Saturday, April 26, 2014

Inawashiro Castle -Expansion and collapse of Ashina clan-

Inawashiro Castle

-Expansion and collapse of Ashina clan-



Name: Inawashiro castle (Inawashiro-jo)

Alias: Kamega-jo (Turtle castle)
Place: Kojo-ato Inawashiro town, Fukushima
Location: 37.560951583762495, 140.1018165883513
Type: Hill castle
Built: Originally 14th century, expanded in 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and dry moats

Brief History

Inawashiro castle (猪苗代城) is located on a hill at Inawashiro basin, a beautiful place surrounded by Bandai mountain and Lake Inawashiro. Inawashiro basin is placed between Aizu basin, and Nakadori area which is main route from Kanto region to Northern area, thus Inawashiro area is an important entrance from main street of Tohoku region into Aizu basin. 

Inawashiro area was historically governed by Inawashiro clan which was appointed as a local governor of this area at the former half of 13th century. Inawashiro clan was a branch family of Ashina clan, which was also nominated by Kamakura shogunate.  Inawashiro clan governed this area along with Ashina clan during Muromachi period, and built Inawashiro castle as their residence.

History of Ashina clan prior to Moriuji

Ashina clan had been a small local clan for long time, but since the later half of 15th century, they started to unify Aizu basin and expand their territory.  By 1500, Ashina clan built Kurokawa castle (later renamed to Aizu Wakamatsu castle) and governed whole Aizu basin. 

However, Ashina basin was surrounded by traditional strong lords such as Date clan at Yonezawa basin, Nagao (later Uesugi) clan at Echigo province (Niigata prefecture) abnd Satake clan at Hitachi province (Ibaraki prefecture. Traditionally Date clan had been a leader of Mutsu province, and Ashina clan subordinated to Date clan.

But around 1550, each surrounding clan had trouble and lost their power temporally. In Nagao clan, after the death of former leader Tamekage Nagao (1489-1543), in addition to revolt of local lords, there was a conflict of leader position between two son of Tamekage, Harukage Nagao (1509-1553), and Kagetora Nagao (1530-1578) later known as Kenshin Uesugi. 

For Satake clan, they escaped long dark period and started to expand their territory, but their priority was to unify Hitachi country at first. Above all, in Date clan, there was a large internal conflict called as Tenbun no Ran from 1542 to 1548, between Tanemune Date (1488-1565) and Harumune Date (1519-1578), father and son of family, and finally Harumune won.

Moriuji and peak period of Ashina clan

Moriuji Ashina (1521-1580), current leader of Ashina clan, supported Harumune and beat surrounding local lords supported Tanemune. Moriuji adopted mercantile policy at his capital Aizu Wakamatsu city to increase his wealth, and based on this power he aggressively attacked outlying lords such as Tamura clan, Nikaido clan or Ouchi clan at Nakadori area. Among Date clan suffered from aftereffect of conflict, Moriuji rapidly expanded his sphere and temporally became the ruler of Mutsu province.

Moriuji also struggled with Uesugi clan or Satake clan in alliance with other large lords such as Hojyo clan at Sagami province (Kanagawa prefecture) or Takeda clan at Kai country (Yamanashi country), and after the death of Kenshin Uesugi at 1578, Moriuji attempted to intervene the internal conflict of Uesugi clan for the successor of Kenshin called as Mitate no Ran. Moriuji brought the peak period for Ashina clan.

But Aizu basin, the land of Ashina clan, was an isolated basin apart from next areas, thus it was easy to defend, but also burden to keep the battle front into outside area. Besides, economic scale of Aizu Wakamatsu city was still limited (it was developed after Ashina period in earnest), and Moriuji used up his wealth for operations. 

In the meantime Date clan recovered from slump, and contrary to this, Ashina clan was confused by internal conflicts after the death of Moriuji due to having no son at that time. Due to such reasons, Ashina clan collapsed just after 9 years after the death of Moriuji.

Collapse of Ashina clan and afterward of castle

Facing expansion of Date clan, Ashina clan attacked Date clan with other surrounding lord and did not succeed. Finaly in 1589, Masamune Date (1567-1636), current leader of Date clan, started campaign to beat Ashina clan.

As Inawashiro castle was a front guard of Ashina clan, Masamune invited Inawashiro clan to his side, and Inawashiro clan accepted this and left Ashina clan. Being lost their front guard, Ashina clan confronted against Date clan at Suriagehara plain located at the westward of Inawashiro castle. At first Ashina army fought well against Date clan, but finally suffered severe defeat and escaped from the country, then Ashina clan as warlord virtually extinguished this time.

Inawashiro clan became the retainer of Date clan since then, but in 1590 Date clan was transferred to Sendai area by Toyotomi government, and Inawashiro clan accompanied this movement.

After Date clan, Ujisato Gamo (1566-1595) was appointed as a governor of Aizu region. Ujisato expanded Inawashiro castle into a modern one as an eastern gate of Aizu basin, and this was succeeded to Uesugi clan, next lord of Gamo clan. 

In Edo era Aizu region was finally governed by Hoshina (Matsudaira) clan, and Inawashiro castle continued as an exception of Ikkoku Ichijyo Rei (Rule of one castle for one domain). At the time of Meiji revolution war, as Hoshina clan resisted to new government, Inawashiro castle was attacked by new government army and fell, then became an end as a castle. Now terrains and stone walls on the hill still remain and looking at the place of final battle of Ashina clan.


25 minutes walk from JR East Banetsu Saisen line Inawashiro station. 10 minutes drive from Banestsu Jidoshado Expressway Inawashiro Bandaikogen interchange.

Related Castles

Aizu Wakamatsu Castle -White five story main tower endured harsh battle-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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