Thursday, February 27, 2014

Utsunomiya Castle -Castle with long history of disturbance-

Utsunomiya Castle

-Castle with long history of disturbance-



Name: Utsunomiya castle (Utsunomiya-jyo)
Alias: Kamegaoka-jyo (Turtle hill castle)
Place: Honmarucho Utsunomiya city, Tochigi
Type: Plain castle
Built: Originally 11th century, expanded in 17th century
Remaining remnants: None (Corner turrets, clay walls, and moats are reconstructed)

Brief History

Utsunomiya castle (宇都宮城) is located in Utsunomiya city, center of Shimotsuke province (Tochigi prefecture). This castle was build on a small hill, south of Futarasan shrine, a traditional and famous shrine of this area. Utsunomiya city was a diverging point of Oushu Kaido way and Nikko Kaido way, and an important place of communication throughout the history.

Utsunomiya castle under Utsunomiya clan

From the time of Heian era (8th to 11th century), this area was governed by Utsunomiya clan. The origin of Utsunomiya clan is said as Souen Fujiwara (1033-1111), who played active part in Campaign of Zenkunen during 1051 to 1062. Later Utsunomiya clan was evaluated by Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of Kamakura shogunate, and continued being a prestigious family of this area over 400 years. Utsunomiya castle was at first a residencial palace of Utsunomiya clan, but gradually expanded and finally said as one of the seven excellent castle in Kanto region along with Maebashi castle, Kanayama castle, Kawagoe castle, Oshi castle, Tage castle and Karasawayama castle.

But in Sengoku era of 16th century, Utsunomiya clan was weakened because of an internal conflict, and Hojo clan, a warlord of Sagami country (Kanagawa prefecture), continued to expand their territory to north Kanto area. Corresponding to this, Utsunomiya clan resisted to Hojo clan under an alliance with Satake clan of Hitachi country (Ibaraki prefecture), but Utsunomiya castle located at plain area was often attacked by Hojo army thus Utsunomiya clan renovated Tage castle and moved there. Finally Hojo clan was extincted by a campaign of current ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) in 1592, but several years later Utsunomiya clan was also confiscated their land by order of Hideyoshi.

Castle on and after Edo era

In 1619, Masazumi Honda (1565-1637) was appointed by Tokugawa shogunate as a commander of this castle. He was son of Masanobu Honda (1538-1616), an old retainer of first Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) and supported him by talent of stratagem. Masazumi was also a brilliant administrative staff, and exercised his power in early stage of shogunate. But in 1622, he was accused by building a trap of falling ceiling in the room where Shogun stays during his trip to Nikko, and expelled to Dewa country (Akita prefecture). This accuse was totally a fiction and result of political conflict with rivalries.

Throughout Edo era Utsunomiya castle worked as a base of protecting Kitakanto area. During the Meiji revolution war, Utsunomiya castle was once surrendered to Meiji government, but attacked by Shogunate army lead by Keisuke Otori (1833-1911), a brilliant commander of Shogunate and Toshizo Hijikata (1835-1869), a former vice leader of Shinsengumi, a famous swordsman group of Shogunate side. They occupied this castle by combination of gun firing and close combat, but due to limited number of soldiers they abandoned the castle, and moved toward Tohoku region. During this battle the castle was totally destroyed.

After Meiji revolution the site of castle was developed and almost all ruins were lost. But recently partial central area including corner turrets, gates, clay walls and moats were restored partially as a symbol of the city.


20 minutes walk from JR East Tohoku Shinkansen line / Tohoku-Honsen line Utsunomiya station.  15 minutes walk from Tobu-Utsunomiya line Tobu-Utsunomiya station. 20 minutes drive from Tohoku-Jidoshado Expressway Kanuma interchange.

Related Castles

Tage Castle -Lethal weapon of Utsunomiya clan-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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