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Castle Hirosaki Castle

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城) is one of the most famous castles in the Tōhoku region. It is built on the Tsugaru Plain.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

At the end of the Warring States period, Tsugaru Tamenobu (津軽為信) achieved independence from the Nanbu clan (南部氏) and unified the Tsugaru region. However, as he and the Nanbu clan had become bitter enemies, Tamenobu cleverly approached Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) and obtained assurances of relief for his lands. In 1594, Tamenobu renovated Horikoshi Castle (堀越城) and moved his stronghold from Oura Castle (大浦城), and in 1603, he planned to build a new stronghold in Takaoka. Tamenobu died in 1607, but his son Nobuhira (信枚) completed Takaoka Castle in 1611. The castle was a huge fortress, perhaps in preparation for the Nanbu clan, and not unlike a feudal lord of less than 50,000 koku. It was also equipped with a five-storey keep, but lightning destroyed it in 1627 (Kan'ei 5). The following year, on the advice of the great priest Tenkai (天海大僧正), the name was changed from Takaoka to Hirosaki.

A short time later, the castle tower was approved for reconstruction due to its achievements in guarding the Yezo region. In 1811 (Bunka 8), the southeast corner turret of the main circle was rebuilt, and the present tower was completed.

During the Boshin War (戊辰戦争), the Tsugaru quickly recognised the opportunity and joined the Meiji government forces immediately. Many of the buildings were spared demolition. In addition to the keep, five castle gates and three corner turrets still exist, all designated as important cultural assets.

The statue of Tsugaru Tamenobu in front of Hirosaki City Cultural Center.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

Hirosaki Castle was built on a hill between the Iwaki and Tsuchibuchi rivers in the south-west of the Tsugaru Plain.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

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

The castle's layout was of the ladder type and comprised six wards. Centred on the Honmaru on the west side, the Ni-no-Maru, San-no-Maru, Yon-no-Maru, etc., were located on the east side. The west side of the Honmaru was a cliff, and a large moat was built further west of the Honmaru. (A detailed guide map of the castle is here.)

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

➢Reference: Illustration of Tsugaru Hirosaki Castle (National Archives of Japan)

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

Kitamon (北門, North Gate or Turtle Gate (亀甲門 Kamenokomon: an Important Cultural Property))

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

➣ ② Yon-no-maru (四の丸, the fourth enclosure)

This is a Kuruwa on the north side. A marathon event was taking place, so setup was being done.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

③ Yoshita-gomonato (賀田御門跡 The site of Yoshita gate)

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

Ushitora Yagura (丑寅櫓, an Important Cultural Property)

This is the turret located northeast of Ninomaru. Ushitora (丑寅) means the northeast direction, which is derived from the Chinese zodiac.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

⑤ East Gate (東門 Higashimon, Important Cultural Property)

Once we got out of the castle from here.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

Walk along the outer moat on the southeast side of the San-no-maru.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

⑥ Otemon Gate (追手門 Main gate, Important cultural property)

The southern entrance to the castle. A feature of the Hirosaki Castle gate is that it is square-shaped but has no front gate.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

⑦ Southern Inner Gate (南内門, Important Cultural Asset)

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

⑧ Hitsujisaru Yagura (未申櫓, Important Cultural Property)

Hitsujisaru (未申) means the southwest direction.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

⑨ Higashiuchimon (東内門, East Inner Gate)

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

Yoriki guard station (与力番所, Yoriki bansho)

The construction date is unknown, but it was estimated to have been built in the early Edo period. After the domain's abolition, it was used as a park manager's residence and a worker station.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

⑩ Tenshu (天守, Important Cultural Property)

The only existing castle tower in the Tohoku region. It is said to be a small castle tower, but when you look at it up close, it has an imposing presence.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

Can you see that the centre of the stone wall bulges out? This is a phenomenon called "Harami" (はらみ), and there is a risk of collapse due to earthquakes. For this reason, renovation work is scheduled to begin this fall and will take approximately 10 years. Due to the large-scale move of the castle tower, it will not be seen for a while.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

Honmaru entrance (本丸入口, Honmaru iriguchi-jō)

Most of the castle uses earthworks, but the area around the main enclosure is built with stone walls.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

This is the entrance to the castle tower.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

On the side facing the moat, a stone drop-off is inside the keep.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

The roof of the keep. Copper tile roofing is used and is resistant to cracking in snowy conditions.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

A model is displayed inside the keep. A palace like this was built in the Honmaru.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

Inui Yagura Ruins (戌亥櫓跡)

This is the site of the corner turret northwest of the main enclosure. Inui (戌亥) means the northwest direction.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)


⑪ Tategami (館神, the shrine of the guardian deity)

In one corner of the northern enclosure, there is a place where Toyotomi Hideyoshi is enshrined. It was a sacred place where only a few people, including the feudal lord, could enter.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)


⑫ Uzumimon ruins (埋門跡)

This was a back gate in the west part of the building that was usually closed.

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)


Western moat (西濠)

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

Date of visit: 15 June 2014

Access:

  • Address: Shimoshiroganechō, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8356
  • Access: a 30-minute walk or bus from JR Ōu Main Line, Kōnan Railway Kōnan Line, Hirosaki Station
    11km from Tohoku Expressway Owani Hirosaki Interchange via Prefectural Route 260
  • Parking: Paid parking lots around the castle ruins.


Link:


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About author
Hiroto Uehara
Hiroto is an ordinary Japanese office worker, but his true mission is searching for castles on the weekend.

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Author
Hiroto Uehara
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Location
〒036-8356 青森県弘前市下白銀町

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