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Travel Kofu Castle

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This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
Kōfu Castle (甲府城 Kōfu-jō), also known as Maizuru Castle, was built by Asano Yoshinaga (浅野幸長, 1576-1613) in 1600, as a new government base of Kai Province after the collapse of the Takeda clan. Yoshinaga was the son of Asano Nagamasa (浅野長政, 1546-1611), an advisor and the brother-in-law of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. After the Battle of Sekigahara, the Tokugawa took control of the province.

Kōfu Castle was ruled over by
  • Tokugawa Yoshinao (徳川義直, 1601-1650), the ninth son of Ieyasu
  • Tokugawa Tadanaga (徳川忠長, 1606-1634), the son of the second shōgun Hidetada
  • Tokugawa Tsunashige (徳川綱重, 1644-1678), a son of third shōgun Iemitsu
  • Tokugawa Tsunatoyo who later became the sixth shōgun as Tokugawa Ienobu (徳川家宣) (1662-1712)
In 1705, Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu (柳沢 吉保, 1658-1714), a loyal retainer of the fifth shōgun Tsunayoshi became its lord. Under Yoshiyasu, Kōfu grew into a thriving castle town..

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In 1724 however, the Yanagisawa clan moved to Yamato-Kōriyama Domain, and no new daimyō was designated. In addition, the town was destroyed by a fire in 1727 and the castle became derelict. It was abandoned in the Meiji Period and, except for the stone walls and parts of the moats, demolished in 1877. The former castle grounds were turned into Maizuru Castle Park (舞鶴城公園) and reopened to the public in 1904.

The castle is a hilltop castle (山城 yamajiro) built on a small hill southeast of modern-day current Kōfu Station.

In the aerial view below I positioned the main enclosure (本丸 honmaru) on the mountaintop, where the base of the castle tower on the eastern end is located. Surrounding it are the second enclosure (二の丸 ni-no-maru), also called the Inari enclosure, the Kaji enclosure and others. Further outside are the Yakata enclosure on the western side, the Shimizu enclosure on the northwest side across Kōfu station and the Gakuya enclosure, now home to the Yamanashi Prefectural Office on the southwestern perimeter of the former castle grounds. After the Meiji Restoration, most of the buildings were demolished, but in the past few years the reconstruction of the Inari Turret, the Yamate Gate, and the Kurogane Gate, made good progress.

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The map is based on Google Earth, the location of the enclosures are based on my estimates.

The site of the former castle is well visible from Kōfu station. The station is located right next to the castle site.

① The area of castle extends to the northern side of Kōfu station. This picture below displays a restored stone wall in the open space of the north entrance. This is the location of the former Shimizu Enclosure.

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② Yamate Gate on the northeastern side of Kōfu Station. It is held in an architectural style typical of the Edo Period.

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The view of the main enclosure as seen from Kōfu Station.

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③ The reconstructed Uchimatsukage Gate at the entrance of the castle site. We were climbing up to the main enclosure from here.

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④ The site of the main enclosure as seen from on the mountaintop

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The base of the castle tower. It was not rectangular but had a quite unique shape. It is not clear whether the donjon had ever been completed, but are initiatives aiming at reconstructing it.

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⑤ Kurogane Gate, the southern entrance to the main enclosure, was restored, too. Looking brand-new and immaculate, it felt a bit out of place.

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⑥ Looking up to the main enclosure area from Yuki Bridge, the view of the inclining stone wall reaching up to the top of the castle was overwhelmingly beautiful.

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⑦ Inari Turret at the northern perimeter was restored. It houses a small museum.

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Can you find the pattern on the stone in the picture below? Such patterns of triangles, stars, birds and fish were commonly found on the stone walls of Kōfu Castle. According to one theory, they were talismans against evil.

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Date of visit: 17 August 2013

Access


  • Address: Marunouchi, Kofu-shi, Yamanashi (Map)
  • Transportation: 5 minutes from JR Chuo line Kofu station on foot
    5km from Chuo Expwy Kofu-showa IC
  • Other sights: Tsutsujigasaki Residence, Yogai Castle


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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