Thursday, April 3, 2014

Kaneyama Castle -Castle of rowdy young lord

Kaneyama Castle

-Castle of rowdy young lord-



Name: Kaneyama castle (Kaneyama-jo)
Alias: Mino Kaneyama-jo (Mino Kaneyama castle)
Place: Kaneyama Kani city, Gifu
Location: 35.4568682470337, 137.09598135958583
Type: Mountain castle
Built: Originally in 1537, expanded in 1570's
Remaining remnants: Gate (moved), stone walls, clay walls and moats
Title: 100 more famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Kaneyama castle (兼山城) is located on Kojyosan mountain next to Kiso-gawa river at former Kaneyama town in the middle part of current Gifu prefecture. Kaneyama area is northeastern end of Nobi Plain and where Kiso river flow into mountainous area in the east part of Gifu prefecture to plain. 

Kaneyama area is diverging point of Masuda kaido, a road from Mino province to Hida province from Nakasendo road, a major mountainous road connected Edo city and Kyoto city. This area is also close to Inuyama city, northeastern base of Owari province.

Origin of Kaneyama castle

In 1537, Masayoshi Saito (1516-1548), pupil of Dosan Saito, the governor of Mino province, built a castle in this place. When Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) captured middle area of Mino province including Kaneyama castle in 1565, Nobunaga placed his general Yoshinari Mori (1523-1570) as a commander of Kaneyama castle.

Yoshinari activated at many battles and promoted to top class commander of Oda army. However, in 1570, when Oda clan suffered from encirclement of enemies such as Ikko Ikki army, Asakura army and Azai army, Yoshinari protected Usayama castle (Shiga prefecture) from overwhelming army of Asakura and Azai clan which tried to intrude into Kyoto city. 

Yoshihari died in this battle, but his army barely kept Usayama castle and prevented the collapse of Oda government. To reward his loyalty, Nobunaga appointed Nagayoshi Mori (1558-1584), the son of Yoshinari as a commander of this castle, and also let him lead local lords of eastern part of Mino province. As a leader of the area, Nagayoshi significantly reformed Kaneyama castle into modern one.

Beside this, Nobunaga also hired Nagayoshi’s three younger brothers including famous Rannaru Mori (1565-1582) as pages. But owing to this later these three brothers were involved in the incident of Honnoji which was a coup d'etat by his general Mitsuhide Akechi (1521-1582) occurred in 1582 and all died.

Structure of Kaneyama castle

Kaneyama castle spreads over sheer peak of mountain. Central area is a roughly square shaped one of about 50 meter long, which has wide entrance with stone steps at its eastern edge. Main tower of the castle might exist at the next of this entrance, probably connecting to barrack gate of this entrance.

Secondary area and third area are built at western slope of central area. Utilizing height height difference, this areas have Masugata style composite gates which has folded path, effective for both of powerful exterior and defense. Wide main road turns along the slope passing Masugata style gates quite resembles to Azuchi castle (Shiga prefecture), the main base of Nobunaga, even though smaller.

At the east of central area, there is large size flat area might be used for storage. Ahead of this area, a little below from hilltop, there is a long and narrow area called as Sakon Yashiki, which is protected by line of stone walls. Total size of the castle is about 300 meter long and 100 meter wide, and it was a secure castle well protected by stone walls.

Rowdy young lord of Sengoku era

Nagayoshi was a brave general and also a quick temper. Sometimes he killed Nobunaga’s soldiers guarding gate or brieges to pass forcibly, but Nobunaga did not punish him. He also rage about in battlefields with his favorite spear named “Ningen Mukotsu”, means easily pierce human bones. When he attacked Takato castle during campaign against Takeda clan, his gunners shoot people in central area indiscriminately from the top of the roof of buildings at next area, and made breakthrough.

After the fall of Takeda clan in 1582, Nagayoshi was appointed as a governor of northern Shinano province (Nagano prefecture) and moved to Kaizu castle (current Matsushiro castle). For his entrance there was a revolt against him, but Nagayoshi suppressed them mercilessly and called as “Oni Musashi”, it means demon.

But several months later, his master Nobunaga died in the incident of Honnoji, and local lords of northern Shinano province again oppressed to Nagayoshi who lacked support from central government. Similarly, Hidetaka Kawajiri (1527-1582), a governor of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) appointed by Nobunaga same as Nagayoshi, was assaulted by local rebellions and died. 

In response to this, Nagayoshi abandoned Kaizu castle and retreated to the border to Mino country utilizing sons of local lords kept as hostage in advance, and finally killed all of hostages as a revenge of their rebellion. Furthermore, he had to go through the territory of Kiso clan, thus he assaulted castle of Kiso and captured son of leader, and safely passed (this time Nagayoshi returned this hostage). This seems cruel but if he did not so he might be killed in this time.

Large battle for successor of Nobunaga

Two years later, there arise a conflict between Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the commander of Nobunaga and Nobukatsu Oda (1558-1630), second son of Nobunaga. Taken over hegemony by Hideyoshi, Nobukatsu allied with Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), former ally of Nobunaga and a large lord of Mikawa province (eastern part of Aichi prefecture) to resist against Hideyoshi. 

Nobukatsu Oda had Owari province and Hideyoshi Toyotomi grasped large part of Mino province, thus north part of Owari province suddenly became the battlefield. Expecting for further expansion, Nagayoshi Mori decided to belong to Hideyoshi with Tsuneoki Ikeda (1536-1584), Nagayoshi's father in law.

In 1584, Tsuneoki Ikeda crossed Kiso-gawa river and occupied Inuyama castle (Aichi prefecture). In response to this, Ieyasu occupied vacant Komakiyama castle (Aichi prefecture) and reformed it, to use as his main base. Remaining clay walls and moats surrounding at halfway of the hill and hillside were built at this time. Ieyasu besieged Komakiyama castle and faced dominant Toyotomi army.

Battle of Komaki Nagakute and Nagayoshi's death

In the situation of deadlock, to change the situation, Hideyoshi planned a detour attack to  Mikawa province, the backward and native place of Ieyasu. A detached force was formed by Hidetsugu Toyotomi (1568-1595) who was the nephew and planned successor of Hideyoshi, Hidemasa Hori (1553-1590), Tsuneoki and Nagayoshi. 

Tsuneoki and Nagayoshi rushed into enemy territory, but this plan was detected by Ieyasu. Tsuneoki consumed time at the siege of Iwasaki castle on the way, and in the meantime Ieyasu secretly left Komakiyama castle and assaulted this detached force from backside at Nagakute area. Being separated from main troops, Nagayoshi and Tsuneoki bravely fought but finally died in the battle.

Before the battle Nagayoshi left his last will and testament stating that in case of my death, Kanayama castle is to be governed by other general and his brother Tadamasa Mori (1570-1634) should not succeed Mori clan. 

Nagayoshi lost his father and all brothers except for Tadamasa in battle or accident, thus he considered continuation of Mori clan. But it was impossible to confiscate territory of Mori clan which fought and died for him, Hideyoshi ignored this will and admitted Tadamasa to succeed his house.

Afterward of the castle

After the battle of Sekigahara, Tadamasa was transferred to Kaizu castle (Matsushiro Castle, Nagano prefecture) in northern part of Shinano province, and finally moved to Bicchu province (Okayama prefecture) and built Tsuyama castle.

Kaneyama castle was abolished this time, and buidings and materials were used for expansion of Inuyama castle. Now broken stone walls remains around central area, and basement of combined gate (Masugata) was also kept. Stone wall covers front area exists as original. Additionally, main gate of Zuisenji temple (Inuyama city) uses old gate of Inuyana castle, and it is said that that gate was originally one of Kaneyama castle and reused at Inuyama castle.


60 minutes walk from Meitetsu Hiromi-sen line Akechi station. 20 minutes drive from Tokai-Kanjo Expressway Kani-Mitake interchange. 

Related Castles

Inuyama Castle -Nobunaga's 13 year struggle to unite Owari province-
Komakiyama Castle -Unexpected reuse at 15 years later- 
Usayama Castle -Starting point of modern style Japanese castle-
Matsushiro Castle -Important base used at fatal battle of two rivals-
Tsuyama Castle -Huge castle located in inland area-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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