Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sunpu Castle -Place of memory for first Shogun-

Sunpu Castle

-Place of memory for first Shogun-



Name: Sunpu castle (Sunpu-jo)
Alias: Fuchu-jo
Place: Koen, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka city, Shizuoka
Type: Plain castle
Built: Originally in 1580's, expanded at 1607
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Sunpu castle (駿府城) is located at the center of Shizuoka city. Shizuoka city places at the middle of Tokaido way from Kinki region to Kanto region, and surrounded by mountains, rivers and Pacific ocean it was a place suitable for defense. 

Due to such geographical location, Shizuoka city had been a center of Suguga province (middle part of Shizuoka prefecture) historically. Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the first Shogun of Edo Shogunate, stayed Shizuoka city three times throughout his life, at first as hostage in youth, secondary as a lord in middle age, and as retirement place in last days.

Shizuoka city before Sunpu castle

In the medieval era, Shizuoka city was named Fuchu town. Fuchu was a stronghold of Imagawa clan, a warlord of Suruga province (central Shizuoka prefecture), and they built their palace named Imagawa-yakata at the site of current Sunpu castle. In the era of Yoshimoto Imagawa (1519-1560), Imagawa clan flourished and Fuchu was a prosperous city .

Ieyasu Tokugawa was born as a son of Tokugawa clan at Mikawa country (eastern Aichi prefecture). But Tokugawa clan at that time was small and weak, thus they subordinated to Imagawa clan, and sent Ieyasu as a hostage. Young Ieyasu grew in Fuchu town, educated by Taigen Sofu Sessai (1496-1555), a zen monk and famous chancellor of Yoshimoto. After growing up Ieyasu married with relative of Imagawa clan and became an general.

In 1560, Yoshimoto invaded to Owari (Aichi prefecture) but was defeated by Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) and killed at the battle of Okehazama. Several years ago, weakened Imagawa clan was attacked by both of former ally Takeda clan and Ieyasu, who became an independent lord. Fuchu town was destroyed by Takeda clan, and Takeda clan used Ejiri castle in Shimizu city as their base.

Construction of Sunpu castle

When Takeda clan fell in 1582, Ieyasu expanded his territory to Suruga country, including Fuchu city. Aiming at expansion for eastward, he newly built Sunpu castle in 1580's, and moved his location from Hamamatsu castle (Shizuoka prefecture) to here. Sunpu castle of this time was a modern castle consisted of current central area and secondary area, equipped with stone walls, and had a small main tower. 

During 1580's Ieyasu endured the battle with Hojo clan or Toyotomi clan, finally even though subordinated to central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) but kept a position of largest lord. In 1590, Ieyasu was transferred to Kanto region by Toyotomi government, and Kazuuji Nakamura (?-1600), a confident general, was placed as the lord of Sunpu castle to restrain Ieyasu.

After the death of Hideyoshi in 1598, through the decisive battle of Sekigahara against Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600) who was the chief magistrate of Hideyoshi in 1600, Ieyasu finally established his hegemony on Japan. As Kazuuji Nakamura belonged to Ieyasu, Kazuuji moved to Yonago castle (Tottori prefecture) with larger territory then Sunpu castle became the castle of Shogunate.

On 1603, Ieyasu opened Edo Shogunate and became the first Shogun. In 1605, at the age of 62, Ieyasu gave the position of Shogun to Hidetada Tokugawa (1579-1632), son of Ieyasu, to show the continuation of Edo Shogunate.  

Expansion of Sunpu castle

Due to this leaving Ieyasu was named as Ogosho (ex Shogun), but still had political power and operated his own government along with Shogunate at Edo city. To show his power to the large lords located in westward, he moved from Edo castle (Tokyo metropolis) to Sunpu city, and expanded Sunpu castle as his residence. 

Ieyasu ordered construction of this castle to many lords, and after three year construction Sunpu castle finally completed as current shape in 1608. Ieyasu also changed stream of Abekawa river to westward and built the basis of Sunpu town.

Castle of this period consisted of three-layer area of square shape. Each layer was divided by water moats and mostly surrounded by stone walls. Length of secondary area was 400 meter, and third area was 600 meter long. Central area and secondary area faces same direction, but direction of third area was a bit different from central and secondary area. At the northwest corner of central area, there was a huge basement of main tower of 50 meter long square. 

At first large main tower was once built in 1607, but because of fire all buildings including this main tower were lost in that year. Ieyasu promptly started reconstruction of main tower, and completed in 1610. The precise shape of this main tower was also unknown, but it is said that it was a seven story tower surrounded by attached turrets at each corner.

But in 1635 due to fire most buildings were lost again, and main tower was never built again. Ieyasu lived Sunpu castle until his death in 1616, and after his death his body was buried at Kunozan Toshogu shrine, near of Sunpu castle.

Afterward of castle

Subsequent to Ieyasu's death, throughout Edo era, this castle was mostly managed by Edo shogunate directly. Shizuoka area was periodically hit by large earthquakes, and each time this castle caused severe damage. As stone walls corrupted and repaired by earthquake, current stone wall consisted of different style walls, from rough stones of original build to shaped stones of later age.

At the time of Meiji revolution the last Shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa (1837-1913) was temporally placed at this castle, but after the disappearance of Tokugawa clan this castle was used as a basis by Japanese Army. Inner water moat was covered with sands, and basement of main tower was broken.

After the WW2, central and secondary place were turned to a park, and third area is used for government offices and schools. But stone walls and water moats of secondary and third area well remain, and recently one composite gate and two corner turrets were reconstructed in old wooden style.


20 minutes walk from JR Central Tokaido Shinkansen line / Tokaido line Shizuoka station. 25 minutes drive from Tomei Expressway Shizuoka interchange.

Related Castles

Okazaki Castle -Hardship history of young Ieyasu Tokugawa-
Hamamatsu Castle -Castle of promotion-
Kunozan Castle -Originally castle but famous as Toshogu shrine-
Edo Castle -Inner area built by talented general-
Yonago Castle -Person who decided win and lose at Sekigahara-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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