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  1. Travel Usui Castle

    Usui Castle (臼井城) is a hilltop castle near present-day Sakura City, Chiba Prefecture. Its ruins are now part of Usui Castle Park. The castle is located on a plateau overlooking Lake Imbanuma to the north-east. According to legend Usui Tsuneyasu (臼井常安, 1106-1168) founded the castle. The Usui were descendants of the Chiba clan and ruled over the castle until 1561. In that year, Masaki Tokishige (正木時茂, 1513-1561), a retainer of Satomi Yoshitaka, who came to support Uesugi Kenshin in his siege of Odawara, attacked and put Usui Hisatane (臼井久胤) to rout. The castle was then taken over by Hara...
  2. Travel Konodai Castle

    When you cross Edo River on Keisei Line toward Chiba, you can see a huge plateau on the opposite bank. This is the Kōnodai (国府台) plateau with its long history that not only encompasses a Sengoku-era castle but reaches back to Paleolithic settlements. (This map bases on Tokyo Terrain Map powered by gridscapes.net) The castle is said to have been constructed by Ōta Dōkan (太田道灌, 1432-1486) who established a temporary camp there. Kōnodai turned into an important strategic point between the provinces of Musashi and Shimōsa and into a battleground of the Kantō warlords. Kōnodai was the...
  3. Travel Setagaya Castle

    Once upon a time, right in the center of Tōkyō's Setagaya Ward near the present-day ward office, there was a small fortress called Setagaya Castle (世田谷城). The ancient castle was located on the tip of a tongue-shaped plateau that stretched south from the hills between Gōtōkuji (豪徳寺駅) and Kyōdō (経堂駅) stations on Odakyu Line, surrounded by Karasuyama River (now a culvert). This map is based Tokyo Terrain Map powered by gridscapes.net Nowadays, the former inner bailey (本丸 honmaru) is located on the grounds of the adjacent Gōtōkuji temple, and the south-eastern enclosure of the castle became...
  4. Travel Inohana Castle

    Inohana Castle (亥鼻城 ), also known as Chiba Castle, is located in Chiba City and was constructed on the Inohana Plateau, close to the present-day Chiba Prefectural Office. The Chiba clan (千葉氏), a cadet branch of the Kanmu Heike clan,* established a fortification there as early as 1126. For some 330 years, the town prospered as an important commercial and cultural center in Kanto area, along with Kamakura. In 1455, Makuwari Yasutane (馬加胤持) a retainer related to the clan, defeated the Chiba and took their name. Yasutane's son Suketane abandoned Inohana Castle and moved to Motosakura Castle...
  5. Travel Miharu Castle

    Miharu Castle (三春城) is located in Miharu-machi in the Abukuma Mountains, 10km east of Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture. Being an old castle town, Miharu has many temples and a picturesque town center held in traditional Japanese style. The castle lies on a hill called Shiroyama and faces the eastern boroughs of the town. Almost none of the original buildings survived, only the Hanko Gate (Hanko was a school founded by the Tamura clan) is still on display at the entrance to Miharu elementary school. During the Edo Period (1600-1868) the residence of the daimyō was situated on the grounds...
  6. Travel Tsuchiura Castle

    Tsuchiura Castle (土浦城 Tsuchiura-jō) is a flatland castle (平城 hirajiro) located in the wetlands along the western shore of Lake Kasumigaura, at the mouth of the Sakuragawa (桜川), in Ibaraki Prefecture. It is also known as Kijō (亀城, Turtle castle), because in times of severe flooding it looked as if the castle buildings emerged from the water, like a turtle floating on the surface of the sea. (This map is based on Google Earth. The location may not be completely accurate.) According to folk tradition the first castle was built in Tsuchiura in the Heian Period. Around 1430, Wakaizumi Saburō...
  7. Travel National Museum of Japanese History

    The National Museum of Japanese History (国立歴史民俗博物館 Kokuritsu Rekishi Minzoku Hakubutsukan) is located in Sakura City, Chiba Prefecture. Also known as "Rekihaku", it was established in 1981 as a university research institute and opened to the public in 1983. The collections of the museum focus on the history, archaeology, and folk culture of Japan and hold some 200,000 artifacts. Rekihaku The permanent exhibitions comprise six galleries divided into twenty-five topics. There are also several Special Exhibitions throughout the year (additional admission fee). Gallery 1: currently closed...
  8. Travel Oda Castle

    Oda Castle (小田城) is a Japanese flatland castle located in Ibaraki Prefecture. It faces the scenic Mount Tsukuba in the north. (The map is based on Google Earth. *All locations are based on my speculation, so they may not be correct.) Since the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), members of the distinguished Oda clan had been the successive lords of the castle. During the period of the Northern and Southern Courts in 14th century, the Oda supported the Southern Court. The famous court noble Kitabatake Chikafusa (北畠親房, 1293-1354), a senior advisor to the Southern Court, once stayed at the castle,...
  9. Travel Shakujii Castle

    Shakujii Castle (石神井城 Shakujii-jō) was located in what is nowadays Shakujii Park in Nerima Ward, western Tokyo. It was constructed in the late Kamakura Period (1185-1333) by the Toshima clan (豊島氏), very likely on older structures dating back to the Heian Period. I visited the castle grounds, coming from Kami-Shakujii station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line. I had been walking through a calm residential area for about 20 minutes, crossing the Shakujii River (石神井川) which was the castle's southern line of defense, passing Hikawa Shrine. The shrine, constructed by the Toshima clan, is located at...
  10. Travel Osorezan

    Osorezan (恐山, Mount Osore, 879 m), often transliterated as "Mount Fear" or "Mountain of Terror", is a composite volcano located on Shimokita Peninsula in the north of Aomori Prefecture. It is part of the Shimokita Peninsula Quasi-National Park. Lake Usori (宇曾利湖) is in the centre of its caldera. Osorezan is notorious as a place where the spirits of the dead are believed to linger on their way to the Buddhist paradise. Lake Usori Lake Usori is surrounded by steaming banks with countless vents emitting sulphuric gas. The only plant life able to survive in the wasteland are rhododendrons....
  11. Travel Iwatsuki Castle

    Iwatsuki Castle (岩槻城) was constructed in the mid-15th century in what is now Saitama City in Saitama Prefecture. It was the residence of the Ota (太田) clan in the early 16th century and afterwards taken over by the Late Hōjō. During Toyotomi Hideyoshi's siege of Odawara Castle in 1590, the castle fell within a few days. In the early Edo Period, many fudai daimyō (feudal lords who were hereditary vassals to the Tokugawa family) became lords of Iwatsuki Castle which was regarded as an important fortification in the defence of Edo. Nowadays, the former castle grounds are part of the Iwatsuki...
  12. Travel Shoshazan Engyoji Temple

    Shoshazan Engyō-ji (書寫山圓教寺, "Temple of Complete Teachings") is a temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism located northwest of Himeji City. History Engyō-ji was founded in 966 on top of Mount Shosha (371m) by the priest Shōku Shōnin (性空上人, 910-1007) in what was then known as Harima Province (modern-day Hyōgo Prefecture). It is the twenty-seventh station of the Thirty-Three Temples of the Western Pilgrimage (西国三十三所 Saigoku Sanjūsan-sho) in the Kansai region of Japan, of similar fame as the Shikoku Pilgrimage. As is the case with many of the great temples and edifices of Japan, it was...
  13. Travel Engakuji Temple

    The Engaku-ji (円覚寺), officially known as the Zuirokuzan Engaku Kōshō Zenji (瑞鹿山円覚興聖禅寺), is the head temple of the Engakuji branch of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism and one of the most important Zen Buddhist temples in Japan. It is located in Kita-kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture. The Engakuji was founded in 1282 by Hōjō Tokimune (北条 時宗, 1251-1284), the eighth regent (執権 shikken) of the Kamakura shogunate who played a vital role in repelling the Mongolian invasion. The temple served as a residence for the Chinese Zen master Mugaku Sogen (無学祖元, 1226-1286), also known as Bukko Kokushi (仏光国師),...
  14. Travel Ashikaga Gakko

    Ashikaga Gakkō (足利学校, Ashikaga School) was a major educational facility of the Muromachi Period (1333-1573), and is located in what is now the city of Ashikaga in Tochigi Prefecture. The exact date of its founding is unknown; there are several theories about the identity of the original founder, but the most likely candidate is Ashikaga Yoshikane (足利義兼, 1154-1199), a warrior in the service of the Kamakura shogunate. At its inception, it was little more than a library for the use of family members. Only in 1439, when Uesugi Norizane (上杉憲実, 1410-1466), who held a number of high government...
  15. Travel Kanazawa Bunko

    Kanazawa Bunko (金沢文庫), also known as the Kanesawa (or Kanezawa) Bunko, is a library located in Kanazawa-chō, Kanazawa-ku, in the city of Yokohama. Along with the Ashikaga Gakkō library, it was one of the two most important centers of learning in medieval Japan. Nowadays, it is a private museum that features a collection of traditional Japanese and Chinese art objects open to the general public. Kanezawa Sanetoki Kanezawa Sanetoki (金沢実時), also called Hōjō Sanetoki (北条実時, 1224-1276) was the founder of the Kanazawa Bunko (Kanazawa Library). He was a member of the Kanezawa branch of the Hōjō...
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