One of Nobeoka Castle’s most impressive features is the 22-meter-high stone wall around the central Hon-Maru citadel. Legend has it that if the castle were ever attacked and a specific keystone was moved, the wall would collapse, killing 1,000 invaders!

Formerly known as Agata Castle, Nobeoka Castle in Kyushu’s east-central Miyazaki Prefecture was originally the fortified residence of the Tsuchimochi clan from the 10th century. The Tsuchimochi controlled lands across Kyushu’s Hyuga region but lost much of their holdings when the Kamakura Shogunate allocated the southern districts to the Shimizu clan and the Miyazaki plains to the Ito clan, leaving the Tsuchimochi with only the northern areas. As expected, various clans fought among each other for a greater share of the fertile lands. In 1587, the region came under the control of Takahashi Mototane, who, despite his affiliation with Ishida Mitsunari at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, maintained his lands and commenced construction of Nobeoka Castle in 1601, completing it in 1603.

Situated between two rivers that meet just east of Nobeoka, the castle was perched on a plateau-like hill approximately 200 meters long and 100 meters wide, with three elliptical terraces featuring well-constructed ishigaki dry stone walls along the western face. This is where the Sennnin Goroshi, or the Thousand Killer Wall, a 20-meter-high, 70-meter-long wall, can be found. The shape of the wall’s corner is intriguing, as it curves downward before suddenly curving into a near-vertical drop toward the ground, resembling a reverse-angled fortissimo ( f ) mark. The eastern side of the castle does not have any stone wall work.


The Takahashi were replaced by Arima Yasuzumi in 1613 following a falling out with the Tokugawa Shogunate and expulsion. The Arima clan, formerly of Hinoe Castle in Nagasaki, strengthened the castle, adding not a keep but a three-story turret, and changed the name from Agata to Nobeoka Castle. The turret was destroyed in a blaze that started in the town in 1682 and was never replaced. The castle had a central Hon-Maru, Ni, and San no Maru baileys surrounding it, while the Nishi no Maru to the west was the site of the lord’s residence. This area also covered a 200-meter-long, 100-meter-wide stretch of land that enhanced the castle's defensive capabilities, allowing it to act like a Demaru, an outer defense separate from the main castle if the need ever arose.

The Arima were dismissed following peasant uprisings, and for the following years, various hereditary retainers of the Tokugawa were placed in charge until 1747, when the Naito clan of Aichi Prefecture was transferred to Nobeoka and remained until the beginning of the Meiji Period. The Naito clan graveyard can be found next to the Otemon Gate.

Although the castle was decommissioned in 1870, it finally saw battle in 1877 when Saigo Takamori and his troops took over the castle but were ousted by the Imperial troops. Saigo Takamori and his men fled to near Kagoshima, where they met their deaths shortly after.


See also

  • Ueda Castle


    Ueda Castle in Nagano Prefecture once stood prominently on a cliff overlooking the Saigawa River. Also known as Amagafuchi-Jo, Isesaki-Jo, Matsuo-Jo, and Sanada-Jo, it was built around 1583 by its first master, Sanada Masayuki. This sturdy yet small fortress cleverly utilized the surrounding natural defenses, including the river, steep rocky cliffs, the layout of the town below, and the strategically designed waterways to hinder attackers. Ueda Castle was fortified with seven defensive yagura (watchtowers) atop robust stone walls and had two large gates with watchtowers above them.

    Read more …

  • Tsuyama Castle


    Tsuyama Castle, located in Tsuyama City, Okayama Prefecture, is celebrated as one of Japan's top three major hilltop (Hirayama) castles, alongside Himeji and Matsuyama Castles. Originally, Tsuyama Castle comprised 77 structures, including the main keep, various yagura (watchtowers), gates, palaces, and living quarters. For comparison, Hiroshima Castle had 76 structures, and Himeji had 61. The first castle on this site was built in 1441 but was soon abandoned. The large-scale construction that we recognize today began in 1603 under the orders of Mori Tadamasa. The castle served as the administrative base for the Tsuyama Han daimyo, the Mori clan from 1603 to 1697, and the Matsudaira clan from 1698 to 1871.

    Read more …

  • Tsu Castle


    Tsu Castle, located in Tsu City, Mie Prefecture, was originally built by Hosono Fujiatsu in 1558 and was known as Anotsu Castle, named after the old region. The site was strategically chosen at the confluence of the Ano and Iwata Rivers, which naturally formed a moat around the castle, while the nearby port served as a vital trade route.

    Read more …

  • Sasayama Castle


    Tamba Sasayama Castle, also known as Sasayama or Kirigajo (Mist Castle), is a flatland castle (hira-jiro) situated on a gentle rise in the Tamba region of Hyogo Prefecture. It was constructed in 1608 as part of Tokugawa Ieyasu's strategy to prepare for an attack on Osaka, aiming to bring an end to the Toyotomi clan. Ieyasu ordered the castle's construction using the Tenka Bushin system, engaging 20 former enemy daimyo and their forces to complete the complex within six months. This system kept the former enemies close and preoccupied, financially straining them and limiting their capacity for further conflict. The stones used in Sasayama Castle feature engravings called kokumon, indicating who made each part of the walls and preventing theft by other lords' men.

    Read more …

  • Sadowara Castle


    Sadowara Castle in Miyazaki Prefecture was a mountaintop yamajiro castle, initially built by the Tajima clan during the Nanboku-Cho period (1334-1394). As was typical of castles from that era, Mt. Kakusho, the chosen mountain, was terraced to create various baileys, or kuruwa. While defensive structures were constructed at the top and around the mountain, the lord's main living quarters and administrative offices were situated at the mountain's base.

    Read more …

  • Osaka Castle


    Osaka Castle is a prominent symbol of Osaka City, originally constructed in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi on the site of the Ishiyama Hongan-ji temple-fortress, which had been the scene of a violent uprising by warrior monks and peasants in the late 16th century. Modeled on Oda Nobunaga’s Azuchi Castle, the original Osaka Castle tenshu (tower keep) featured five visible floors, six interior floors, and two underground basements. The exterior was lacquered black and adorned with gold decorations, including large peony flowers, tigers, birds, and various crests.

    Read more …

  • Okazaki Castle


    The Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, was born in Okazaki Castle in 1542 during a period of significant civil unrest. At that time, the Tokugawa, then known as the Matsudaira, controlled the rice-rich Mikawa plains of what is now eastern Aichi Prefecture. This fertile region was highly coveted by surrounding warlords. Ieyasu, a shrewd leader and brilliant tactician, managed to maintain and expand his territories. Following in the footsteps of other national unifiers, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Ieyasu emerged victorious at the decisive Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. In 1603, he was invested as Shogun, a title he made hereditary, enabling the Tokugawa family to rule Japan for the next 250 years.

    Read more …

  • Ogaki Castle


    Ogaki Castle, located in Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture, was originally built around 1500 by Miyakawa Yasusada and named Ushiya Castle due to the Ushiya River serving as a natural moat. The castle was also known as Bi Castle and Kyoroku Castle. The Ogaki region held strategic importance as a transit point between Mino and Omi Provinces, a fact recognized by Saito Dosan, the Viper of Mino. When Oda Nobunaga captured Gifu Castle in 1567, Ogaki Castle came under Oda rule. Both Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi understood the strategic significance of the castle. In 1595, Hideyoshi ordered Ito Sukemori to expand the castle and construct the Tenshu keep.

    Read more …