On 14th August, hubby and I visited Iga Ueno Castle located in Iga-Ueno City of Mie prefecture. This castle is located in Ueno Park along with Iga-ryu Ninja Museum that we had visited earlier in the day. Iga Ueno Castle is an elegant white colored hilltop castle sitting on huge stone walls, which creates a beautiful image in the quite surrounding area. The castle is also known as Hakuho-jo or White Phoenix Castle. The castle is situated in the northern hill of the city, and was founded by Takigawa Katsutoshi in 1585. However he was soon dispossessed of his lands by feudal lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tsutsui Sadatsugu was appointed as a successor of the castle. Sadatsugu constructed the innermost bailey (honmaru) and a three storied main tower donjon (tenshu) of the castle. Sadatsugu was then succeeded by Todo Takatora. Takatora had an uncanny military prowess and political sense, and after initially serving Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he sided with feudal lord Tokugawa Ieyasu at the decisive Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Therefore Takatora was in good books of Ieyasu. In 1608 Sadatsugu was accused of poor governance, his lands were confiscated, and his clan was abolished by Ieyasu. In his place, Ieyasu installed Takatora as the successor of the castle. Takatora was renowned as one of the finest castle architects of his time. He initiated a major renovation of the castle to fortify the defenses against a resurgence of Hideyoshi's followers. He built 30 meters high walls encircling the main tower donjon of the honmaru, which to this day remains the tallest walls of any castle in Japan. He also began rebuilding the donjon of the castle as a white five storied structure. Unfortunately, before the five storied donjon could be completed, it was destroyed by a rainstorm in 1612. It was also around that time that Toyotomi clan was destroyed and the threat of any rebellion had already passed, and therefore this castle was not considered as important as it once was. As a result, it was decided not to rebuild the donjon of the castle. This led to the castle being without a donjon tower for the next 320 years. The castle gradually started decaying and fell into ruin, and was completely abandoned in 1871. In 1935, a local politician named Kawasaki Katsu financed the reconstruction of a three leveled and three storied main donjon and an adjacent smaller two storied donjon. This reconstructed donjon is made of wood and not concrete, and maintains the essence of Momoyama style architecture of the late 16th century. The main donjon now serves as a museum, and has a collection of artifacts related to the history of the castle and Iga-Ueno City. The castle is now a national historic site.
Iga Ueno Castle is located in Ueno Park very near to Iga-ryu Ninja Museum. We had visited the ninja museum earlier in the day. Afterwards, from the ninja museum we walked for about ten minutes and reached the castle. As we neared the castle premises, we got a wonderful view of the three storied main donjon among the trees in the park. At the honmaru area, we took several photos of the donjon from various angles and positions. From the castle premises located on a hilltop, we saw the water filled castle moat and the famous 30 meters high original walls of the honmaru. In addition, we got stunning views of Iga-Ueno city and the surrounding mountains in the background.
Castle donjon among the trees in the park
Me along with the main and small donjons in the background
The donjons as viewed from another position inside the castle premises
I am standing near the entrance of the donjon
Water filled moat of the castle
Side view of the 30 meters high original walls of the honmaru
Iga-Ueno city and the mountains in the background as viewed from the hilltop castle premises
At the entrance of the castle donjon, we paid 500 Yen per person as admission fee to enter inside the main donjon to see the museum. The main donjon has castle related historic materials on display. The first floor of the donjon has a main hall that is very open and spacious. In this hall, we saw a statue of a ninja climbing up a wall. Iga clan ninja were known to stealthily infiltrate this castle for information and secret missions. In the center of the main hall, there is a display of a sitting statue of Todo Takatora along with three armors and helmets. This floor has several display cases exhibiting a collection of armors, helmets, weaponry, and pottery works from Tsutsui era as well as Todo era. We loved a Toukan style helmet that is exhibited in this floor. Toyotomi Hideyoshi gave this helmet to Todo Takatora, and then it was passed on to Todo Yoshishige who wore it at the Battle of Osaka. This helmet is now designated as a Mie prefecture cultural asset. This floor also has an interesting display case exhibiting ornamental roof tiles and Shachihoko used in the construction and architectural design of the roof of the donjons. Shachihoko is an animal in Japanese folklore which is believed to protect the castles from fire. In addition, we saw a model of a litter (vehicle) named Norimono that was used as a mode of transport by Todo clan. We also saw a beautiful scale model of the castle which was created by a stained glass craftsman named Horiguchi Kenjiro of Tsu City.
Entrance of the main donjon
Main hall of the first floor showing a statue of a ninja climbing up the wall
The main hall as viewed from another angle
Sitting statue of Todo Takatora along with three armors and helmets exhibited in the center of the main hall
I am standing next to the statue of Todo Takatora and the armors
Few more armors
Hubby standing next to the display of several more armors
Toukan style helmet
Throat and neck guards and protectors; some of them can also protect cheek and face
I am standing next to the display of ornamental roof tiles and Shachihoko
A scale model of the castle
The second floor of the main donjon has several displays cases exhibiting many beautifully written scrolls, pottery works, and paintings of Todo Takatora and his clan. Photos of all the castles of feudal era Japan are also displayed at this floor. Hubby explained to me about many of the castles but I was not really listening to him as I was busy looking at the scrolls. So he got a bit annoyed with me.
I am standing at the second floor of the donjon
A painting of Todo Takatora
Hubby explaining about various castles of feudal era Japan
Hubby a bit annoyed at me
The third floor of the main donjon is more or less empty. There is a raised dais at this floor where hubby stood and enjoyed the outside view. From this floor, we could clearly see the roof of the second floor of the adjacent small donjon. Two Shachihoko that adorn this roof of the adjacent donjon looked so elegant and beautiful. The salient feature of the top floor of the main donjon is that it offers a great 360 degrees view of Iga-Ueno City. We loved viewing the city surrounded by the mountains in the background.
I am standing at the third floor of the donjon
Hubby standing on the dais
Two Shachihoko on the second floor roof of the adjacent small donjon
View of Iga-Ueno City from the top floor of the main donjon
Another view of the city
Yet another view of the city
We enjoyed viewing the display of various historic materials exhibited inside the castle main donjon that serves as a museum. We loved visiting Iga Ueno Castle. Afterwards we left the castle premises and walked back to Ueno-shi railway station where we had parked our car. Near the railway station, we saw a huge statue of the famous poet of Edo period named Matsuo Basho who was born in this city.
Statue of Matsuo Basho near Ueno-shi railway station
We returned back to hubby’s ancestral home in Ichinomiya City and stayed there for one more day during the Obon holidays. Afterwards we returned back to Akita and to the usual life.