Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tottori Castle -As secure as guarding general's will-

Tottori Castle

-As secure as guarding general's will-



Name: Tottori castle (Tottori-jo)
Alias: Kyushosan jo (Kyusyosan castle)
Place: Higashimachi Tottori city, Tottori
Type: Mountain castle
Built: Originally 15th century, expanded in 16th and 17th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Tottori castle (鳥取城) is located on Kyushosan mountain, the north side of Tottori city. Originally the center of Inaba province (eastern half of Tottori prefecture) was placed on Iwami erea or Tenjinyama castle and Tottori city is a relatively new city, but prospered as residence of Ikeda clan, a large lord. Kyushosan mountain is an isolated mountain with steep slope, and Tottori castle is known as an impregnable fortress.

Build among fall of Yamana clan

Tottori castle was originally built by Yamana clan in 15th century. Yamana clan was a traditional house of Genji (Minamoto clan) and served as chief officer of Mandokoro which controls samurais and securities of Kyoto at Muromachi Shogunate. At the beginning of Muromachi era Yamana clan was a governor of many provinces mainly in Sanyo and Sanin region, and said as “Lord of one sixth of Japan”. 

At the Battle of Onin, a large internal conflict in Kyoto continued over 10 years from 1467 to 1476, Sozen Yamana (1404-1473), the leader of Yamana clan, served as a chief of the Western army and conflicted with the Eastern army lead by Hosokawa clan. But the power of Yamana clan significantly decreased due to conflict with Akamatsu clan and internal struggles, and now only held several provinces of Sanin area.

In the former half of 16th century, facing the pressure from surrounding warlords such as Ouchi clan, Amago clan or Uragami clan, Yamana clan only held Tajima province (north part of Kyoto prefecture) and Inaba province (eastern half of Tottori prefecture). It is said that Tottori castle was built in the former half of 16th century preparing for Amago clan, the warlord of Izumo province (Shimane prefecture) and already seized Houki province (western half of Tottori prefecture).

Structure of Tottori castle

As Tottori castle was built at considerably later period and stands at sheer cliff, the structure of hilltop area might keep the original plan of the castle. Combination of large central area with attached corridor and long continuing line of small terraces built at connecting ridges is common to other castles built by Yamana clan, or neighbor castle such as Ueshi castle or Utsubuki castle (Tottori castle).

Central area at hilltop is a wedge shaped one of about 80 meter long and 40 meter wide, being surrounded by stone walls. At the northwestern corner there is a ruin of the basement of main tower, which is about 20 meter long square with attached tower. At the east of central area which is connected to next hills, several terraces protected by stone walls and Masugata style gate are built to protect the expected front.

Contrary to hilltop area, hillside area was significantly expanded in the later period. Hillside area is roughly divided into two layer, the upper one consist of secondary area or Tenkyumaru area, and lower one including huge third area. Secondary area is the center of the castle in Edo era, and has three tower turret which was a substitute of lost main tower and technically folded stone walls. Third area was used as administrative area and guarded by wide stone moats.

Turbulence among strong powers

After the fall of Amago clan in 1566, Mouri clan, a warlord of Aki province (Hiroshima prefecture) which ruined Amago clan, extended their power to Sanin area. Yamana clan moved their main base to secure Tottori castle for survival, but Tottori castle had been involved the battle between Mouri clan and Amago restoration army lead by former retainer Yukimori Yamanaka (1545-1578).

Around 1575, Mouri army expelled Amago restoration army and extended their territory to Inaba province and western part of Harima province (Hyogo prefecture), the east border of Chugoku region next to Kinki region. But on the other hand, Nobunaga Oda, the warlord of Owari province (western half of Aichi prefecture) who seized Kyoto at 1568, also rapidly expanded its power.

At first these two large powers made friendship and kept noninterefence, but due to the treatment of Yoshiaki Ashikaga (1537-1597), the last shogun of Muromachi shogunate expelled by Nobunaga and refuge to Mouri clan, the conflict of two clans began in 1577. Nobunaga appointed Hideyoshi Hashiba (later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) as a commander of this Chugoku region, and ordered to conquest Mouri territory.

Start of campaign by Hideyoshi Hashiba

In 1577 Hideyoshi Hashiba entered Harima province (Hyogo prefecture) and started his campaign against Mouri clan. At first Hideyoshi suffered from continuous revolts of Miki clan at Miki castle (Hyogo prefecture) and Araki clan at Arioka castle (Osaka prefecture) in backward, and was inferior to Mouri clan. 

But once suppressed these revolts Hideyoshi captured whole part of Harima province in 1581. Hideyoshi also sent his trusted younger brother Hidenaga Toyotomi (1540-1591) and seized Tajima province (north part of Hyogo prefecture) in 1580, including Ikuno silver mine. The main family of Yamana clan at Tajima province was ruined, and Hideyoshi started to push the front line westward.

In 1581, Hideyoshi let Naoie Ukita (1529-1582), a warlord lord of Bizen and MImasaka province (Okayama prefecture) and Nanjo clan, a lord of Houki province, to leave from Mouri clan. Hideyoshi aimed at Tottori castle as next target, as Tottori area is the projection of Mouri territory and could aim Himeji castle (Hyogo prefecture), the main base of Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi succeeded to persuade Toyokuni Yamada (1548-1626), the leader of Yamana clan to support him. 

Siege of Tottori castle

In response to this, opposing retainers of Yamana clan such as Morishita clan or Nakamura clan expelled Toyokuni Namana, and invited Mouri retainer named Tsuneie Kikkawa (1547-1581), belong to a house of Motoharu Kikkawa, a prominent general of Mouri clan. Tsuneie entered Tottori castle in 1581, and prepared for attack of Hideyoshi with 3,000 soldiers.

Hideyoshi, who feared severe damage by assaulting this castle, planned to encircle this castle to starve out Mouri army. At first Hideyoshi purchased rices in Tottori area at very high price, and people including guardian of castle who did not expect the assault willingly sold their food to Hideyoshi. Next Hideyoshi advanced to Tottori castle, and built a encircling barriers including his camp Taikouganaru fort, and totally shut the supply line of the castle.

Of course Mouri clan tried to rescue this situation with all their effort, but being obstructed by Ukita clan and Nanjo clan, Mouri army could not bring the supplies to Tottori castle. Suffering from severe hunger Tsuneie and Tottori castle well stood for 3 months, but to save remaining guard soldiers, finally Tsuneie opened this castle and killed himself. 

Hideyoshi could capture this castle without striking damage, and seized whole part of east Sanin area. Later this is said as one of the three siege of Hideyoshi, the remainders are siege of Miki castle (1578-1580) and Bicchu Takamatsu castle (1582).

After Toyotomi period

Under Toyotomi government, Tottori castle was governed by Keijun Miyabe (?-1599), a general of Hideyoshi and was active in the conquest of Sanin area. In 1616, Mitsumasa Ikeda (1609-1682), formerly a lord of Himeji domain, was transferred to Tottori castle as a lord of Inaba and Houki province. As a feudal lord of large territory, Mitsumasa significantly expanded hillside areas and transformed into modern castle with stone walls and water moats. 

Mountain castle area became scarcely used, but buildings had been kept throughout Edo era. Regarding main tower, there was a two story tower in the hilltop area, but a three story turret existed at the front of secondary area in hillside area and this was virtually a main tower. In 1632, Mitsumasa moved to Okayama domain, and his nephew Mitsunaka Ikeda (1630-1693) succeeded his position. Tottori castle had been managed by Ikeda clan by the end of Edo era.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution all building were broken, and site of the castle is used as a historical park or a ground of high school. There are numerous small terraces throughout the mountain, but now only front side slope is accessible. Beautiful scenery from sheer cliff shows the both of native security of Tottori castle, and spectacular tactics of Hideyoshi to fall strong castle and general.


30 minutes walk from JR West Sanin-Honsen Tottori station to the entrance of climbing road. 20 minutes drive from Tottori Jidoshado Expressway Tottori interchange to the hillside area. 30 minutes walk from hillside to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Ishigakiyama Castle -Master of sieging castles-
Wakasa Onigajo Castle -Picturesque ruin of castle on mountain-
Bicchu Takamatsu Castle -Leave the fame as a moss of Takamatsu-
Taikouganaru Fort -Castle built as siege engine-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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