Kakuto Castle Hitoyoshi Castle Ichiuji Castle Izaku Castle Chiran Castle Kiyoshiki Castle Kamo Castle Miyakono Castle Obi Castle Shibushi Castle Koyama Castle Mukasa Castle Sadowara Castle Tonokoori Castle Taka Castle Nerima Castle Kawagoe Castle Ashikaga Residence Koizumi Castle Kanayama Castle Shinagawa Battery (Odaiba) Tamba Kameyama Castle Yagi Castle Sonobe Castle Fushimi Castle Yodo Castle Shoryuji Castle Yamazaki Castle Tsukui Castle Katakura Castle Hirayama Castle Site Park Yamanaka Castle Sanuki Castle Sunpu Castle Koyama Castle (Shizuoka) Ryugenzan Castle Sagara Castle Tanaka Castle (Shizuoka) Ishiwaki Castle Hanazawa Castle Mochifune Castle Moriyama Castle (Aichi) Obata Castle (Aichi) Ryusenji Castle Gakuden Castle Komakiyama Castle Iwakura Castle (Aichi) Kano Castle Gifu Castle Kitagata Castle Sone Castle Ōgaki Castle Ōtaki Castle Obata Castle (Ibaraki) Mito Castle Kasama Castle Tanagura Castle Akadate Castle Inawashiro Castle Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle Mukai-Haguroyama Castle

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Hiroto Uehara
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〒500-0000 岐阜県岐阜市18

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