Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wakasa Onigajo Castle -Picturesque ruin of castle on mountain-

Wakasa Onigajo Castle

-Picturesque ruin of castle on mountain-



Name: Wakasa Onigajo castle (Wakasa Oniga-jo)
Alias: Wakasa jo (Wakasa castle)
Place: Mikura Wakasa town, Tottori
Location: 35.33713009517221, 134.3956208762541
Type: Mountain castle
Built: Originally 13th century, expanded in 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and dry moats
Title: Designated national historical site, 100 more famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Wakasa Onigajyo castle (若桜鬼ヶ城) is located at Tsuruoyama mountain, one of about 150 meter from hillside at the center of Wakasa town, the one placed at southeastern part of Inaba province (eastern part of Tottori prefecture). 

Wakasa town is a connecting point of roads from Tajima province (Kyoto prefecture) and Harima province (Hyogo prefecture) to Tottori city across the mountains. This castle was abolished and partially broken in early Edo period, but broken structures create nostalgic atmosphere and still remind us an old impressive shape of the castle.

Origin of Wakasa Onigajo castle

Originally Wakasa area was goverend by Yabe clan, a local lord since 13th century, and they built a small castle at the current place of castle. In 15th century, on behalf of Yamana clan, weakened governor of Inaba province, surrounding large powers such as Amago clan, Mouri clan or Oda clan fiercely fought for this province. 

Hieyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) who captured Inaba province including Wakasa Onigajo castle as a commander of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), appointed Shigekata Kinoshita (?-1600) as a commander of Wakasa Onigajo castle. Shigekata activated at many battles at the unifying campaign of Hideyoshi, and also renovated Wakasa Onigajo castle into a modern one with splendid stone walls. It is said that Shigekata borrows large amount of the money for construction.

As a result, Wakasa Onigajo castle was said as three excellent castles of Inaba province, along with Tottori Castle and Shikano castle (Tottori prefecture)

Structure of castle

As Tsuruoyama mountain has a triangle shaped hilltop, the shape of Wakasa Onigajo caslte is also like an arrowhead. Central area of the castle is a pentagon shaped flat terrace of 50 meter long, with a basement of main tower which is 10 meter long square at its south edge. At the northwestern corner, there was a Masugata-style  entrance of the area which had a folding path.

At the north of central area, secondary area and third area spreads at lower layer. Secondary area is a 40 meter long square shaped area and third area was also 20 meter long square one. At the east line of third area, there was a magnificent Masugata-style backside gate of the castle securely protected by stone walls. 

On the western slope of central area, there was a main gate of this castle which was a Masugata style one. Inside and outside of the gate were both buffer area, the inner on was a waiting space of soldier and outer one was an attack space. At the middle of climbing route, there was a front fort protected by upper half of hexagon shaped stone walls. Total size of the castle is about 150 meter long and 50 meter width, and even though not so large one, every part of the castle was securely protected by tall stone walls and secure gates. 

A house survived two unfavorable decision

At the battle of Sekigahara in 1600 between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600) after the death of Hideyoshi, Shigekata belonged to Mitsunari then was forced to suicide. After Kinoshita clan, Iemori Yamazaki (1567-1614) was appointed as a commander of Wakasa Onijago castle by Edo Shogunate.

Iemori's father Kataie Yamazaki (1547-1591) was originally a local lord of Omi province (Shiga prefecture) and became a retainer of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582). At the time of the accident of Honnoji, a coup d'etat of Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582) occurred in 1582, Kataie once supported Mitsuhide. But after the defeat of Mitsuhide at the battle of Yamazaki by Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), Hideie quickly changed to Hideyoshi side and became his retainer.

Iemori himself belonged to Toyotomi supporting group at the battle of Sekigahara and attacked Miyazu castle (Kyoto prefecture). But Iemori married with a sister of Terumasa Ikeda (1565-1613), a large lord who supported Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-15616), and also rescued princess Tokuhime, wife of Terumasa and daughter of Ieyasu when she was confined by Mitsunari. Due to these achievement Iemori was forgiven and got this castle.

Unknown excellent castle builder

His son Ieharu Yamazaki (1594-1648) was unknown but one of the excellent castle builders at that era, along with Takatora Todo (1556-1630) or Kiyomasa Kato (1562-1611). Iehasu activated at the battle of Osaka in 1614 and 1615, and reconstruction of Osaka castle after the battle. Due to this achievement, Ieharu moved to Nariwa casstle at Bicchu province (Okayama prefecture) with larger territory in 1617. 

Ieharu finally promoted to the lord of Marugame castle (Kagawa prefecture) with twice territory after serving as a lord of Tomioka castle (Kumamoto prefecture). Both castles were built or reformed by Ieharu, and known for magnificent castles with powerful stone walls. Even Nariwa castle which was not a formal castle but an administrative office, equipped large size stone walls greater than ordinary castle. But due to having no successor Yamazaki clan was extinguished at the time of his grand son.

After the movement of Ieharu this castle become empty and was governed by Ikeda clan at Tottori castle, then abolished and broken based on Ikkoku Ichijyo Rei (Rule of one castle in one domain). The shape of destruction (corner of stone walls and gates were intensively demolished) clearly remains over castle site.

Recently the ruin of the castle was investigated and nominated as a designated national historical site in 2008.


10 minutes walk from Wakasa-Tetsudo Wakasasen-line Wakasa station to hillside entrance at the behind of former Wakasa Elementary school ground. 40 minutes walk from hillside to hilltop castle. 40 minutes drive from Tottori-Jidoshado Expressway Kawahara interchange to hilltop parking at the backside of castle (take care for narrow road).

Related Castles

Tottori Castle -As secure as guardian general's will-
Shikano Castle -Local small lord looked at foreign countries-
Tomioka Castle -Abolished to save local people-
Marugame Castle -Small main tower over sheer stone walls-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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