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Castle Katsurao Castle

This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
Katsurao Castle (葛尾城 Katsurao-jō) is a hilltop castle located in Sakaki-machi (坂城町) between Nagano City and Ueda in Nagano Prefecture. It lies on a mountain range stretching towards Chikuma River overlooking Hokkoku Kaidō (北国街道).


During the Sengoku Period, the castle was the residence of the Murakami clan. In the Tenbun era (天文, 1532-1555), Murakami Yoshikiyo (村上義清, 1501-1573) opposed Takeda Shingen's attempts at invading Shinano Province and defeated him in the Battle of Uedahara (上田原の戦い) in 1548, Shingen's first major defeat. After Toishi Castle had been captured by the Takeda in 1551, more and more vassals like the Yashiro, the Amemiya, and Shiozaki deserted the cause of the Murakami. In 1553, Yoshikiyo managed to recapture Katsurao Castle but abandoned it in August when he escaped to Uesugi Kenshin in Echigo Province.

In the days leading up to the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), Tokugawa Hidetada (徳川秀忠, 1579-1632) attacked Ueda Castle on his way to join his father's forces, but was forced to give up his siege and proceed to Sekihagahara where he arrived too late to play a decisive role in the battle. Mori Tadamasa (森忠政, 1570-1634) who supported Ieyasu's eastern army and controlled Matsushiro Castle (松代城) deployed soldiers at Katsurao Castle to monitor the troop movements around Ueda Castle. The fate of the castle after 1600 is not clear and it is not known when it was finally abandoned.


This map was based on GSI Map powered by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan

The former castle ground is now home to Sakaki Shrine (榊神社). There is a parking lot right behind the shrine.

① The entrance of the castle site is a diagonal opposite side of the parking lot.


② Climbing up the ridge, I soon arrived at an open space. The path continued straight up the steep and slippery slope. If I were attacked by the enemy from that elevated position, I would be defeated easily.


Just beneath the summit was a narrow and flat clearing. I assumed that this was the location of the ninomaru ( 二の丸, second enclosure) or the sannomaru (三の丸., third enclosure).


③ At last, I arrived at the main enclosure (本丸 honmaru), a climb that should have taken 70 minutes according to the local guide board. The main enclosure was far from being vast: though the castle served as the base of the Murakami clan, there was not enough space to build a residence anywhere on the hilltop and the castle was never used in times of peace. The entire area appeared so crammed and limited that I doubt the castle could have been manned with sizeable numbers of defenders. As history has shown, Yoshikiyo who had tormented Shingen so hard escaped from here without putting up any resistance.


The view of the northwestern part of Chikuma City from the honmaru.


The view of Sakaki Town from the southeastern part of the castle grounds. Ueda City is located just behind the mountain range.


Heading back, I visited the southern auxiliary fortress, Hime Castle. The path was not very well-maintained. There were trenches constructed on the back and the front side of Hime Castle. This is the trench on the northern side.


④ Finally, I arrived at Hime Castle. There were not a lot of remains to be seen.


The trench on the southern side of Hime Castle.


Date of visit: 12 October 2013


  • Address: Sakaki, Skaki-cho, Hanishina-gun, Nagano
  • Transport: (To Entrance)
    10 minutes from Shinano Railway line Sakaki station on foot
    6km from Joshin-Etsu Expressway Sakaki Interchange via National route 18
  • Parking: Free parking lot in the right backside of Sakaki Shrine (Spot 'P' pointed on the above map)


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


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