Saturday, March 1, 2014

Osaka Castle (1) -Symbol of unification of Japan-

Osaka Castle (1)

-Symbol of unification of Japan-



Name: Osaka castle (Osaka-jo)
Place: Osakajo, Chuo-ku Osaka city, Osaka
Location: 34.6867182932343, 135.52670211032478
Type: Flat castle
Built: Originally 1580's, reformed in 17th century
Remaining remnants: Corner turrets, gates, stone walls, clay walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles, National Monuments of Special Historic Sites

Brief History

Osaka castle (大阪城) is located in the north east part of Osaka city. The site of the castle is the north end of Uemachi height, a long and narrow height continues from Osaka castle to Shitennoji temple for over 10 kilometer, faces former main stream of Yogogawa river. Due to its largeness and huge construction work it is difficult to grasp, but if seen from the distant place the height difference of the castle and surrounding areas is clearly seen. 

Importance of Osaka area

In the ancient era, current Osaka area is a vast tidal flat separated by Uemachi height. In 5th century, Emperor Nintoku reclaimed inner area and generated rice field. Osaka area is located at the mouth of Yodogara river from Kyoto city and Yamatogawa river from Asuka and Nara area, thus Osaka area was also an entrance from western half of Japan or foreign countries to the capital of ancient Japan, and prospered as a distribution place of trade goods. Due to its importance, the capital of ancient Japan was temporally placed at the south of current Osaka castle in 6th century (Naniwanomiya).. In the medieval era, due to its shallow water foreign trade was placed at Kobe port or Sakai port, but Osaka still prospered as a base of domestic transport and commerce.

Build of Ishiyama Honganji temple

In 1496, priest Rennyo (1415-1499), the leader of Jyodo Shinshu (also called as Ikkoshu or Honganji), started to built their head temple at the place of current Osaka castle. Jyodo Shinshu is a denomination of Japanese Buddhism originated by Shinran (1173-1263). Apart from other denominations, Jyodo Shinshu had a tendency of actual profit social reform, and achieved strong support from enthusiastic believers in the turbulent period. 

Under the suppress of Ennyakuji, the largest temple at that era, Rennyo at first moved to Hokuriku region and spread his teachings. The number of believers significantly increased in Hokuriku region, and the believers increased their power. Next Rennyo returned to Kinki region and built his next residence Yamashina Honganji temple at the south of Kyoto city. Finally Rennyo built his third residence at the place of current Osaka castle, and named as "Ishiyama Gobo".

Due to its power and doctrine, Jyodo Shinshu was inevitably involved into the conflict against surrounding large lords and other temples. At the beginning of 16th century the conflict of Hosokawa clan and Miyoshi clan occurred, and Honganji supported Hosokawa clan and mobilize many believers to the battle, and contributed to the victory of Hosokawa clan. But Hosokawa clan feared the power of Honganji, then they attacked Yamashina Honganji temple and fell it, then the main temple of Ikkoshu became Ishiyama Gobo and named it as Ishiyama Honganji. 

To protect them from other powers, Honganji strengthened their defense facilities and built many forts at surrounding islands. Finally Ishiyama Hongaji became the impregnable fortress in the Kinki region, and rulers of Kinki region such as Hosokawa clan or Miyoshi clan could not meddle with Honganji. 

Ikkoshu believers evoked revolts in many countries, and in 1488 Ikkoshu believers captured Kaga province (Ishikawa province) by defeating former governor Togashi clan. Ikkoshu also seized Nagashima area, a delta area of Kisogawa river between Owari province (Aichi prefecture) and Ise province (Mie prefecture). Now Ikkoshu became a strong power of Sengoku era, and Osaka area prospered as a castle town of Ishiyama Honganji.

Long battle of Honganji temple against Nobunaga Oda

In 1568, Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), a warlord of Owari country (Aichi prefecture), occupied Kyoto along with Yoshiaki Ashikaga (1537-1597), who was a younger brother of assassinated 13th Muromachi shogun Yoshiteru Ashikaga (1536-1565). Yoshiaki became a new shogun under the support of Nobunaga and Nobunaga became a substantial ruler. 

But later they became apart, and Yoshiaki appealed other warlords and Honganji to down with Nobunaga cooperatively. On the other hand, Nobunaga was planning to govern Japan uniformly, and decrease the power of religious groups. Owing to this situation, responding Yoshiaki’s appeal, Honganji started a intermittent but long?conflict with Nobunaga from 1569.

Honganji tormented Nobunaga over and over as a center of anti Nobunaga movement, but each time Nobumaga got over the difficulty and defeat his enemy one by one. In 1575, believers at Nagashima area were destroyed by Nobunaga, and Echizen province (Fukui prefecture) once captured by Ikkoshu was also recovered by Oda army. Ikkoshu once made peace with Nobunaga at that time.

But next year, Ikkoshu made hostile against Nobunaga again, in cooperation with Mouri clan, the large warlord of Aki country (Hiroshima prefecture) which held most part of Chugoku region. Honganji hired mercenary gunners of Zaiga region (Wakayama prefecture) and tortured him, but finally Nobunaga built encirclement for Ishiyama Honganji. 

Blocked Honganji asked Mouri clan and naval force of Mouri clan once defeated the one of Oda clan in the first battle at the mouth of Kizugawa river in 1576, but two years later Nobunaga brought large battleships protected by steel boards and finally defeated Mouri naval forces. Further Kaga country was under attack of Katsuie Shibata (1522-1583), regional commander of Nobunaga.

Honganji still firmly kept Ishiyama Honganji itself, but due to the lost of distant territories and shortage of supply, finally they accept the agreement with Nobunaga and left Ishiyama Honganji temple in 1580. 

Construction of Osaka castle

Nobunaga might have a plan to build his new castle at the site of Honganji, but he was killed during a coup d'etat?by Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582), a regional commander of Nobunaga in June 1582. Mitsuhide temporally grabbed the hegemony, but?11 days after,?was beaten and died at the battle of Yamazaki by Nobunaga’s another regional general Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598), later named as Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who speedy returned his army from western front to central area.

Hideyoshi is said as originally a son of poor pheasant of Owari. Being evaluated his talent of attracting people and activity by Nobunaga, Hideyoshi made a rapid promotion, became one of the highest position of Oda generals and served as a commander of Nagahama castle or Himeji castle. By performing revenge of former master, Hideyoshi became regarded as a successor of Nobunaga. Breaking the opposing former colleagues  such as Katsuie Shibata at the battle of Shizugatake in 1583, Hideyoshi virtually became the next ruler.

As a new ruler, Hideyoshi needed his own residence. After the battle of Yamazaki Hideyoshi temporally stayed Tennozan Hoji castle, but just after the battle of Shizugatake Hideyoshi started to build his new castle at the site of former Ishiyama Honganji temple. As Hideyoshi did not have traditional authority, he chose economical supremacy as a source of his government and thought to make his own capital at Osaka.

Structure of Osaka castle at Toyotomi period

After two years construction the central area was completed at first, and surrounding areas were built continuously. The central area was an oval shape of 400 meter length and 200 meter width, and protected by layer of stone walls. As this central area was built at first, the shape of this area was comparatively old and complex effected by the shape of original terrain.

At the north east of central area (current place of water supply system), a five story six floor of main tower was built. The precise shape of this main tower is unknown, but considering picture depicts the battle of Osaka castle, the shape of this main tower was a boro-gata style, an traditional style of main tower consist of small watchtower and large basement. The wall of this tower was painted as black lacquer , and decoration patterns were drawn by gold powder.

Next to the central area, secondary area and Nishinomaru area were built by 1588. These areas are equivalent to current secondary area, and a square shaped area of 800 meter length surrounds the central area. These areas were the key of security of Osaka castle, and was surrounded by tall stone walls and wide water moats not seen before. Hideyoshi brought huge scale of construction to the castle building, and once defense side besieged inside of this secure defense facility with sufficient soldiers and supplies, the enemy could not do nothing by matchlock guns.

Symbol of unification

Based at Osaka castle, Hideyoshi proceeded his action for unification of Japan. Even though Hideyoshi lost in the battle of Komaki Nagakute in 1584 and could not defeat Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), former ally of Nobunaga and large warlord at Tokai region, but he was appointed as a "Kanpaku", the highest position of nobility in 1585. At that year Hideyoshi conquered Shikoku island which was held by Chosokabe clan and let them yield, and from 1586 to 1587 marched to Kyushu island and defeated Shimazu clan. 

Seeing this situation Ieyasu Tokugawa once subordinated to Hideyoshi in 1586, and finally Hideyoshi destroyed Hojyo clan, a warlord which held most part of Kanto region at Odawara campaign in 1590. At this time lords of Tohoku region such as Date clan or Mogami clan also obeyed to Hideyoshi, and the unification of Japan now completed at this point. During this time Hideyoshi built Jyurakudai and Fushimi castle (Kyoto prefecture) because of political necessity, but the source of military and economic power which supported the supremacy of Hideyoshi was still Osaka castle. This huge castle was the symbol of unification by Hideyoshi Toyotomi and his government.

Continue to Part 2

Related Castles

Nagoya Castle (1) -Owari Nagoya city depends on the existence of castle-
Edo Castle (1) -Inner area built by talented general-
Himeji Castle (1) -Castle of Kanbe and Hideyoshi-
Nagahama Castle -Castle prepared future ruler-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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