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Castle Kano Castle

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Kanō Castle (加納城 Kanō-jō) was a flatland (平城 hirajirō) castle located in modern-day Gifu City. When people hear Gifu, they first think of Gifu Castle, but it was here in Kanō Castle, where the political centre of Gifu was during the Edo period. Kanō-juku (加納宿) was the fifty-third of the sixty-nine post stations of the Nakasendō (中山道) connecting Edo with Kyōto.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

Saitō Toshinaga (斎藤利永, d. 1460), a vassal of the Toki clan (土岐氏), built the first castle on site. It was abandoned in 1538. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Oda Hidenobu (Sanpōshi), Nobunaga's successor and castellan of Gifu Castle, had his territory confiscated by Tokugawa Ieyasu due to his affiliation with the Western Army and was expelled. In 1602, Ieyasu ordered Gifu Castle to be destroyed and Kanō Castle to be rebuilt instead. The first castellan was Okudaira Nobumasa (奥平信昌, 1555-1615), son-in-law of Ieyasu's eldest daughter Kamehime (亀姫) who had distinguished himself defending Nagashino Castle. He was given 100,000 koku.

At that time, the Honmaru and Ninomaru were already completed. It is said that Tokugawa Ieyasu himself took over the territory and appointed Honda Tadakatsu fushin bugyō (普請奉行), the magistrate in charge of construction called Tenka Fushin (下普請). Ieyasu also mobilized neighbouring daimyō to contribute to the castle. Most of the building materials came from turrets and the stone walls of Gifu Castle, and earth and sand from the nearby Kawate Castle (川手城 Kawate-jō) were also used. The dismantled parts of Gifu Castle's donjon were diverted to the Ninomaru Gosankai Yagura. Kanō Castle became the headquarters of Kanō Domain, and after Okudaira Nobumasa entered in 1603, it became the castle of the Okudaira clan.

When Okudaira Tadataka died in 1632, his cousin Ōkubo Tadataka (大久保忠教, 1560-1639) took over the castle temporarily, succeeded by Toda Mitsushige (戸田光重, 1622-1668) of the Toda Matsudaira in 1639. In 1711, the Toda were relocated to Yodo Domain (淀藩) after three generations, and Kanō Castle became the residence of Ando Nobutomo (安藤信友) in 1711. The Ando lasted for three generations until 1755 when Nagai Naonobu (永井直陳) became castellan. The Nagai held Kanō Domain until the Meiji Restoration. Nagai Naokoto (永井尚服, 1834-1885) was the last daimyō of Kanō. In 1869, with the abolition of the feudal system, he became the imperial governor of Kanō. After the han system was dissolved in 1871, he relocated to Tōkyō.

Nagai Naokoto (永井尚服, 1834-1885)

Nagai Naokoto (永井尚服, 1834-1885)

Initially a Saitō fortress, the Tenka Fushin enlarged the castle to a full-fledged fortification to establish a worthy equivalent for Gifu Castle. Kanō Castle had a long and narrow layout - about 550 metres north-south and about 400 metres east-west - with a double moat. It was configured to surround the main enclosure. The north moat was a shoji moat. The east side of the outer moat was the Arata River, the north side was the Shimizu River, and the west side was the Naginatabori (長刀堀). The south side was near the present-day Kanō Junior High School. Five enceintes were constructed from north to south, Sannomaru, the stables (厩曲輪 Umaya Kuruwa), Ninomaru, Honmaru and Ōyabu Kuruwa (大藪曲輪). Each of the berms was surrounded by a water moat (see below), and the entire castle was situated between the Arata River to the east and the Naginata moat to the west.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

After the Meiji Restoration , all the remaining buildings were demolished, the moat filled in, and the outer areas of the castle were sold off. Today, the stonewalls and earthworks in the Honmaru and the stonewalls on the north side of Ninomaru remind us of those days. The castle town developed on the north side of the castle along the Nakasendō (中山道). Kanō-juku was a busy post town.

In 1900, as was the case with many castle grounds across Japan, the Gifu Prefectural Normal School was built on the site of the Honmaru, and in 1939 it became the headquarters of the Imperial Japanese Army 51st Air Division. After WWII, it was used as a military base of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. Proclaimed a National Historic Site in 1983, archaeologists started to excavate the site, where foundations of many structures, stone walls, and earthenware shards were discovered. Later, the site was backfilled and is now a park.


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

We walked from Kanō Station on the Meitetsu Main Line.

① Kōsatsuba (高札場)

Tatefuda (立札) are boards erected by the clan at busy street corners to post proclamations. This one was constructed at a busy intersection in front of the main gate.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

② The site of Ōtemon (大手門跡)

The northern entrance to the castle and an important gate facing the Nakasendo Road.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

View from the footbridge near Ōtemon (大手門) towards Kanō Castle.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

③ Sannomaru (三の丸)

The ruins of Sanomaru are now Kanō Primary School and Kanō Kindergarten. We thought that nothing remained, but we found an interesting elevated area, so we let ourselves into the schoolyard amongst the parents of the boys' baseball team. These are probably the remains of the corner turret of Sannomaru.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

This is the angle from the kindergarten side. The hill is used as a slide.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

④ Ninomaru (二の丸)

At the southern end of the primary school, the Ninomaru ishigaki survived. Here, a three-storey yagura was built, said to have been transferred from Gifu Castle.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

⑤ Honmaru (本丸)

We arrived at the northern entrance of the Honmaru. First, we circled it before going inside.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

The rugged ishigaki is made of rugged field stones. The stones are piled with chert from the mountains near Gifu City. Rounded river stones are packed between the rocks.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

Kanō Castle (加納城)

⑥ Tenshudai (天守台)

The higher part in the northwest corner was supposed to house the donjon. However, it was never built here, and the Ninomaru three-story yagura was used instead.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

Later, the Honmaru was converted into a park. There was a gate ball field and a place for citizens to relax.

Kanō Castle (加納城)

Date of visit: 22 March 2014


Kanō on the Kisokaido, ukiyo-e print by Hiroshige (歌川広重 中山道加納宿 The Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kisokaido)


  • Address: 7 Kanōmarunouchi, Gifu, 500-8485
  • Access: a 12-minute walk from Kanō Station on the Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line, a 15-minute walk from Gifu Station on the JR Tōkaidō Main Line and Takayama Main Line; 7 kilometres from Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway Gifu Kakamigahara Interchange via Route 21.
  • Parking: free parking lot.
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Hiroto Uehara
Hiroto is an ordinary Japanese office worker, but his true mission is searching for castles on the weekend.


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Hiroto Uehara
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〒500-8485 岐阜県岐阜市加納丸之内7

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