Thursday, February 27, 2014

Utsunomiya Castle -Castle with long history of disturbance-

Utsunomiya Castle

-Castle with long history of disturbance-



Name: Utsunomiya castle (Utsunomiya-jo)
Alias: Kamegaoka-jo (Turtle hill castle)
Place: Honmaru-cho Utsunomiya city, Tochigi
Location: 36.55468476192067, 139.88548054299562
Type: Flat castle
Built: Originally 11th century, expanded in 17th century
Remaining remnants: None

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 residential 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  continuous internal conflict, and Hojo clan, a warlord of Sagami province (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 which was the warlord of Hitachi province (Ibaraki prefecture).

However, Utsunomiya castle located at flat area was often attacked by Hojo army thus Utsunomiya clan renovated Tage castle and moved there as their main base. Finally Hojo clan was extincted by a campaign of central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) in 1590, 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 Edo Shogunate as a commander of Utsunomiya castle from Tamanawa castle (Kanagawa prefecture). Masazumi Honda was the son of Masanobu Honda (1538-1616), an old retainer of first Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) and supported Ieyasu as military staff by talent of strategy and plot. 

Masazumi was also a brilliant administrative staff, and exercised his power in early stage of Edo Shogunate. But in 1622, Masazumi was accused by building a trap of falling ceiling in the room where Shogun stays during his trip to Nikko Toshogu Shrine, and expelled to Dewa province (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 north part of Kanto plain. During the Meiji revolution war, Utsunomiya castle once surrendered to Meiji new government army, but was 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, the famous swordsman group of Shogunate side. 

Shogunate army occupied Utsunomiya 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 through Nikko area. 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 half of central area including corner turrets, gates, clay walls and moats were restored partially as a symbol of the city. An old ginkgo tree lives from Edo era still remains on the remnant of outer clay wall near the castle.


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)

Utsunomiya Castle

Nikko Toshogu Shrine


No comments:

Post a Comment