Saturday, March 22, 2014

Kuwana castle -General praised as undeserved to his master-

Kuwana Castle

-General praised as undeserved to his master-


Name: Kuwana castle (Kuwana-jo)
Alias: Ogi-jo (Folding fan shaped castle)
Place: Sanno-maru Kuwana city, Mie
Location: 35.064356071992876, 136.6983851247531
Type: Flat castle
Built: Originally 15th century, expanded in 17th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and water moats

Brief History

Kuwana castle (桑名城) is located at the mouth of Nagara river in Kuwana city. Kuwana city is placed at the westside of Nagashima delta area consisted of Kiso-gawa river, Nagara-gawa river and Ibi-gawa river. 

Historically Kuwana was one of important ports in Ise-wan bay, and as there was no bridge on these rivers, tourists who traveled Tokaido way took ship from Kuwana port to Atsuta port (Aichi prefecture) . 

Historically there was a small castle built by local lord, but after the extinction of Nagashima Ikkou Ikki (religions army of Ikkoushu denomination) at 1573, Kazumasu Takigawa (1525-1586), a general of Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), governed this area from Nagashima castle and the old castle was abolished.

Build of Kuwana castle

After the death of Nobunaga, Kazumasu opposed to next ruler Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) but finally surrendered then lost his territory including Kuwana area. Later Nobukatsu Oda (1558-1630). the second son of Nobunaga held Ise province but also lost his territory at Odawara campaign in 1590. 

Subsequent to Nobukatsu Oda, Yukihiro Ujiie (1546-1615), the second son of Bokuzen Ujiie (1512-1571) who was one of three large local lords of Mino province (Gifu prefecture), was appointed as the lord of Kuwana city. Ujiie clan built the origin of current Kuwana castle, but was expelled after the battle of Sekigahara occurred in 1600.

After the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, new ruler Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) placed his general Tadakatsu Honda (1548-1610) in this place from Otaki castle (Chiba prefecture). Tadakatsu significantly expanded a large castle at riverside, preparing for the assault of Hideyori Toyotomi (1593-1615) still held large army at Osaka castle (Osaka prefecture).

Structure of Kuwana castle

Kuwana castle has a triangle shaped structure and its octagonal line is protected by Kiso-gawa river. Central area of the castle is a rectangular one of about 150 meter long and 60 meter wide, which has a four-story six floor main tower at northeastern corner and three three-story turrets at remaining corners.

Outside of central area, secondary area, third area or Asahimaru area were placed to protect central area. These areas were small and used as buffer area for offence and defense rather than residential areas. Western line which faces the inland was the expected attack point then securely protected by water moat and line of turrets.

Features such as low height stone wall wholly surrounds the castle, relatively large central area and small outer areas, many turrets built on outer line is similar to other castles built at riverside at same era such as Tanabe castle (Kyoto prefecture) or Nakatsu castle (Oita prefecture).

The bravest general of Ieyasu Tokugawa

Tadakatsu Honda (famous for his middle name Heihachiro) was the bravest general of Ieyasu Tokugawa and knows as one of the big four at Tokugawa army (other three were Tadatsugu Sakai (1527-1596), Yasumasa Sakakibara (1548-1606) and Naomasa Ii (1561-1602)).

Honda clan was an old retainer of Tokugawa Clan, and Masanobu Honda (1538-1616), an famous intelligent officer of Ieyasu Tokugawa, was same family. Experiencing his first battle at the supply operation to Odaka castle in 1560 same as his master Ieyasu, Tadakatsu experienced 57 battles and had never been wounded, with his famous spear Tombo-giri (means as sharp as cutting dragonfly perched on the spearhead) and the helmet with deer horns.

In 1572, when Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), a warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) attacked Tokugawa clan, Ieyasu who scouted with small army encountered dominant Takeda army and was chased at Hitokotosaka slope (Iwata city). 

The situation was serious but due to the hard fight of Tadakatsu, Ieyasu could safely retreat to Hamamatsu castle. Concerning this, Takeda army praised Tadakatsu as “There are two things undeserved to Ieyasu. They are decorated helmets with fur (fashion in Tokugawa army) and Heihachiro Honda”

Also in 1585, when Ieyasu fought with current ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), Tokugawa army had to move in front of dominant Toyotomi army. Tadakatsu guarded firmly the end of Tokugawa army, and Toyotomi side could not attack it. Later Hideyoshi applauded Tadakatsu like “As there is a brave general Tadakatsu Honda in eastern region, there is also an excellent general Muneshige Tachibana (1567-1642) in western countries”.

He had fought for Ieyasu until the battle of Sekigahara at 1600, performed his duty as a general with honors and died in 1610.

Afterwards of the castle

After Honda clan moved to Himeji castle (Hyogo prefecture) in 1617, Matsudaira clan, a relative of Shogunate, served as the lord of Kuwana domain by the end of Edo era. During Meiji revolution, as the lord Sadataka Matsudaira (1847-1908) was a brother of Katamori Matsudaira (1836-1893), the lord of Aizu domain who lead the resistance to new government, Kuwana domain belonged to Shogunate side and Sadataka himself went to Aizu Wakamatsu castle to support his brother.

When Kuwana castle was attacked by new government army, remaining retainers promptly surrendered. But due to above action of the lord, Kuwana castle was thoroughly demolished and stones were used to build Yokkaichi port. Now the remaining part of the castle is used as Kyuka park, and famous as a place of cherry blossom. But the shape of the castle surrounded by water is still kept to some extent, and stone walls of outer moat also remain.


20 minutes walk from JR Central Kansai Honsen line Kuwana station or Kintetsu Nagoya line Kuwana station. 20 minutes drive from Higashi-Meihan Expressway Kuwana interchange

Related Castles

Otaki castle -Secure fortress guarded by mountains and valleys-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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