[Exploring Ninja Village]Momochi Sandayu’s fortress in Iga’s Hojiro was impregnable, surely befitting the leader of ninja
The era was when Oda Nobunaga was about to unify the whole country. There was a Jonin (a high-ranking ninja) called Momochi Sandayu (Momochi Tamba) who fought bravely in Tensho-iga-no-ran (the war of Tensho Iga) which involved the ninja of Iga between 1578 and 1581. He built a fortress in Hojiro, a land of Iga; he was regarded as one of major three Jonin along with Hattori and Fujibayashi families, and was an influential figure in Iga.
In the novel “Shinobi-no-kuni,” the fortress where Momochi Sandayu lived is described as follows.
“Mumon, who departed Heirakuji, walked eastside along Kume River as he viewed the wheat field that was just starting to sprout to return to the village of Hojiro.
...This is where Momochi Sandayu’s fortress, dubbed “Momochi Fortress” is built. As if to ascend the mountain slope, the main quarter, second quarter, and third quarter are aligned. This is a huge fortress compared to other fortresses in Iga. There is a pond that exceeds the size of one-tenth hectare paddy field, beside the main quarter covered with earthwork that looks like a high barrier. This is Marugata Pond, where Iga’s low-class ninja like Mumon were trained. “
Quote: Shinobi-no-kuni (Ryu Wada, published by Shinchosha)
Because Mumon is a low-class ninja who belonged to Momochi family, it can be said that he was stationed at this Momochi Fortress. You will be surprised to know that Momochi Fortress still exists in quite a good condition in the land of Iga.
Just being at Hojiro makes me emotional!
I drove from Iga Ueno Castle about 12 km and arrived at Hojiro, Iga-shi. The whole site is surrounded by paddy fields, creating such a serene landscape. Anyhow, this used to be the site where one of the big three high-ranking ninja that any ninja would adore once lived...!
When I plodded towards a slightly elevated hill, I saw the sign of Momochi Fortress.
When I parked my car near Seiunji Temple, which is near the fortress, I noticed a stone wall...! Actually, I heard this area was part of Momochi’s castle.
By the way, this is Seiunji Temple, which used to be the family temple of Momochi house.
Besides the wall, there is Hyakudo-ishi (a stone to mark the 100 times worship) to make Ohyakudo-mairi (seeking divine favor by making a round trip between the stone and the end of the course).
A terrible incident caused by Momochi-san’s infidelity...
The road behind Seiunji Temple leads to Momochi Fortress. I felt creepy at once, and as I walked for about two minutes, I located things like stones and mounds.
The mound was overflowing with so many scissors as offerings.
This mound is called “Shikibu-dsuka,” said to be effective in breaking off relationships. One Momochi-san in Muromachi era--probably Momochi’s ancestor--who served at court fell in love with a court lady (Shikibu). But at that time, Momochi-san was married; so his wife went ballistic with jealousy, threw Shikibu into the old well and killed her.
They say that if you can place scissors on the mound which was created to pray for poor Shikibu, you can cut ties with someone undesirable.
Momochi Fortress! Finally before my eyes!
As I quickly brushed past Shikibu-dsuka, I found a signboard of ruins of Momochi clan’s castle!
It seems that this is south entrance of the castle. That’s a pretty high earthwork! I guess it was much higher then!
After you pass the entrance, there is a monument inscribed “Ruins of Momochi Tamba-no-kami’s Castle”! Since the castle was completely burned down in the second war of Tensho Iga, we see no trace of donjon, but anyways, here is where it was located!
This is the entrance located in the northeast. But if you have an earthwork of such height, you may vanquish your enemies without having them near the fortress by attacking with blowguns or horokuhiya (arrows with flames).
Like I said before, the portion in yellow in the picture above seems to be the realm of Momochi Castle. It is quite a big fortress, rare for the one at that time, right? I also found Marugata Pond nearby; this served as a moat for Momochi Fortress.
So this is Marugata Pond, where a group of ninja is said to have trained at...it does give off an atmosphere where bamboo tubes might thrust out from its surface! “Tetsu,” a boy who only appears in the original novel of “Shinobi-no-kuni” lives by the this Marugata Pond.
Momochi Fortress, how impregnable!
This is the view from the highest point of Momochi Fortress, overlooking the land of Hojiro.
You can overlook quite a distance; if you lived at that time, you will be able to see the neighboring Iga Ninja sects attacking the fortress during fallout, or notice the soldiers marching. Such a big fortress with a view...he must have been quite a powerful one! Jonin of Iga, Momochi Sandayu, you are so formidable!
I recommend imagining yourself as a ninja serving other than Momochi to simulate the infiltration into Momochi Fortress. By imagining “if there’s a guard here...” and such, you will understand how tough it is to conquer the site.
Source: We Jack All Ninja “Ninjack”