Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gifu Castle -Unfortunate ends of holders-

Gifu Castle

-Unfortunate ends of holders-



Name: Gifu castle (Gifu-jo)
Alias: Inabayama-jo (Inabayama castle)
Place: Kinkazan Gifu city, Gifu
Location: 35.43404335969251, 136.78276624273286
Type: Mountain castle
Built: Originally 15th century, expanded in 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and dry moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Gifu castle (岐阜城) is located on Kinkazan Mountain at the northeast of central Gifu city and facing Nagara river. Kinkazan is a steep mountain itself, and prior to the severe flood of at 1586 Kiso river ran through north area of current way, much closer to the castle. 

Thus Gifu castle was regarded as a secure castle surrounded by two large rivers. Mino province (Gifu prefecture) is a main road connecting Kinki region and Tokai region or Kanto region, thus many battles had occurred over Mino province. Gifu castle was also included in many battles, and many holders of this castle ended their life infelicitously in youth.

Gifu castle was originally by Nikaido clan in 13th century of Kamakura era, as a small fort. In 15th century, Toshinaga Saito (?-1560), a deputy governor of Mino country, built a real castle on this mountain. Saito clan has exercised their power, but later declined by internal conflict around 1530. In this situation, Dosan Saito (1494-1556), a crafty man emerged appeared on the stage.

Three holders of Saito clan

Dosan Saito was said that originally named as Shinkuro Nagai and was a oil merchant of Yamazaki (Kyoto prefecture) then wandered to Mino country, and pushed his way to the governer. But based on resent research, his father came to Mino country and served for Saito clan, then Dosan used the basis built by his father. Anyway his house rose up from a mere merchant to the governor of large province.

At that time, Toki clan, a traditional house of the governor of Mino country, had a internal conflict aiming for leader between brothers, Masayori Toki and Yoriaki Toki. Dosan increased his power between this conflict, and finally expelled Toki clan itself and became the governor by himself. In 1547, Nobuhide Oda (1510-1551), father of later ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), supported refuged Toki clan and attacked Inabayama castle, but Dosan gave a hard blow to Oda army.

But due to an entangement of his successor, Dosan was revolted by his son Yoshitatsu Saito (1527-1561) and died in the battle with him. Yoshitatsu was a talented lord and well gathering local retainers, stand Mino country against attack of Nobunaga Oda who united Owari country (Aichi prefecture) and aimed at Mino country. In 1561 Yoshitatsu unfortunately died in ill only at 34 years old, and if he could live longer Nomunaga might not become ruler so smoothly.

After Yoshitatsu, his son Tatsuoki Saito (1548-1573) succeeded his position. Tatsuoki was said to be less talented, and once expelled from Inabayama castle by Shigeharu Takenaka (1544-1579), his retainer and later became a military staff of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) in 1564. He returned to the castle half year later, but left by large retainers, Inabayama castle was finally captured by Nobunaga in 1567 and Tatsuoki was expelled. Tatsuoki wandered and kept resistance to Nobunaga, but at last died among Asakura army when Nobunaga extinguished Asakura clan in 1573.

Four holders of Oda clan

Nobunaga who captured Inabayama castle renamed it to Gifu castle, decided as his residence and moved from Komakiyama castle. He built splendid main tower on the top of the mountain, and also made his palace at the foot of the mountain. His palace consisted of multiple buildings located on several terraces, and path to the entrance was decorated by huge stones to show his authority. Nobunaga stayed Gifu castle about 10 years, and grew a local warlord to the ruler of central region.

In 1579 Nobunaga newly built Azuchi castle in Omi province (Shiga prefecture) and moved there, transferring Gifu castle to his successor Nobutada Oda (1557-1582). But in 1582, close at the unification of Japan, Nobunaga died in the accident of Honnoji, a coup d’etat occured by his regional commander Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582).

Nobutada Oda was the eldest son of Nobunaga. He served general without significant problem under Nobunaga, and in 1576, he was appointed as a successor of Nobunaga and given the leader position of Oda clan and Gifu castle. In 1582 Nobutada lead the campaign against Takeda clan successfully, but in the same year he was also involved in the accident of Honnoji and suicide.

After the battle of Yamazaki, there was a meeting held at Kiyosu castle among Nobunaga’s relatives and major generals, and Gifu castle was given to Nobutaka Oda (1558-1583), the third son of Nobunaga and former commander of Kanbe castle

Nobutaka fought for the leader of Oda clan with Katsuie Shibata (1522-1583) against Nobukatsu Oda (1558-1630), second son of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598). But Katsuie was defeated by Hideyoshi at the battle of Sekigahara, and Nobutaka at Gifu castle was also sieged by Hideyoshi and surrendered, but was forced to kill himself.

At the accident of Honnoji, Hidenobu Oda (1580-1605), son of Nobutada, was escaped from accident and placed as a leader of Oda clan. After growing up, Hidenobu was appointed as a commander of Gifu castle under Toyotomi government. After the death of Hideyoshi, in the conflict between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord,  and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), a chief administrative officer of Toyotomi government, Hidenobu overcame the opposition of retainers and supported Mitsunari. 

Mitsunari expected Gifu castle as an important point of defense against Tokugawa army along with Ogaki castle, but being attacked by vanguard of Tokugawa army, Gifu castle was lost in only one day. Considering his position Hidenobu was not killed but expelled to Koyasan mountain, and died in the disappointment.

Afterward of the castle

After the battle of Sekigahara, Okudaira clan was appointed as a commander of the castle. But Gifu castle consisted narrow hilltop area and unfortified hillside palace and out of date for organized battle. Thus Okudaira clan newly built Kano castle at the south of Gifu castle. Buildings were transferred to Kano castle, and Gifu castle was abolished. Now an main tower imitating supposed former exterior was built on the top of the mountain, and investigations are proceeding for the site of hillside palace.


Bus ride to the entrance of Kinkazan mountain at Gifu park from JR Central Tokaido Honsen line Gifu station or Meitetsu Nagoyahonsen line Shingifu station. It is convenient to climb up the mountain by Kinkazan Ropeway, and it takes 40 minutes by walk from hillside to hilltop. 30 minutes drive from Tokai Hokuriku Expressway Gifu-Kagamigahara interchange.

Related Castles

Komakiyama Castle -Unexpected reuse at 15 years later-
Azuchi Castle -Isolated heaven of Nobunaga-
Ogaki Castle -Castle served important role at battle of Sekigahara-
Kanbe Castle -Hard life of former ruler's sons-
Kiyosu Castle -Place of important alliance and conference-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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