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Castle Tatebayashi Castle

This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
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Tatebayashi Castle (館林城 Tatebayashi-jō) is a flatland castle located in Tatebayashi in southern Gunma Prefecture.


As the land around the former castle grounds has been reclaimed, it is difficult to imagine what Tatebayashi Castle must have looked like. The main enclosure (本丸 honmaru), the second (二の丸 ni-no-maru) and the third (三の丸 san-no-maru) enclosures were located on headland that stretched into Jonuma Pond. For more details on the structure or the remains of the castle, refer to the website of the "Association for the Restoration of Tatebayashi Castle" (in Japanese).


The aerial photograph is based on the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. The locations of the enclosures are estimated.

The castle was originally built in the 15th century by the local warlord Akai Terumitsu (赤井 照光). According to the legend, Terumitsu saved a young fox from mischievous children; then in the evening an old fox appeared to thank him and recommended to move his castle to Tatebayashi, drawing the design of the fortress with its tail. The castle was also known as Obiki Castle (尾曳城 Obiki-jō), with obiki referring to the fox' dragging tail.

In 1471, the Uesugi attacked the castle which later in the Sengoku Period became the embattled stage of several conflicts between the Uesugi of Echigo (modern-day Niigata), the Hōjō of Sagami (present-day Kanagawa) and the Takeda of Kai (Yamanashi Prefecture). When Tokugawa Ieyasu moved to Kantō, Sakakibara Yasumasa (榊原 康政, 1548-1606), one of the "Tokugawa-Shitennō" (四天王 shitennō, the four generals that served Tokugawa Ieyasu), became the daimyō of Tatebayashi in 1590. The castle was regarded as strategically important for the northern defence of Edo.

The castle was demolished in 1872; most of the surviving buildings burned down in a fire in 1874. Later, the castle site was converted into residential land, so the only remains are parts of the earthworks and the restored Dobashi Gate.

① Dobashi Gate (土橋門) at the third (northwestern) enclosure.


② The area south of Dobashi Gate towards the Cultural Hall is where the third enclosure was located.


③ The area east of the city hall constituted the former second enclosure. This picture shows the open space of the former second and south enclosure. After the castle had been demolished, a factory was built, later the city bought back the area which nowadays remains a large vacant space.


④ Earthworks south of the main enclosure. The stone wall was reconstructed in the Meiji Period. There are two museums on the site of the former inner bailey: the Tayama Katai Literature Museum and the Mukai Chiaki Children's Science Museum. Tayama Katai was a famous author, and Mukai Chiaki was the first female Japanese astronaut in space. Both hailed from Tatebayashi.


⑤ The Hachiman enclosure (八幡郭) was east of the main enclosure. Nowadays the area is the location of the Hachiman Shrine and the Former Akimoto Villa.


The Former Akimoto Villa. The Akimoto were the last lords of Tatebayashi.


⑥ The Inari enclosure (稲荷郭) at the main enclosure north across the moat. Below Obiki Shrine where the fox responsible for the design of the castle is enshrined.


Below Jonuma Pond which was the southern defence of the castle. The pond has become considerably smaller due to land reclamation.


Date of visit: 22 September 2013


  • Address: Shiromachi, Tatebayashi-shi, Gunma
  • Transport: a 15-minute walk from Tobu Isesaki Line Tatebayashi station
    5km from Tohoku Expressway Tatebayashi Interchange via National Route 354
  • Other sights: Town Guide Map (official website of the Tatebayashi Tourism Board, in Japanese)
Next article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Sano Castle
Previous article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Kiyosu Castle
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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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