Nirayama Castle (韮山城 Nirayama-jō) is located in the northern neck of Izu Peninsula, in present-day Izunokuni. In 1493, Hōjō Sōun who had risen to power in Kokokuji Castle defeated Horikoshi-kubō Ashikaga Chachamaru who had ruled Izu and put the entire peninsula under his control. He rebuilt Nirayama Castle and moved there from Kokokuji Castle, setting it up as his new headquarters. Later, Soun captured Odawara Castle and extended his rule over the provinces of Sagami and Musashi. However, he maintained Nirayama Castle as his power base until his death.
When Sōun's son Ujitsuna transferred his base to Odawara Castle, Nirayama Castle remained an important strategic location for the Hōjō. Ujinori, the son of the third head of the clan Ujiyasu, became the lord of the castle around 1560. During the Siege of Odawara in 1590, Ujinori stayed in Nirayama with several thousand of his retainers and resisted an army of 40,000 for three months, surrendering only after Odawara had fallen.
Later, one of Tokugawa Ieyasu's retainers, Naito Nobunari, held the castle until his transfer to Sunpu Castle in Shizuoka in 1601 when Nirayama Castle was finally abandoned.
I went there by car and used the free parking lot in front of Egawa's Mansion, another important cultural property. I could spot the castle from the pond at the foot of the hill.
The old map showed that the enclosures lined up with the hill in front of the pond.
The main gate of the castle, with the passage turning to the right.
Gongen enclosure surrounded by earthworks.
The second enclosure was located on a slight elevation.
The path to the main enclosure, flanked by steep cliffs.
I arrived at the main enclosure which was not as wide as I had imagined.
View from the main enclosure. One fine days Mt. Fuji is visible in the distance.
The narrow enclosure that led from the main enclosure to the south.
Southeast of Nirayama, there were four forts, Dotewada, Wadashima, Amagatake and Egawa which had been constructed to support the castle.
The map is based on Google Earth. The location of enclosures or others structures are approximate.
Other sights in Nirayama
In addition to the castle and Egawa's Mansion, Nirayama has another famous site: the Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace (韮山反射炉). The Tokugawa shogunate ordered Egawa Hidetatsu to build a furnace to produce cannons; it was completed in 1857. As the furnace contributed to Japan's Industrial Revolution, it was registered as a World Heritage site in 2015.
- Address: Nirayama, Izunokuni-shi, Shizuoka [Map]
- Transportation: 15 minutes from Izu-Hakone Railways Sunzu line Nirayama station on foot
16km from Tomei Expwy Numazu IC via National Route 136
- Other sights: Egawa's mansion; Nirayama reverberatory furnace