This article is about castle ruins that are a little bit different from what we usually explore.
Tenjinyama Castle (天神山城) is located in Nagatoro, Saitama Prefecture, on top of a hill on the eastern bank of the Arakawa River.
The map is based on Google Earth; the location of the enclosure may not be accurate.
The castle was constructed around 1540 by Fujita Shigetoshi (藤田康邦, 1513-1555), a vassal of the Yamanoue branch of the Uesugi. After the Hōjō clan defeated the Uesugi in the famous "Night Battle of Kawagoe" in 1546, the Fujita clan served the Hōjō. Hōjō Ujikuni took over the castle but soon moved his base to Hachigata Castle. It is said that Shigetoshi was poisoned by Ujikuni.
The mountain trail to the castle was supposed to start at the foot of the hill somewhere around Shiratori Shrine which has a history of more than 1,000 years. Purportedly, the name Tenjinyama derived from the shrine (天神山 Tenjin-yama means "Mountain of the Gods").
Without any map or directions, I climbed up the mountain trail on the left-hand side of the shrine. The footpath, however, ended abruptly. First, I intended to return, but I then decided to continue climbing, reckoning my destination was close.
On the steep slopes, I slid several times; clinging to trees, I somehow managed to ascend. When I finally crested the ridge, perspiration ran down my forehead. It had only taken around 15 minutes or so.
I could now envisage the great challenges foot soldiers faced when attacking mountain castles.
I was walking along the ridge towards the site of the former castle. Out of nowhere a mysterious donjon towered in front of me.
The tower, meant to become a tourist attraction, was built in 1970, but had been completely abandoned and was now (the irony!) in ruins. In a sense, it reflected the sorry state of the original abandoned castle.
Trying to find a right spot to descend the mountain I stumbled over a modern bridge. I supposed it covered a dried fosse dating back to the original castle structure.
What kind of turret was that supposed to be?
I found an easy route and started descending the mountain.
Suddenly something moved, big brown creatures! I was afraid they were stray dogs, but fortunately, they turned out to be two deer. They were crossing at a fast pace about 30 meters in front of me. I aimed my camera in a hurry, but regrettably, they had already disappeared. Nevertheless, I was excited to have crossed path with such graceful animals.
When I finally got off to a road, I heaved a sigh of relief. Once again I looked up at the mountain.
Tenjinyama Castle seems to be a popular spot, though more among ruins enthusiasts rather than castles enthusiasts. If you want to explore the castle hill, you should prepare for some mountain climbing.
Date of visit: 22nd June 2013
- Address: Iwata, Nagatoro-machi, Chichibu-gun, Saitama Map
- Transportation: 14km from Kanetsu Expwy Hanazono IC to Shiratori Shrine
- Other sights: Shiratori Shrine