(Finally, for two months of not having an entry, I had the wind to write another adventure and the time to go to another one. I could have written about the photography books that I have read, my weapons of choice in this hobby or the weekly photowalks I attended last month, but my mind was all focused with work. That big "DO NOT DISTURB!" sign engulfs. But, not this week. Before work and the summer heat burns me down. The "BREAK TIME" sign took over. We all deserve this.)
Shibakawa and Minobu stations. Waiting. Twice stranded before arriving at Kofu City. Good thing was the night before, our friend Neris sent us some lovely Filipino delicacies (including my favourite Hopia) which we enjoyed during those stranded times plus the Soba ya at Minobu station filled us with cheap but delicious Tensoba.
Nagano City. Cool. The city greeted us with a cool breeze when we arrived. Nice. Just as I wanted it. Rain just stopped. Few people in the streets.
We walked to our hotel and Rya mentioned that there is an Asian themed restaurant at the lobby. I just ignored her and told her that we check in. Booking for a hotel & checking in were always easy as ABC here in Japan. This time was different. The concierge asked for our passports. Passport! I was shaking my head. She may have mistook us for tourists. Rya then said, " Mou go nenkan Nihon ni sundeimasu ga, gaikokujin torokushou wa yoroshi deshouka? "(We have been living here in Japan for 5 years, do you accept alien card? - in her most acerbic tone). Unbelievable. We would have ended sleeping in at a nearby damp park. After checking the weather forecast for tomorrow I hit the sack.
Komoro City. Silent. I was expecting people transferring from train to train heading for Karuizawa or Kobuchizawa.
It is said that on this grounds Oi Mitsutada in 1487 founded Nabebuta jo. And when Takeda Shingen expanded his hold on the eastern part of Shinshu he established Komoro jo, sometimes called as " Castle in the Hole" Ana jo in 1554 and rewarded it to Kansuke Yamamoto. The castle grounds is somewhat triangular in form, two dry moats (south and north) were strategically dug to serve as extensions of the cliff that faces the Chikuma river. Currently, the scenery from the two viewing decks on the endpoints of the ground is very refreshing. These areas serve as excellent observation post and may have had a yagura at that time. The tenshu's foundation has a distinct dented feature. I don't have any idea on how it came to be. It may have been the way it really was constructed or the earth foundation may have gone soft over time and made the stone wall to sink in.
Togura station, Chikuma City. Rain. This destination has been cancelled twice because of bad weather. And as the saying goes, Once or twice you don't succeed, bring the missus the third time! I may have spoken too soon on that. Rain fell like mad when I passed by. (But perhaps that's because I left the missus in Nagano city.)
Good thing I got back to Nagano city earlier. Rya again mentioned that Asian themed restaurant at the lobby. This time I didn't ignore her. I ordered myself some Tomyum kun, thai seafood salad, stir fried chicken n veggies in thai sauce and a Bali Hai beer
Rain stopped. We decided to walk the city.
Walked and walked (in circles) until we were able to reach Zenkoji (although I planned to shoot Zenkoji on the last day). A Buddhist temple functioning as one of Uesugi Kenshin's headquaters during the battles of Kawanakajima. The stores in Nakamise were already closed when we arrived. So, Rya and I did what we usually do. Took pictures.
We dropped by for some cool caramel frappuccino, before going back to our hotel, checked the weather and hit the sack.
Togura station, Chikuma City. Early. With the weather so erratic, I need to be. Fortunately I was also able to ride the 200 yen bus heading for the foot of the mountain where Arato jo is located. Then from there I hailed a taxi up to the main entrance. I came to know Arato jo from Eric Obershaw's site Jcastle.info and as what he said " It splendidly recreates the feeling of a Sengoku Period mountaintop castle".
Arato jo's important location also played a part in the battle of Kawanakajima. On a clear day from the yagura you can see as far as Shinonoi to the west and Ueda to the east. This may be one reason why Takeda Shingen battled Murakami Yoshikiyo for this strategic position. I am so impressed with the design of the yaguramon (turret gate). From the platform where defenders could be stationed in the event of an attack to the narrow pathway leading to the second bailey. I would like to see a re-enactment of how Uesugi Kagekatsu overthrew Yashiro Hidemasa's last stand of this castle.
If by any chance you happen to be a Japanese TV fan. Arato jo was one of the location for Furin Kazan (NHK). The life story of Yamamoto Kansuke. After 2 and a half hour of shooting, I began my descent. Took me 30 minutes to reach the bus station. Headed to Yashiro station where I waited for an hour for the train to Matsushiro.
Matsushiro Town. Level. This time I was "flat-footed". I should have rented a bicycle at the station to enjoy the castle grounds of Matsushiro jo, also known as Kaizu jo. By order of Takeda Shingen, Yamamoto Kansuke built Matsushiro jo in 1553. This was during the time of the battle of Kawanakajima where the castle also served as a headquarter for the Takeda army.
One interesting feature of Matsushiro jo is that it is enclosed by trenches and mound walls. Tunnels served as passages were constructed through these walls.
I called Rya as I was about to board my bus for Kawanakajima Kosenjo. She was already there waiting for me.
Kawanakajima. Engage. From 1553 to 1564, five major battles were fought in the plain of Kawanakajima. And one of the "most tactically interesting" and "bloodiest" battles during the Sengoku period was fought on September 10, 1561. The fourth battle. It was this battle that Yamamoto Kansuke devised a strategy on how to draw Uesugi Kenshin's army from Mt. Saijo. Kosaka Danjo Masanobu's troops would scale the mountain unnoticeable at night, attack and the remaining Shingen troops waiting in a "Crane's wing" formation to engage the fleeing Uesugi troops. Here is where Uesugi bested the Shingen side in the "Art of War". Foreknowledge. The use of spies. Uesugi knew the plan, commanded his troops to descend the mountain. To make the passing cavalry unnoticeable they placed clothes on the ground to absorb the sound. Then by dawn, as a "Kuruma Gakari" formation attacked them, the element of surprise threw off Shingen's army. Yamamoto Kansuke saw his failure and plunged himself into the midst of Uesugi's samurais. With 80 bullet wounds, he rested at a nearby hill and died an honourable death.
As the battle developed, the most remembered of all single combat in Japanese history took place. The face-off between the two daimyos. Kenshin mounted on a horse fiercely attacking the seated Shingen who parried with his war fan.
Dark clouds were already looming when we left. As I was reviewing my shots in the bus, Rya was happy to have her Blueberries & Nectarine craving met. Rain fell again when we reached Nagano city. We also checked in to a new hotel which was nearer the train station. It rained and rained and rained. So, after having some ramen for dinner. We went back to the hotel and without fail I checked the weather again then we hit the sack.
Kofu City. Rest. We left Nagano City not visiting Zenkoji again because of the weather. So after 3 and a half hours and 2 train transfers we decided to pass-by this city. Tsutsujigasaki Palace. Three generations of Takeda ruled from this palace which is now home to the Takeda Shrine. The golden age of this palace was during Takeda Shingen's administration. Probably the only daimyo who gave more significance to the people he governs by giving them importance as he did not build a castle for his own but instead said that the masses are his castles.
Of all the places I visited in this blog, I am surprised that I found no souvenir worth keeping except here. I bought for myself a keychain with the words "Furin Kazan" and Takeda Shingen inscripted on it.
Shizuoka City. Home. This time no weather to check before hitting the sack.