Iwamura castle town of Gifu : The ruins of a glorious past


 Iwamura castle town is located in Ena district of Gifu prefecture. This area includes a street that extends from the Iwamura station to the Iwamura caste. The castle is no longer there, only the ruins of the castle are found in this area. This castle is one among the three mountain castles of Japan. Also, it is one of the top 100 important castles of the country. According to some law established by the government in 1873, all the Meiji era castles were dismantled among which belonged the Iwamura castle. As a result, the castle was dismantled and the ruins could be found above a small hill where the castle was located. The quiet street extending up to the hill has houses, stores and other structures of the Edo period. This area is not always crowded by the tourists.


          Walking through the streets leading to the castle, we could understand the lifestyle, social culture and the constructional features existed during the Edo period. There are many houses, stores, some important buildings, museums etc. in this street area which all belongs to the Edo period. Each house has name boards hanged in front of it. There are Kimono shops, wine cellars, sweet shops etc. along this street. This street is selected as one among the 100 beautiful historical landscapes of Japan. One among those structures is the study room of  Utako Shimoda, the female poet and the pioneer of female education of ancient Japan. The houses named as Kimura’s house and the Katsukawa’s house tells the lifestyle and the building structure of Edo period. The Katsuka’s house resembles some modern structures with facilities like a study room, tea hall, employees room etc.
          The rooms and other arrangements of these houses tell about the lifestyle of the Edo period and it reflects the advancement in the building structures of that time. Tosaya is a place where we can understand how the ancient people dye Kimonos to make them colourful. The streets have many stores which reveal the trading activities of that ancient era. Signboards and the structure of this street are also notable features of this area. We could see an Edo period post office also. The streets have restaurants selling locally produced sweets, snacks and other food items like Udon, soba etc. Goheimochi, the grilled rice cake skewed in miso sauce is a famous snack of this place.
          There are a lot of stone walls, wells and other constructions on both sides of the hill extending up to the ruins of the Iwamura castle. Every structure that we could find here tells us the story of the castle. The technological advancement of ancient days is reflected in every piece of construction. The technologies and equipment used in the construction of the Iwamura castle are displayed in the history museum situated here. Once we reach near the castle area, there is a space named Joshi Park that contains the ruins of the Iwamura feudal lord house, the history museum and the Taiko Yaura which are all the reminiscence of the great castle. The history museum of this place holds various materials tells around 800 years of castle’s history during its existence. The museum has a watchtower of Edo period and pictures showing the old village views.
          The Iwamura castle was built by Toyama Kagetomo in 1195. Many rulers came to this castle until 1873 when it was dismantled under the castle abolishment law when the government decided to destroy all the castles of Meiji period. This castle has a history of a female rule as it was ruled by Oda Nobunaga’s aunt. The geographical features of the castle area are also very important as it is located in a foggy mountain area so that it is difficult for the enemies to attack soon. The castle town has two different areas. Residences of the Merchants are on the south side of the Iwamura River while the north side has samurai residences. There is a shrine named Iwamura Tenmangu Jinja dedicated to Michizane Sugawara located in this place.
          The castle area situated on the hilly region resembles a mini-reconstruction of the famous “Machupicchu” of Peru as it is situated at the top of a hill surrounded by the green woods and the walls and pillars of the castle ruins. This place will be a great addition to the visits if you love the Japanese history.