Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Yamanaka Castle -Clay fortress guarded Hakone pass-

Yamanaka Castle

-Clay fortress guarded Hakone pass-



Name: Yamanaka castle (Yamanaka-jo)
Place: Yamanaka-Shinden Mishima city, Shizuoka
Location: 35.15649366016641, 138.99380340943168
Type: Hill castle
Built: Originally 1560's, expanded around 1590
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Yamanaka castle (山中城) is placed along Tokaido road, a road from Mishima to Odawara, at the halfway of western slope of Hakone Pass. The Tokaido road has been traditionally main route between Kanto region and Kansai region, being unchanged from medieval era to now. Hakonetoge is a 850 meter height path, and although it was the closest road from Chubu region to Kanto region but it was a tough place to across even now.

Necessity of Yamanaka castle

Since the period of Soun Hojo (1432-1519), the founder of the house, Hojo clan had used Odawara castle at near to the western border of Sagami province (Kanagawa prefecture) as main residence, even after the clan expanded territory into all over the Kanto region. But Odawara castle is located only 20 kilometers apart from border to Suruga province (middle part of Shizuoka prefecture) across the Hakone-toge pass.

Because Imagawa clan, the lord of Suruga province, was an ally of Hojo clan, Hojo clan could not expand its territory in Suruga province. But once Imagawa clan was extinguished by Takeda clan who broke the triangle treaty in 1569, Hojo clan attacked Takeda clan insisting their breach of treaty and once occupied Suruga province. But Shingen who aimed economic resource and port of Suruga province fiercely attacked Hojo army, then, Hojo clan finally lost Suruga province.

After the fall of Takeda clan in 1582, Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) who was originally the lord of Mikawa province (eastern part of Aichi prefecture) occupied Suruga province. Hojo clan and Tokugawa clan once made friendship considering the fear of central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), but in 1586 Ieyasu Tokugawa finally made peace with Hideyoshi and followed. Hojo clan did not want to yield to Hideyoshi, but felt direct pressure of Hideyoshi and Ieyasu from Suruga province to Odawara castle.

Tension between Hojo clan and Hideyoshi Toyotomi

The place of castle was important place to control Tokaido way thus Hojo clan built castle around 1560’s, but after 1586, they significantly expanded and reformed this castle with their latest technology along with other border castles such as Matsuida castle (Gunma prefecture), Shimoda castle (Shizuoka prefecture) or Iwatsuki castle (Saitama prefecture), as a most important point to guard Odawara castle from Toyotomi army.

Facing dominant Toyotomi army, the tactics of Hojo clan was to defend major basement castles in each area stubbornly to gain time, and make treaty with Toyotomi side in war tiring mood. Thus Yamanaka castle, expected first target of attack because it was the shortest distance from Toyotomi territory, was to be protected securely. 

The basic structure of Yamanaka castle is a two line of connecting areas spread westward and southward from secondary area, which is just below of central area at the highest point of the castle. Western line consists of Motonishiyagura area, Nishinomaru area and Nishiyagura area from its root, and might be added later. These areas are surrounded by deep moats which are separated into small compartment to obstacle movement of enemy soldiers.  

Southward line is the long and narrow third area, and at the edge of the area there is a basement of turret. Between these two lines there are ponds as water source at a diverging point, and main gate of the castle also existed. Just before the battle against Hideyoshi, Hojo clan further built Taizaki fort, about 1km long and narrow area along Tokaido way in front of the castle, as a front point to defense. Taizaki fort is also protected by separated deep dry moats, but was not completed and undulation of terrain still remained.

Siege and fall of the castle

In 1590, as a result of occupation of Nagurumi castle (Gunma prefecture) by Hojo army breaking a cease-fire agreement, Toyotomi clan and Hojo clan rushed into the total war. Hideyoshi who aimed early conquest of Hojo clan ordered Hidetsugu Toyotomi (1568-1595), his successor and Ieyasu Tokugawa, to capture Yamanaka castle quickly by force attack. In March, two commanders attacked Yamanaka castle with 50,000 soldiers.

In response to this, Hojo clan appointed Ujikatu Hojo (1559-1611), a relative of Hojo clan, as a commander of this castle and guarded with 3,000 army. Hojo army well fought and Naosue Hitosuyanagi (1546-1590), one Toyotomi general died in the battle. But hopelessly being outnumbered by 17 times enemies, Yamanaka castle fell only in half day. Due to the fall of Yamanaka castle, Toyotomi army could quickly pass Hakonetoge pass then advanced to Odawara castle and started siege.

Yamanaka castle was abandoned after the battle, and the third area disappeared by development. But main areas of castle well remains, and were reformed to the original as a good example of castle building skill of Hojo clan.


Yamanakajyoato Busstop of Tokai bus from Mishima station toward Motohakone port. 15 minutes drive from Izu Jyukan Jidoshado Expressway Mishima-Tsukahara interchange.

Related Castles

Odawara Castle -Castle rejected attack of two famous warlords-
Ishigakiyama Castle -Master of sieging castles-
Iwatsuki Castle -Castle of veteran general who never gave in to Hojyo clan-
Matsuida Castle -Surrender and betrayal-
Ashigara Castle -Border barrier at Ashigara pass-
Shimoda Castle -Place of start and end of era-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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