Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sasayama Castle -Secure fortress built by joint service of large lords-

Sasayama Castle

-Secure fortress built by joint service of large lords-



Name: Sasayama castle (Sasayama-jo)
Alias: Kiriga-jo (Mist castle)
Place: Kitashinmachi Sasayama city, Hyogo
Type: Flat castle
Built: 1609
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles, Designated national historical site

Brief History

Sasayama castle (篠山城) is placed on the small hill named Sasayama,at the center of Sasayama city. Sasayama area is a junction of a bypass road from Kyoto to Sanin region, and road to Sanyo region through Himeji. Now Sasayama city belongs to Hyogo prefecture, but formerly a part of Tanba province.

History of Sasayama area

At the beginning of 16th century, Tanemichi Hatano (1496-1545), a local lord who expanded his power and became a warlord of this region, captured Yagami castle, a large mountain castle located in Sasayama city only three kilometer away from Sasayama castle. Once Yagami castle was deprived by Miyoshi clan, but Tanemichi’s grandson Hideharu Hatano (?-1579) recovered the castle and gathered surrounding local lords.

In 1575, Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582), a general of Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), advanced to Tanba county. At first Hidemichi subordinated to Mitsuhide, but next year he rose in revolt against Mitsuhide with other local lords. Once he shut away Mitsuhide’s army from Tanba region, Mitsuhide trooped Tanba again and besieged Hideharu at Yagami castle for one and half year. 

Finally due to lack of supply Hideharu surrendered to Mitsuhide but was killed, and Hatano clan was extinguished. Akechi clan governed this area by 1582, but after the incident of Honnoji, a coup d’etat against Nobunaga by Mitsuhide, Mitsuhide was defeated at the battle of Yamazaki by Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), and also Akechi clan was extinguished.

During the period of Toyotomi government in 1580’s and 1590’s, Yagami castle was managed by Toyotomi generals. But after the battle of Sekigahara at 1600, new ruler Ieyasu Tokugawa (1542-1616) felt the necessity of building new secure castle at this area, to control roads and divide Toyotomi clan existing at Osaka castle and western large lords.

Construction of Sasayama castle

In 1608, Yasushige Matsudaira (1568-1640), son of Ieyasu, was appointed as a governor of Sasayama domain, and ordered to build a new castle at Sasayama hill. Among the increasing tension between Edo shogunate and Toyotomi clan, Ieyasu forced to build this castle. The plan of this castle was made by Takatora Todo (1556-1630), who has a good skill at building castle and actual construction was managed by Terumasa Ikeda (1565-1613), a large lord and marriage relative of Tokugawa clan. Edo Shogunate ordered other newcoming large lords such as Fukushima clan, Kato clan, Hachisuka clan or Asano clan was ordered to perform their allotment by their own charge.

This style of construction is said as “Tenka Fushin” (Public Construction). Edo shogunate compelled large and new coming lords to construct castles of Edo shogunate, to let them consume their wealth. Most of large castles built by Edo shogunate in 1600’s and 1610’s, such as Edo castle, Osaka castle, Nagoya castle, Sasayama castle, Sunpu castle, Hikone castle, Nijyo castle and so on, were constructed in this style. Each lord participated in the building often engraved their mark on stones used for stone wall, to distinguish their material from other lords and show their contribution.

To haste the completion, not only main tower but also corner turret were not build, and central area was only surrounded by walls (of course gates were built). Edo shogunate considered as a fortress, it is sufficient for defense only by stone walls and water moats. But for residential use, a large palace building was built in secondary area.

As a result, Sasayama castle was not used for actual battle, and has been a center of Sasayama Domain throughout Edo era. great hall part of secondary area palace remained by 1944, but was lost by fire. Now the site of castle is used as a park、and secondary area palace hall was rebuilt. Retainers town and commercial town both remain at southwest and southeast of the castle, and many old buildings were preserved and keeps atmosphere of old castle town well.


15 minutes bus ride from JR West Takaraduka-sen line Sasayamaguchi station. 15 minutes drive from Maizuru-Wakasa Jidoshado Expressway Tannan-Sasayamaguchi interchange.

Related Castles

Yagami Castle -Resistance and death of Hatano clan-
Osaka Castle -Symbol of unification of Japan-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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