The impressive ruins of Koriyama Castle sit atop a small hill, surrounded by two rivers. The strategic positioning and strong layout of the castle served it well through the final years of the Sengoku period and the peaceful days of the Edo period.

Tsutsui Junkei (1549-1584), after defeating Matsunaga Hisahide with the assistance of Oda Nobunaga, relocated from Tsutsui Castle to Koriyama and built the magnificent castle as a symbol of his mastery over the Yamato region. Two years after its completion in 1580, Akechi Mitsuhide attacked Oda Nobunaga in the Honno-ji Incident and sought Tsutsui’s military assistance at Horagatoge Pass. Tsutsui, who had served under Akechi since allying with the Oda, hesitated and observed the unfolding events before deciding his course of action. This delayed response led to the Japanese saying “Horagatoge wo kimekomu,” meaning “to wait and see what happens at Horagatoge,” used sarcastically to describe someone who waits to join the winning side.

In 1595, Mashita Nagamori ruled the area from the fine castle but was forced out following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. For the next 15 years, Koriyama remained vacant until the Tokugawa installed Mizuno Katsushige in Yamato, tasking him with reconstructing the now-dilapidated structures. The Honda clan also served as lords of Koriyama.

In 1724, the Yanagisawa clan of Kofu (Yamanashi Prefecture) became masters of Koriyama. Upon hearing of Lord Yanagisawa Yoshisato’s transfer, the peasants of Kofu promptly paid their annual rice tax and saw their lord off with respect. He brought with him 5,286 retainers and their families to Koriyama, along with his prized pet goldfish. This led to a prosperous side business for many lower-ranked samurai, sustaining them long after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when the samurai were disbanded. The Yanagisawa clan also introduced silkworm farming, improving the local economy. They remained in control of Koriyama until the Meiji Restoration. Koriyama Castle was destroyed in 1873. The surrounding deep moats, impressive stonework, and the castle’s Rinkakushiki layout, with the Honmaru protected on all four sides by surrounding baileys and precincts, offer much for castle enthusiasts to enjoy. Having been built in 1580, the stone walls exhibit a mixture of stoneworking methods.

The Otemon gate, Ote Mukai Yagura, Tamon Yagura, and Ote East Yagura have been well reconstructed and are open at certain times during the year. Plans are underway to reconstruct the Gokuraku Bridge and Hakutaku gate. Koriyama Castle was designated one of the Alternative Top 100 Castles in early 2017.


See also 

  • Yoshida Castle


    Yoshida Castle is renowned worldwide, particularly through the intricate woodblock prints by Edo Period artist Hiroshige. His famous series, depicting the 53 stages of the Tokaido—the historic route between Kyoto and Edo (modern-day Tokyo)—includes the 34th print, which shows workmen repairing a castle overlooking a wooden bridge crossing a wide river. This scene captures the Toyokawa River at Toyohashi in southeast Aichi Prefecture, and the castle is Yoshida Castle.

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  • Yamanaka Castle


    Yamanaka Castle, established by Hojo Ujiyasu in the 1560s, is located in what is now eastern Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture. This castle served as the first line of western defense for the main Hojo Castle at Odawara. Carved into the side of a 586-meter-high mountain, Yamanaka Castle was strategically positioned along the Tokaido Highway, offering superb views of nearby Mt. Fuji, the ocean, and the road leading to Odawara.

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  • Uwajima Castle


    Uwajima Castle, located in Uwajima City, Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku, is one of the 12 remaining Japanese castles with an original keep. Known for its small size, Uwajima Castle is relatively difficult to access, which means it is less frequented by tourists.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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