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Castle Tatsuoka Castle

This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
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Tatsuoka Castle (龍岡城 Tasuoka-jō) is located in Saku, Nagano Prefecture, and is the site of a pentagon-shaped bastion constructed in the Bakumatsu period, the final years of the Tokugawa shogunate. There are only two star-shaped fortresses in Japan, the other one being the Goryōkaku (五稜郭) Fort in Hakodate.

Tatsuoka Castle (龍岡城)

The Ogyū-Matsudaira clan originated from Mikawa Province (present-day Aichi Prefecture) but also held scattered territories in Shinano (Nagano Prefecture). Then 11th head of the clan and 8th daimyō of Okutono Domain (奥殿藩, Okutono-han), Matsudaira Norikata (松平乗謨, 1839-1910) shifted the seat of his domain from Okutono to Tanokuchi in Shinano. Norikata strongly supported a Western-style modernization of the shogunal army and was granted permission to construct a fort-like castle in 1863. It was completed in 1867. However, two-fifths of the moat remained unfinished, and almost none of the roof tiles were laid. It is very likely that Norikata faced budgetary constraints in the turbulent final days of the shogunate, or perhaps he could not afford the time to complete the castle, as he held several important posts in the shogunal administration.

Tatsuoka Castle (龍岡城)

The aerial photograph is based on the Aerial Photograph Searching Service by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan.
The location of enclosures and other landmarks is estimated.

① Main Gate: that is where I started to explore the castle.

Tatsuoka Castle (龍岡城)

Stonewalls and moats surround the castle site.

Tatsuoka Castle (龍岡城)

The construction of the stone walls proved to be the most challenging task, so experienced stonemasons from Takato Domain were invited to assist.

It has been claimed that a Western-style fort of that scale did not possess sufficient defensive powers to withstand modern artillery fire. Even the modern Goryōkaku Fort in Hakodate proved useless in battle. Leaving those technical aspects aside, I cannot help but praise the spirit of the young lord who wanted to overcome outdated traditions by adopting modern technology.

② Former Black Gate (旧黒門)

Tatsuoka Castle (龍岡城)

View of the Odaidokoro (御台所) from outside.


Unfortunately, the moat has never been completed.

Tatsuoka Castle (龍岡城)

③ Former Side Gate (旧通用門)

Tatsuoka Castle (龍岡城)

Entering the castle, I noticed that the elementary school occupies most of the former castle grounds.

Tatsuoka Castle (龍岡城)

④ Odaidokoro (御台所): the only original structure that survived. As it was used as a school building, it escaped destruction. If you apply in advance, you can visit the building.

Tatsuoka Castle (龍岡城)

⑤ The Goryōkaku-deaino-yakata (五稜郭であいの館) has a small exhibition on Tatsuoka Castle. The friendly staff there serve tea and pickles. They were very unintrusive, and we enjoyed the atmosphere of 「おもてなし」(omotenashi, "hospitality").

Tatsuoka Castle (龍岡城)

Date of visit: 13 October 2013


  • Address: Taguchi, Saku-shi, Nagano
  • Transport: a 20-minute walk from JR Koumi Line (小海線) Usuda Station
    10km from Chūbu-Ōdan Expressway (中部横断自動車道) Saku-Minami Interchange via Prefectural Route 2
  • Parking: Goryokaku-Deaino-Yakata Parking (Spot 'P' on the map above)
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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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Hiroto Uehara
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