Friday, May 23, 2014

Hachigata Castle -Four brothers led Hojo clan-

Hachigata Castle

-Four brothers led Hojo clan-



Name: Hachigata castle (Hachigata-jo)
Place: Hachigata Yorii-town, Saitama
Type: Hill castle
Built: Originally 1476, expanded in 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Hachigata castle (鉢形城) is located on a hill aside Arakawa river, one of the large rivers in Kanto plain. Placed on a long hill like peninsula surrounded by Arakawa river and Fukasawagawa river, the castle was an impregnable fortress. Due to its location at western edge of Kanto plain, Hachigata castle was key castles to protect Musashi country (Tokyo metropolis and Saitama prefecture), and became one of the major bases of Hojyo clan.

Hachigata castle before Hojyo clan

Hachigata castle was originally built by Kageharu Nagao (1443-1514) in 1476. Nagao clan was a house of vassal for Yamanouchi Uesugi clan, a house of deputy general governor of Kanto region. But as Yamanouchi Uesugi clan did not approve Kageharu's succession of vassal position, Kageharu raised army against his master and fought over 20 year intermittently. During this rebellion, Kageharu constructed this castle as a base of him.

Later Kageharu left the castle and Hachigata castle was governed by Fujita clan as a territory of Yamanouchi Uesugi clan. Fujita clan was traditional major local clan from the beginning of Kamakura era, and during Muromachi era Fujita clan expanded their territory throughout northwestern part of Saitama prefecture.

When Souun Hojyo (1432-1519) started his invasion to Musashi country against Ogigayatsu Uesugi clan and Yamanouchi Uesugi clan, Fujita clan kept resistance against Hojo clan along with other lords such as Oishi clan at Takiyama castle, under both Uesugi clan. But in 1546 allied army of both Uesugi clan suffered severe defeat from Ujiyasu Hojyo (1515-1571) at the battle of Kawagoe castle, and Hojo clan became the ruler of Kanto region. Thus Fujita clan subordinated to Hojo clan and accepted Ujikuni Hojo (1541-1597), fourth son of Ujiyasu.

Four brothers lead Hojyo clan

Prior to the Ujiyasu, leaders of Hojo clan managed whole territory. But in line with the significant expansion of territory, it became difficult to govern whole area by only one leader. Due to this, Ujiyasu assigned three younger brothers of Ujimasa Hojo (1538-1590), his son and next leader, to each area of territory and let them govern their area under the supervision of leader.

Ujimasa Hojo, eldest son and fourth leader, controlled whole house at Odawara castle. He is often said as incompetent leader, but it might be mainly posterior reasoning by the fact that Hojyo clan became an end by his decision to resist against Toyotomi government. During his period, although there was no highlighted victory such as the battle of Kawagoe, but Hojo clan could streadly expand their territory and became its peak. There also was no riot or rebellion of people in the territory, and due to its stable administration, Odawara city, the residence of Hojyo clan, well prospered.

Concerning his foreign policy, surely he mislead war ability of Toyotomi government, but to keep the ruler of Kanto region was a national policy of Hojo clan and there might be no room of compromise with Toyotomi government.

Ujiteru Hojyo (1540-1590) was the next son. He was the commander of Takiyama castle (later moved to Hachioji castle), and managed middle part of Kanto region. He was a bold and intelligent general, and utilizing military power and negotiations he significantly expaned his territory toward Shimotsuke province (Tochigi prefecture) or Shimousa province (western part of Chiba prefecture).

Ujikini was the following son and reigned north of Kanto region. His area adjoined other large powers such as Takeda clan or Uesugi clan, but Ujikuni was a man of strong will and made even fight against these strong clans.

Last one was Ujinori Hojo (1545-1600), who was a commander of Nirayama castle at Izu country and controlled western border of Hojo clan. He was gentle character, and because he was sent to Imagawa clan as a hostage in youth, he became acquaintant with person of other lords such as Takeda clan or Tokugawa clan. Hojo clan did not hope expansion in this area, rather expected him to establish good relationship with central powers. As above, Hojo clan allocated four brothers based on its character, and this structure well worked and contributed to expansion of the clan.

Expansion and battle under Ujikuni

As a regional commander of north Kanto region, Ujikuni significantly expanded Hachigata castle. He built large and secure barricade complex of wide dry moats and sand walls at the root of the hill, and made outer defense line outside of Fukasawa area. Unlike other castles of Hojo clan. stone walls were built at vital areas around front entrance, to show the authority of regional commander. Finally this castle became a huge castle of 1km long for east and west direction and 500 meter long for north and south direction.

From this castle Ujikuni offended to Kozuke province (Guuma prefecture) originally under the control of Uesugi clan, and once Kozuke province was controlled by Takeda clan or Oda clan temporally, Ujikuni finally seized large part of that country except for the area held by Sanada clan. But as a result of territorial conflict against Sanada clan evoked by Kuninori Inomata (?-1590), a general under Ujikuni, Hojo clan and Toyotomi government entered total war in 1590.

Ujikuni insisted to ambush Toyotomi army under expedition aggressively at military meeting of Hojo clan. But as Ujimasa decided to besiege at Odawara castle, Ujikuni returned to Hachigata castle and resisted by himself. In March 1590, a detached force of  30,000 soldiers lead by Toshiie Maeda (1539-1599), and Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623), intruded into north Kanto region passing through Usui path, and after the fall of other castles they arrived at Hachigata castle in May.

Ujikuni had only 3,000 soldiers but firmly kept Hachigata castle utilizing terrain and defense facilities for one month. However, without any help from other castles, he finally decided to surrender to Toyotomi clan. Unlike Ujimasa and Ujiteru, he was forgiven and survived several years after the battle.

After the battle Hachigata castle was abolished, and apart from city area, its structures remain well on the hill. Recently the site of the castle became a historical park and restoration of ruins is proceeding.


20 minutes walk from JR East Hachikosen line / Tobu Tojosen line / Chichibu Tetsudo line Yorii station. 20 minutes drive from Kanetsu Expressway Hanazono interchange. 

Related Castles

Odawara Castle -Castle rejected attack of two famous warlords-
Takiyama Castle -Expansion and limitation of medieval castle-
Hachioji Castle -Place of final battle for unification by Hideyoshi-
Nirayama Castle -History of Hojyo clan for 100 years of five generations-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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