Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Odawara Castle -Castle rejected attack of two famous warlords-

Odawara Castle

 -Castle rejected attack of two famous warlords-



Name: Odawara castle (Odawara-castle)
Place: Jyonai Odawara city, Kanagawa
Type: Hill castle
Built: Originally 15th century, expanded in 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles, Designated national historical site

Brief History

Odawara castle (小田原城) is placed on the center of Odawara city, western part of Sagami country (Kanagawa prefecture). Odawara city located on the foot of Hakone Path of Tokaido Road, and is regarded as a entrance to Kanto region from western area.

Odawara castle is said to be build in 15th century by Omori clan, a local load. Souun Hojyo (1432-1519), the founder of Hojyo clan and seized Izu country in 1493, next aimed at expansion into Sagami country (Souun was also a retainer of Imagawa clan, a governor of Sugura country (Shizuoka prefecture) and he could not attack them).

In 1495, Souun captured Odawara castle and moved his residence from Nirayama Castle to here. It is said that Souun tricked the commander to have hunting with soldiers in Hakone area, and suddenly occupied this castle.

Attack of Kenshin Uesugi

During the second leader Ujitsuna Hojyo (1487-1541), and third leader Ujiyasu Hojyo (1515-1571), Hojyo clan beated old large powers in Kanto such as Koga kubo, Ogigayatsu Uesugi clan and Yamauchi Uesugi clan, and seized a hegemony in Kanto region. In resonse to this, in 1552, Norimasa Uesugi (1523-1579), current leader of Yamauchi Uesugi clan and who lost their residence Shirai castle at Kozuke country (Gunma prefecture), escaped to Echigo country (Niigata prefetcure) and asked Nagao Kagetora (1530-1578), later known as Kenshin Uesugi for assistance.

Kenshin had a brilliant talent on tactics, and said as “Dragon of Echigo” or "God of war" later. In 1559, Kenshin visited Kyoto and met Yoshiteru Ashikaga, 13th shogun of Muromachi shogunate. He was approved to succeed the status of Kanto Kanrei (Ruler of Kanto region) which Norimasa had, and got the protext of conquest Kanto region, that is Hojyo clan.

In 1560, Kenshin crossed the border and enteered Kanto region, gathering old retainers of Yamauchi Uesugi clans. Surrounding warlords such as Yuki clan, Utsunomiya clan or Satomi clan also entered Kenshin’s army, and the number of Kenshin’s army increased into tens of thousand. Hojyo clan lost all castles in Kozuke country and eastern Kanto region, and withdraw their defence line to Arakawa river at Musashi country (Saitama prefecture).

On the other hand, Kenshin had dominant army but they are mixed up of many powers, and also supply was inadequate. Having no sufficient time, Kenshin decided to siege Odawara castle directly to settle the situation. Kenshin advanced to Odawara and sieged the castle for one month, but due to the security of the castle Kenshin could not capture it. Finally Kenshin gave up and retreated to Echigo, and Hojyo clan recovered their territory again.

Attack of Shingen Takeda

In 1569, this time Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), a warlord of Kai country (Yamanashi prefecture) and called as “Tiger of Kai”, attacked Odawara castle. Formerly Hojyo clan, Takeda clan and Imagawa clan made a triangle treaty, but after the battle of Okehazama at 1560, Imagawa clan which lost their head had significantly weakend. Takeda clan took this opportunity and assaulted Imagawa clan in 1568. In response to this situation, Hojyo  clan attacked Takeda clan to support Imagawa clan based on the treaty, and made peach with Kenshin Uesugi to cope with Takeda Clan.

Originally the cause was Takeda’s action, but furious about Hojyo and Uesugi treaty, Shingen Takeda advanced to Hojyo territory in 1569. First Takeda clan attacked Takiyama castle (Tokyo metropolis) but could not capture it, then Shingen turned their army to Odawara castle. Considering expected damage to attack secure castle Shingen just encircled castle in 3 days and retreated to Kai country (Yamanashi prefecture), their nation, but on their return way Takeda army beat chasing Hojyo army at the battle of Mimasutoge Path.

Based on these two experiences, Hojyo clan further expanded this castle. A guarding wall and moat surrounding castle and town totally was built, and the length of this wall was nine kilometer long. This facility is called as “Sou Gamae”, enabled to keep the distance of castle and enemy, and to hold huge amount of supply materials. 


Odawara Campaign by Hideyoshi Toyotomi

After this attack Hojyo clan continued it expansion under the 4th leader Ujimasa Hojyo (1538-1590), and by 1590 its territory spread all over the Kanto region. But simultaneously Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) dominated central Japan, and aimed at the unification of all area of Japan. In 1590, due to the conflict for border, both clan became into total war. Hojyo clan, experience from past two battles, decided to besieged at Odawara castle with 80,000 solders and abundant supplies, aimed to gain time and make treaty with Toyotomi clan. 

In response to this, Toyotomi clan mobilized 200,000 army, broke the defence line of Hojyo clan such as Yamanaka castle (Shizuoka prefecture), Matsuida castle (Gunma prefecture) or Iwatsuki castle (Saitama prefecture) here and there and encircled Odawara castle in May.

Protected by secure facility Hojyo clan stand for one month, but different from former two enemies, Toyotomi army were consisted of professional soldiers who did not have to return to their home for agriculture, and had abundant supplies over one years. Most territories of Hojyo clan was already occupied by Toyotomi army, and there was no hope of rescuing Odawara castle.

 Further, Hachioji castle, a residence of millitary leader Ujiteru Hojyo (1540-1590) was captured, and Ishigakiyama castle, a modern castle as headquarters of Hideyoshi was built just aside Odawara castle. Considering these situation, Ujinao Hojyo (1562-1591), the last leader of Hojyo clan, opened this castle in July, and Hojyo clan as a ruler of Kanto region extinguished.

Edo era and afterward

In Edo era, Tokugawa shogunate also thought important of this castle as a gate to Edo, and placed Okubo clan, a hereditary retainer of Ieyasu Tokugawa. During Hojyo period central area was located on the top of the hill, but Okubo clan moved central area to lower ridge formerly used as a secondary area, and reformed it into modern castle surrounded by stone walls, with a three story main tower.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, all buildings were broken, and the site of castle was seriously damaged by Great Kanto earthquake at 1923. After WW2, the site of the castle is used as a park, and Main tower, corner turrets, composite gate to secondary area, and combined gate to outer area were reconstructed.

Related Castles

Yamanaka Castle -Fortress guarding western border of Hojyo territory-
Ishigakiyama Castle -Master of sieging castle-
Nirayama Castle -History of Hojyo clan for 100 years of five generations-
Takiyama Castle -Expansion and limitation of medieval castle-
Hachioji Castle -Place of final battle for unification by Hideyoshi-
Hachigata Castle -Four brothers lead Hojyo clan-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

Core area of modern period

Core area of medieval era and outer barrier

Distant view of Odawara castle seen from Ishigakiyama mountain

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