Iga Ueno castle（Mie Prefecture）
Most international tourists head to Iga Ueno to see the ninja, without even realizing the heart of the city is Iga Ueno Castle, one of the finest examples of a Warring States period fortress, and that the ninja museum and Iga Ueno Castle share the same location, the modern day Ueno Park!
Construction of Iga Ueno Castle commenced in 1585 under the command of Takigawa Katsutoshi (1543-1610) although he was to be dispossessed of his lands a year later, and so most of the inner citadel, the Honmaru, and the keep were completed by the new lord, appointed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tsutsui Sadatsugu (1562-1615).
Iga Ueno Castle Keep
In 1608 Tsutsui was accused of poor governance and his clan was abolished by the Tokugawa Shogunate. In his place, the Tokugawa installed the warrior Todo Takatora (1556-1630) a daimyo recognized as one of the finest castle architects of the Sengoku Jidai, Warring States Period, having over 20 castles to his credit.
Takatora rebuilt the Honmaru inner bailey, and increased the height of the stone ramparts to a record 30 meters, making them the highest in Japan. The elegant white castle, sitting tall on it’s stone walls was also known as Hakuho, or “White Phoenix” Castle, as it was said to have resembled the mythical bird nesting in the greenery at it’s base.
The high stone walls of Iga Ueno Castle
Unfortunately the main tower of the castle was destroyed in a typhoon in 1612 and due to Tokugawa enforced laws regarding castle construction and upkeep, as well as Ieyasu’s desire to see the fall of the Toyotomi clan, was never rebuilt until 1935, when the five-story keep was re-constructed, not of concrete, but of wood. The castle remains a fine example of Momoyama Period (16th Century) castle architecture, and was used in the 1980 Kurosawa Akira directed movie, Kagemusha. Iga Ueno Castle is now houses a museum containing a good selection of samurai arms and armor, scrolls, artworks and artifacts from around the region. From the top of the castle you can see over the city of Iga Ueno.
Iga Ueno Castle is a much loved symbol of the city and the castle and grounds are now registered as a National Historical Site. The Ninja farm-house and museum are close by, as is the strangely shaped temple and museum dedicated to the wandering poet and native of Iga Ueno, Matsuo Basho.