Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sendai Castle -Residence of "Single eye dragon"-

Sendai Castle

-Residence of "Single eyed dragon"-



Name: Sendai castle (Sendai-jo)
Alias: Aoba-jo (Green leaf castle)
Place: Sendai, Aoba-ku Sendai city, Miyagi
Location: 38.25274193206632, 140.8558Location: 
Type: Hill castle
Built: 1610
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles, Designated national historical site

Brief History

Sendai castle (仙台城) is located at Aoba-yama mountain, a table like height at the next of Hirose-gawa river in the east from of central Sendai city in the Sendai plain. 

Origin and growth of Date clan

Date clan was originally stem from Date province, north eastern part of current Fukushima prefecture. Date clan is a traditional house traced to Kamakura era (12th century), and grew their power under Tanemune Date (1488-1565) at Kori Nishiyama castle (Miyagi prefecture) or Yonezawa castle (Yamagata prefecture).

During the period of his son Harumune Date (1519-1578) and grandson Terumune Date (1544-1585), Date clan temporally lost their power due to their intenal conflict and struggled with surrounding powers such as Ashina clan or Uesugi clan. 

But his successor Masamune Date (1567-1636), through hard fights with surrounding warlords, finally defeated Ashina clan at the battle of Suriagehara in 1589, captured Kurokawa castle (later Aizu Wakamatsu castle) which was the main base of Aizu clan and ruined it. Territory of Date clan expanded into all over the south half of Tohoku region. Masamune lost his one eye in his youth because of ill, thus he was praised as "Single eye dragon of Oshu (Tohoku region)".

Build of Sendai castle after obscurity

At precisely that moment, Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), successor of former ruler  Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), united central and western Japan, and was giving pressure to Kanto region and Tohoku region. In 1590, Hojyo clan, a large lord of Kanto region and ally of Masamune, was ruined under the overwhelming attack of Hideyoshi. 

Now that things have come to this pass, Masamune had to surrender to Hideyoshi. Masamune was forgiven but finally transferred to Sendai area, taking responsibility of supporting revolt of former retainers of Osaki clan and Kasai clan in this area.

Arriving at Sendai area, at first Masamune stayed Iwadeyama castle (Miyagi prefectureI as his main base and stood 10 years under Toyotomi government. But after the death of Hidehoshi in 1598, at the battle of Sekigahara between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord under Toyotomi government, and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), the chief magistrate of Toyotomi government occurred in 1600, Masamune belonged to Ieyasu who beat Mitsunari and became next ruler. As a lord of large Sendai domain, Masamune started to build Sendai castle on the Aobayama mountain and completed in 1610.

Structure of Sendai castle

Sendai castle is built utilizing a plateau like hill at the western edge of Sendai plain. The height of the hill is only about 60 meter from hillside, but its eastern side which faces Hirosegawa river is almost a vertical wall, and its south side is also protected by deep valley of a tributary of Hirosegawa river. 

Central area at the top of the hill is roughly a square shaped area of 250 meter long. Its north line which faces main route from hillside area is secured by over 300 meter long stone walls. Especially the northeastern edge of this stone at the curving point of climbing road is a splendid one of over 15 meter height and has a sharp corner. 

At the middle of north line there was a main gate of central area, which was a masugata style combined gate. As a consideration to Edo Shogunate no main tower was built, but several turrets protected important corner of the castle.

At the northern hillside, there was a Higashinomaru area (later became third area) which is also a 200 meter long square shaped area protected by wide water moat. At the northwestern edge of this area there was a main gate of the castle, which was a splendid Momoyama style large gate might be transferred from abolished Fushimi castle (Kyoto prefecture) or Hizen Nagoya castle (Saga prefecture). On the other hand, at the south of this area, there was Shimizumon gate which was the backside gate of the castle. 

From north to east of these core areas, huge secondary area spreads between the hill and curving Hirosegawa river. There were a large palace of the lords, residence of high class retainers and administrative offices of the domain. Even though lacking unity and apparently secure defense facility, total size of the castle reached to 1 kilometer long and 500 meter width and was suitable for a main base of large size domain.

Afterward of castle

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, Sendai castle was used as a base of Japanese Army. In Meiji era most buildings were lost because of fire, and during WW2 remaining luxurious main gate was also burned out. After WW2 inner area was used as park and shrine, and one guard turret next to main gate was reconstructed. Outer area became the ground of Tohoku university. Rough but secure impression of the castle different from other castles built at same period is deserved to the Masamune who secretly kept his ambition at the peace era.


15 minutes walk from Sendai city subway Kokusai Center station, or Sightseening bus "Loople" from JR East Sendai station. 15 minutes drive from Tohoku Jidoshado Expressway Sendai Miyagi interchange to parking of Aoba Koen.

Related Castles

Shiroishi Castle -Southern guard of Date domain-
Aizu Wakamatsu Castle -White five-story main tower endured harsh battle-
Kori Nishiyama Castle -Five time relocations in 70 years-
Yonezawa Castle -Castle filled with statues and monuments-
Iwadeyama Castle -Prison of single-eyed dragon-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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