Thursday, March 6, 2014

Nakatsu Castle -Castle built by Hideyoshi’s excellent military staff

Nakatsu Castle

-Castle built by Hideyoshi’s excellent military staff-



Name: Nakatsu castle (Nakatsu-jo)
Alias: Ogi-jo (Folding fan castle)
Place: Ninotei Nakatsu city, Oita
Location: 33.60673044059684, 131.1865190171702
Type: Flat castle
Built: 1588, expanded in 17th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and water moats
Title: 100 more famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Nakatsu castle (中津城) is located on the mouth of Nakatsu river, at the center of Nakatsu city. Nakatsu city is the south eastern border of Buzen province (now became a part of Oita prefecture) and facing Suo-nada Bay. 

Surrounded by river and sea, Nakatsu castle is said as one of three famous Japanese water castles along with  Takamatsu Castle (Kagawa prefecture) and Imabari Castle (Ehime prefecture). Now being reclaimed and disappeared, but formerly Kakise-gawa river ran from the south to the east of the castle to cover it, and worked as an outer moat of the castle.

Nakatsu area before arrival of Kuroda clan

Originally Nakatsu area was governed by Utsunomiya clan, stem from main family later became a warlord of Shimotsuke province (Tochigi prefecture). At the internal war between Minamato clan and Taira clan in late 12th century, Utsunomiya clan rendered remarkable service and also achieved Buzen province or Iyo province as a reward.

In Sengoku era of 16th century, after the fall of Ouchi clan which was the warlord of Suo province and Nagato province (Yamaguchi prefecture) also held north part of Kyushu region in 1551, Utsunomiya clan subordinated to Otomo clan, the governor of Bungo province (Oita prefecture). Utsunomiya clan placed many branch families such as Nonaka clan at Nagaiwa castle or Nakama clan at Hitotsudo castle and collectively reigned the area.

After the decline of Otomo clan Utsunomiya clan once belonged to Shimazu clan which dominated major part of Kyushu island, but in 1590, the current ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) made a campaign to Shimazu clan and defeated them. Utsunomiya clan surrendered to Hideyoshi and was forgiven, but also told to move Iyo province (Ehime prefecture). Yoshitaka Kuroda (1546-1604), a famous military staff of Hideyoshi, was newly appointed as a lord of Buzen province.

Meet of Hideyoshi and Kanbe

Yoshitaka Kuroda (also called as Kanbe /Kanbee in nickname, Jyosui in buddhist name and Don Simeon in christian name ) was a son of Kodera clan, a small lord of Gochaku castle at Harima province (southern part of Hyogo prefecture). When Hideyoshi first entered in Harima province as a commander of Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) in 1576, Yoshitaka decided to support Hideyoshi and gave his Himeji castle to Hideyoshi as a base of this region.

Later, Miki clan, the most powerful local lord in this area, rose in revolt against Hideyoshi, and Yoshitaka’ family followed this. But Yoshitaka did not change his position. In addition to this, Yoshitaka was captured when he visited Murashige Araki (1535-1586), a former commander of Oda clan who also revolted to Oda army, to urge to reconsider, and had been confined in a jail over one year. 

One of his leg became not work by this capture, but he did not yield to Murashige and finally rescued by Hideyoshi. Due to these actions, Yoshitaka was trusted from Hideyoshi as a military staff, equal to Shigeharu Takenaka (Hanbee, 1544-1579), a former excellent military staff of Hideyoshi and died in 1579. Yoshitaka made various plans at the battle with Mouri clan.

Contribution to hegemony

When Nobunaga killed at the accident of Honnoji, a coup d'etat by his recional commander Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582), it is said that Yoshitaka recommended to depressed Hideyoshi that it is a golden chance to seize the hegemony. Following Yoshitaka’s recommendation, Hideyoshi quickly made peace concealing the death of Nobunaga with Mouri clan and returned to Kyoto, then finally revenged to Mitsuhide and became a successor of Nobunaga. 

The plan of Yoshitaka realized, but Hideyoshi gradually became cautious for Yoshitaka’s talent. During Hideyoshi’s campaign to Shikoku in 1585 and Kyushu in 1587 Yoshitaka continuously served as a chief military staff, and made achievement both at plot and tactics.

After Kyushu campaign Yoshitaka was appointed as a lord of Buzen province. At first Yoshitaka entered existing Umagatake castle, but started to build his own castle in Nakatsu at 1588. Buzen area was an important place to control the entrance of Kyushu island, but also apart from central area. This time Yoshitake became semi-retired and did not participate in later military operations of Hideyoshi.

Structure of Nakatsu castle

Nakatsu castle is built at the side of Nakatsugawa river which runs from southwest to northeast at the side of castle. Rough shape of the castle is a right-angled triangle shape, a octagonal line runs along Nakatsugawa river, horizontal line at southward and vertical line at northward. This shape is not so good at the utilization of area, but might be able to minimize the defense line to secure the castle with limited army.

Central area of the castle is also a smaller right-angled triangle shape, having two gate at its southwestern corner and southeastern corner. The main tower of Kuroda period might exist at the northwestern corner, where the old style stone wall of main tower and attached tower still exist. Central area is a flat one and surrounded by stone wall and moat, and works as a fortress only by itself.

Outside of eastern line and southern line, secondary area and third area existed to protect central area. These area are narrow areas and only thought as buffer areas, different from other castles which held large secondary area or third area and used as residence of the lords. Entrance of these outer areas existed at north, southwest and southeast corner, all of them were secure Masugata-style combined gates.

Total size of the castle is about 400 meter long and 300 meter wide. This number itself are large but considering its half size of triangle shape it might be a small one compared with the size of the lord. To compensate this size, Kakisegawa river was used as an outer moat, and temples were placed intensively along the river to use outer forts.

Struggle with former lords

In 1588, Utsunomiya clan, who was against for moving to Iyo province, rebelled against Kuroda clan then besieged at their hidden fort Kiidani castle and stubbornly resisted. Yoshitaka deceived to reconcile with and called major Utsunomiya people for the party, and assassinated all of Utsunomiya people at one temple near the castle. The wall of this temple is painted as red, and it is said to conceal the blood of victims.

Subsequent to the death of Hideyoshi at 1598, the battle of Sekigahara between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1542-1616), the largest lord of Toyotomi government, and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), the chief administrative staff of the government, began. 

Kuroda clan supported Tokugawa side and sent Nagamasa Kuroda (1568-1623), son of Yoshitaka and their troops to Tokugawa army in central Japan. As Kyushu island was separated into both side, Yoshitaka remained at Nakatsu castle and got approval to beat the Ishida-side lord and capture their territory from Ieyasu Tokugawa.

Once the battle began, Yoshimune Otomo (1558-1605), the leader of former Otomo clan expelled at 1593, raised their army to restore the clan under Ishida side. Yoshitaka and Otomo army fought at the battle of Ishigakibaru at the south of Nakatsu castle, and after a hard fight finally beat Otomo army. Next after the victory of Ieyasu Tokugawa at the decisive battle of Sekigahara, Yoshitaka attacked Ishida side army and fell their castles. 

Hosokawa period and afterward

As a result of the battle, Kuroda clan moved to Chikuzen province (Fukuoka prefecture) with larger territory, and Hosokawa clan was transferred from Tango province (northeastern part of Hyogo prefecture). Hosokawa clan first lived in this castle and expanded, but later moved to Kokura castle they newly built. 

Hosokawa clan was also transferred to Kumamoto Castle in Higo province (Kumamoto prefecture) in 1632. Okudaira clan, a high class hereditary lord of Tokugawa clan which was the descendant of Nobumasa Okudaira (1555-1615), who kept Nagashino castle (Aichi prefecture) at the battle of Nagashino and brought opportunity to break Takeda army, was appointed as the lord. Okudaira clan kept this position by the end of Edo era.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, all building were lost. The place of castle was still held by Okudaira clan, and they built an imitation of main tower with the support from local people in 1964. In 2011, the building of main tower was sold to a private company.


20 minutes walk from JR Kyushu Nippo-Honsen line Nakatsu station.  15 minutes drive from Higashi-Kyushu Jidoshado Expressway Buzen interchange.

Related Castles

Kokura Castle -Gate to Kyushu island-
Fukuoka Castle- Huge castle looking down on commercial city-
Takamatsu Castle -Beautiful water castle with original turrets-
Imabari Castle -Water castle in town of marine transportation-
Nagaiwa Castle -Castle has long stone forts and stone built pillbox-
Hitotsudo Castle -Castle built over impressive rock-
Nagashino Castle -Castle changed fate of Takeda clan-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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