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Castle Toishi Castle

This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
Toishi Castle (戸石城 or 砥石城) is located in modern-day Ueda City, Nagano Prefecture. The hilltop castle is known for being the location where Takeda Shingen (武田信玄, 1521-1573) suffered his greatest defeat, the "Toishi Rout" (砥石崩れ Toishikuzure).

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History


It is not known when the castle was constructed. Still, after the Battle of Unnodaira (海野平の戦い) in May 1541 Murakami Yoshikiyo (村上義清, 1501-1573), a retainer of Uesugi Kenshin, repaired the fortifications to rule Chiisagata district. When Shingen later conquered the Saku district (佐久郡), his and Yoshikiyo's armies were facing each other once again. In 1548, Shingen was defeated in the Battle of Uedahara (上田原の戦い) southeast of Toishi Castle. Uedahara was the first land battle which saw the use of firearms: Yoshikiyo employed fifty arquebusiers who succeeded in stopping Shingen's advance. Shingen lost two of his senior vassals, Itagaki Nobukata and Amari Torayasu and was himself injured by a spear.

Shingen's biggest blow, however, came in 1550 when he attacked Toishi Castle with 7,000 troops. The castle was surrounded on 29 August and attacked on 9 September. It was manned by only 500 defenders, as Yoshikiyo and his forces had embarked on a campaign against the Takanashi, another powerful clan in Shinano (present-day Nagano Prefecture). Shingen's army, however, encountered fierce resistance and was unable to breach the steep walls of the fortifications. One of his generals, Yokota Toramatsu, was killed during the siege. Meanwhile, Yoshikiyo made peace with the Takanashi and on 23 September rushed back to relieve the castle with 4,000 soldiers. In light of the approaching Murakami forces, Shingen decided to withdraw but sustained heavy losses in the hot pursuit. This battle entered the annals of history as the 'Rout of Toishi'.

In 1551, the castle finally fell to Sanada Yukitaka (真田幸隆, 1512-1574), one of Takeda Shingen's twenty-four generals. The Sanada had ruled this area and used their clout to persuade a former vassal to open the castle to their forces. After the capture of Toishi Castle, the region came again under the control of the Sanada. After the downfall of the Takeda, the Sanada enjoyed a few years of independence and moved their headquarters to Ueda Castle. During the Battle of Sekigahara (1600) the castle fell to Sanada Nobuyuki (真田信之, 1566-1658) who sided with Tokugawa Ieyasu.

The castle consists of four subcastles: the main castle is located the centre, Toishi Castle (as a sub castle) in the south, Masugata Castle in north and Komeyama Castle in the southwest. The ridge of Higashitaroyama is surrounded by steep slopes, which helped fend off the Takeda forces successfully.

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The map is based on GSI Map powered by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan.

Visiting the castle


I went to see the castle by car. I turned to Higashitaroyama at Iseyama crossing along National Route 144. The turreted gate at the entrance of the path leading up to the castle does not appear to be quite authentic.

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We climbed along the ridge until the path forked to Toishi Castle and Komeyama Castle. We first visited Komeyama Castle, following a challenging trail up a slippery and steep slope. A stone wall is visible at the base part of the castle.

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① We arrived at Komeyama Castle. It took about 15 minutes from the entrance.

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Back at the fork, we continued to Toishi Castle. Stairs made the path somewhat more comfortable to climb. The continuously stepped topography seems to mark the location of the former enclosures.

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② Toishi Castle, about 15 minutes from Komeyama Castle.

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The view of Ueda from Toishi Castle

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③ There are remains of stone walls near the Main Castle.

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Not your usual bamboo but 'arrow bamboo'. The straight stems were used for arrow shafts.

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④ Masugata Castle is located on the northern perimeter. It takes five minutes from the main castle.

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The view of Sanada-machi from Masugata Castle.

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⑤ When we descended, we took the wrong path and arrived at the main entrance of Toishi Castle.

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⑥ Walking to the parking lot, we passed through the village where it seemed that every house had a formidable warehouse.

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Date of visit: 12 October 2013

Access:

  • Address: Ueno, Ueda-shi, Nagano
  • Transport: 3kilometres from Joshinetsu Expressway Ueda-Sugadaira Interchange via National Route 144
  • Parking: in front of the entrance (free: 'P' on the above map)
  • Other sights: Ueda Castle, Sanada Residence, Sanada Honcho

Map:


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

Comments

Uehara-san,
Thank you for doing this series on Japanse castles. I did my undergraduate degree in History, and took many classes of Japanese history.

This post is of particular interest to me because i'm a big fan of Takeda Shingen and his retainers. Among the Takeda retainers, I'm particularly fond of the Sanada clan, so its interesting to see the area that the Sanada captured and used a headquarters.

Thank you for providing the pictures. I will make a not of this location, so I can visit it myself!

烏天狗
 

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