Thursday, March 27, 2014

Okawachi castle -A noble family disappeared into the history-

Okawachi Castle

-A noble family disappeared into the history- 



Name: Okawachi castle (Okawachi-jo)
Place: Okawachicho, Matsusaka city, Mie
Type: Hill castle
Built: 15th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats

Brief History

Okawachi castle (大河内城) is located at Okawachi town at the south west part of Matsusaka city. Okawachi area is at upstream of Sakauchi river which flows to Matsusaka city, and locates at the border of Ise plain and backside mountains toward Yamato province (Nara prefecture). Roads from Yoshino area or Uda area of Yamato province passes beside the castle, and this place is also an exit from Misugi village, the original main base of Kitabatake clan to the Ise plain.

A noble family supported Emperor Godaigo

In Muromachi period, southern part of Ise country was governed by Kitabatake clan. Kitabatake clan was a noble house of Murakami Genji, a descendent of Emperor Murakami in 10th century. In 14th century, after the fall of Kamakura shogunate, Chikafusa Kitabatake (1293-1354) became a confidant Emperor Godaigo who beat Kamakura Shogunate. Chikafusa and his third son was appointed as a governor of Ise province (Mie prefecture), and later wrote a book named “Jinno Shotoki” to appeal the legitimacy of his emperor.

Akiie Kitabatake (1318-1338), the eldest son of Chikafusa, was a talented general and was appointed as a grand general of Tohoku region at Tagajyo castle (Miyagi prefecture). When Takauji Ashikaga (1305-1358), a strong general and founder of Muromachi shogunate, revolted to Emperor Godaigo with his supporting emperor, Chikafusa marched 900km from Tagajyo castle to Kyoto within one month and once expelled Takauji from Kyoto. 

But as a result of counter attack of Takauji, Emperor Godaigo was defeated and escaped into Yoshino area located at southern part of Yamato country, then opened Yoshino court in exile. Akiie made another expedition toward Kyoto city, but finally was defeated by Muromachi Shogunate army and died. Descendant of Akiie later moved to current Aomori area and built Namioka castle.

On the other hand, descendant of Kitabatake clan who remained at Ise province supported this Yoshino court and expanded to southern Ise country at the next area of Yoshino, to continue resistance against Muromachi shogunate. Kitabatake clan first located at the Kiriyama castle at the the middle of Yamato and Ise, but later advanced into Ise plain and built Okawachi castle.

Structure of Okawachi castle

Okawachi castle is built utilizing a long hill of 50 meter height spread north and south ward surrounded by Sakuuchi river and its tributary. This hill has a flat hilltop area and steep slope like a table, and suitable to build a castle. 

Main area of the castle is located at the middle west part of the hill and currently used as a shrine. At the west of the main area there is Nishinomaru area, and between main area and Nishinomaru area there is a deep valley called as Mamushidani. It is said that there was a fierce battle at this valley at the siege of Nobunaga Oda.

Below the central area there was a large flat land called as Ninomaru (secondary area) and Baba (riding ground). This flat space might be residences and barracks of generals and soldiers at this place, and main gate was built between two ridges at the north part of castle. 

On the other hand, south part of the castle are undulate area, and narrow flat space were built along the ridge and protected by dry moats. The castle spread ahead of the highway passes at the south edge of the castle, and total size of the castle might be 900 meter long and 300 meter width. It is a large castle at that period and it shows the power of Kitabatake clan.    

Fall of Kitabatake Clan

In 16th century Kitabatake clan grew into a warlord and fought with lords in northern Ise province such as Seki clan or Kanbe clan aiming at a hegemony of Ise province. But in 1569, at the time of Kitabatake Tomonori (1528-1587), Kitabatake clan was attacked by Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), a warlord of Owari country (western part of Aichi prefecture) and seized the hegemony of central area.

Facing 70,000 enemies, Tomofusa besieged at Okawachi castle and fought well against overwhelming Nobunaga army. Being guarded by dumps surrounding the castle and sheer slope, Kitabatake clan stood the castle over 50 days against Oda army and gave them certain damage. But due to lack of supply, finally Kitabatake clan had to make peace with Oda clan, by condition of adopting Nobukatsu Oda (1558-1630), the second son of Nobunaga as the successor of the clan.

Nobukatsu formally succeeded the leader position from Tomonori in 1575, and after the take over he purged Kitabatake people as already no use. Tomonori was a master of sword but his betrayed retainer made his word unusable, thus Tomofnori was killed without resistance. After the death of Nobunaga at the incident of Honnoji in 1582, a survivor of Kitabatake clan attempted to revive the clan at their original base but failed, then Kitabatake clan finally became an end and disappeared into the history.

Okawachi castle was abolished along with the extinction of Kitabatake clan. The site of the castle was used as a local shrine but still kept old shapes.


20 minutes drive from Ise-Jidoshado Expressway Matsusaka interchange via Route 166.

Related Castles

Tamaru Castle -Checkered life of Nobunaga's second son who survived turbulent period-
Namioka Castle -Longest and fastest expedition by short lived brave general-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

No comments:

Post a Comment