Medieval Castles and Pre-modern Castle Towns Planned with Nature As The Heritages for Landscape Design Today -A Case Study of Nanbu Region in Tohoku-


  • Keisuke Sugano Waseda University
  • Ryutaro Okitsu Urban Renaissance Agency
  • Shigeru Satoh Waseda University



This research is to manifest the nature-symbiosis methods that distinguish the Nanbu castle towns built in the Edo Era from the castle towns elsewhere in Japan.
Ever since the early 13th century onwards the Nanbu Clan had ruled Tohoku region till the end of Edo; their feudal lords respect the native mountain-worship, e.g., Iwakura (revering huge rocks as certain divinity’s beings); these17th century Nanbu castle towns – Morioka, Hachinohe and Tohno – were planned with visible mountain tops views and had Iwakura Rock as center of concentric circle on which the town installations were placed.
The Nanbu Clan declined, and the framework of castle towns became the foundation for urban modernisation from 1800 onwards. Morioka Castle Town, the prominent among three, has been modernised as the capital of Iwate Prefecture today; its historical heritages enliven the town making by government and citizenry.
This paper concerns itself with the relation between Nanbu castle towns and Nature, with that among town construction, micro-topology, Iwakura and Mountains worship, with that between street composition and the locations of temples, shrines and other installations. 
Analysing Morioka castle town through modern landscaping science, this research tries to discover the relation between planning and Nature, seeking to revive the vista of the Nanbu mountain-worship.
First, through field investigation and reading of historical texts, the street axes extended to link up the mountain tops of Object Mountain as Yama-ate are verified; the religious tie between Nanbu Clan and Object Mountains is analysed.
Second, historical texts help grasp the religious installations in Nanbu, analysing their locations, micro-topography, and castle installation by GIS.
Third, verify the Yama-ate street axes and their relation with temples and shrines by GIS; measure the streets, parallel or perpendicular, to the Yama-ate main street; and analyse the relation between urban frame and the mountains. 
Forth, how are those mountain views required by Morioka City related to the Nanbu mountain worship?
The analyses show that the historical planning corresponded to their environment; the street composition, including temples and shrines, did link up the Mountain, Iwakura objects and micro-topography. And, the medieval methods like vista are employed to revive the castle town cities today with four points below: 
1) A Yama-ate Street provides us unobstructed view of the mountains worshiped; the Yama-ate highways that terminate at castle gate or temple entrance path must be verified. 
2) The temples strongly tied to the Clan are located in the areas of slight elevation in Nanbu District. Also, several points nearby the castle gate are built with temples to worship the sacred mountains. 
3) Morioka is distinctive, the main street axis terminates the excavated Iwakura; various castle gates are designed with same distance towards the Iwakura. 
4) The Morioka landscaping policy today has a set of rules: e.g., the height of building is limited to keep the mountain views visible from the bridges or from the castle park; all the rules are made to preserve the views of mountains worshipped in the medieval.


Aomori Shishi Hensan Iinkai, Shin Aomori Shishi Betsu Hen 3, Japan: Aomori Shi, 2009

Hachinohe Shi Hakubutukan, Hachinohe No Otera San, Japan: Hachonohe Hakubutukan, 2009

Hachinohe Shishi Hensan Iinkai, Hachinohe Shishi Tsushihen Vol.2, Japan: Hachinohe Shi, 2013

Iwate Ken Jinjacho, Iwate Ken Jinja Meikan, Japan: Iwate Ken Jinjacho, 1988

Iwate Nippo Sha Syuppanbu, Iwate No Otera Wo Meguru Kokoro No Yasuragi Wo Motomete, Japan: Iwate Nippo Sha, 2006

Katsuhiro, K. Tomohiro, A. Keisuke, S. Shigeru, S. “A study about of ‘Yama-ate’,in Colonist City: Six case studies in ‘Shiribeshi

district’,” The City Planning Institute of Japan, Vol. 49-3 (2014): 759-764

Keisuke, S. Shigeru, S. “A study about the actual condition of “Yama-ate” and vista in castle town: Murakami city in Niigata Prefecture as study object,” Journal of Architecture And Planning, Vol. 81 -719(2016): 133-141

Kuroishi Shi, Kuroishi Shishi Vol.1, Japan: Kuroishishi, 1987

Morioka Shishi Hensan Iinkai, Morioka Shishi Vol.2, Japan: Morioka Shiyakusho, 1951

Nobuo, O., Morioka No Yama To Minzoku, Japan: Morioka Shi Kyoiku Iinkai, 1993

Sannohe Choshi Hensyu Iinkai, Sannohe Choshi Vol.1, Japan: Sannohe Cho, 1997

Shigeru, S. Shinpan Zusetsu Jyokamachi, Japan: Kajima Shuppan, 2015

Shigeru, S. Katsuhiro, K. Keisuke, S. and Akio, S. “Investigation of the geographical relationships between street centerlines located in a castle town and its surrounding mountain peaks: Study in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Pref.” The City Planning Institute of Japan, Vol. 49-1(2014): 71-76

Shigeru, S. “Jokamachi No Toshi Design Wo Yomu: Kinsei Jokamachi No Machidukuri Shuhou No Hakken”, Zoukei, December 1, 1997

Shigeru, S., Jyokamachi No Kindai Toshidukuri, Japan: Kajima Shuppankai, 1995

Tadashi, M., Hachinohehan No Rekishi Wo Tazunete- Hatinohe Hanryo Wo Aruku Tokyosanpo, Japan: Kiyoshi, A. 2013

Toonippo, Tsugaru No Otera San Vol.1, Japan: Toonipposha, 1977

Toonippo, Tsugaru No Otera San Vol.2, Japan: Toonipposha, 1977

TV Iwate Kaihatsu Center Kikaku, Iwate no Otera-San to Sonoshuhen, Japan: TV Iwate, 2003

Yoshiaki, Y. and Kazuya O., Zusetsu Morioka Yonhyaku Nen Vol.1, Japan: Kyodobunka Kenkyukai, 1985

Yoshiaki, Y., Morioka No Jiin –Kinsei Jyokamachi No Jiinbunka No Hensen-, Japan: Morioka Shi Kyoikuiinkai, 1931

Yoshikazu, Y., Kokoro Tsugaru No Otera San Meguri Hirosaki Hen, Japan: Mutsu Shinpo Sha Insatsu Kaihatsu Kyoku, 2001

Zokuhen Hirosaki Shishi Hensan Iinkai, Shinpen Hirosaki Shishi Tsushihen Vol.1, Japan: Hirosaki Shi Kikakubu Kikakuka, 2003

Zokuhen Hirosaki Shishi Hensan Iinkai, Shinpen Hirosaki Shishi Tsushihen Vol.2, Japan: Hirosaki Shi Kikakubu Kikakuka, 2003

Zokuhen Hirosaki Shishi Hensan Iinkai, Shinpen Hirosaki Shishi Tsushihen Vol.3, Japan: Hirosaki Shi Kikakubu Kikakuka, 2003




How to Cite

Sugano, K., Okitsu, R., & Satoh, S. (2016). Medieval Castles and Pre-modern Castle Towns Planned with Nature As The Heritages for Landscape Design Today -A Case Study of Nanbu Region in Tohoku-. International Planning History Society Proceedings, 17(4).