Monday, June 16, 2014

Numata Castle -Respective choice of Sanada family-

Numata Castle

-Respective choice of Sanada family-



Name: Numata Castle (Numata-jo)
Place: Nishikurauchi-cho Numata city, Gunma
Location: 36.64856460833101, 139.04027874652215
Type: Hill Castle
Built: Originally mid 16th century, expanded in 1580's
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats
Title: 100 more famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Numata castle (沼田城) is located on a edge of hill at the center of Numata city, a little apart from Tone river. Numata city is the northest city of Kanto region toward Echigo country (Niigata prefecture), and a gate from Echigo countty into Kanto region.

Capture of Numata castle by Sanada clan

Numata casltle is originally built by Numata clan, a local lord in 1532. When Hojyo clan, a warlord of Sagami country (Kanagawa prefecture), expelled Yamanouchi Uesugi clan which held Kouzuke country (Gunma prefecture) to Echigo country, Numata clan obeyed to Hojyo clan. But in 1560 Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), leader of Uesugi clan, made expedition to Kanto region and Numata castle was occupied by Uesugi army. Numata clan was expelled and Uesugi clan directly held the castle.

In 1570’s, Uesugi clan gradually lost their control on Numata castle, and Hojyo clan once retrieved this castle from Uesugi clan. In 1578, Mitate no Ran, an internal conflict of Uesugi clan after Kenshin’s death occured, and Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582),  a warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) who supported Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623), the winner of conflict, was ceded Kouzuke country from Uesugi clan as a reward for supporting.

Based on this agreement Katsuyori ordered his general Masayuki Sanada (1547-1611) to capture Numata castle, and in 1580 Masayuki finally seized Numata castle utilizing internal conflict in this castle. Masayuki reformed Numata castle and used as a main base of their territory in Kouzuke province.

Struggle for Numata castle between Sanada clan and Hojyo clan

After the fall of Takeda clan in 1582 Numata castle once belonged to Oda clan, but after the death of Nobunaga Oda at the incident of Honnoji and retreat of Oda army from Kouzuke country, Masayuki held this castle again. Hojyo clan which had a policy of uniting Kanto region repeatedly attacked Numata castle, but Sanada clan drove back Hojyo army and kept the castle.

As Sanada clan subordinated to Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), a large lord of Tokai region, thus Hojyo clan and Tokugawa clan made alliance in 1585 stating Ieyasu transfer Numata castle to Hojyo clan, but this was agreed without approval of Masayuki and Masayuki left Tokugawa clan to keep Numata castle. Facing this situation Ieyasu attacked Ueda castle, the main base of Sanada clan in 1585, but defeated by clever tactics of Masayuki and defeated (the first battle of Ueda castle) in 1585.

In 1589, under the coordination of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), ruler of central area, it was decided to transfer Numata castle to Hojyo clan as a condition of subordination of Hojyo clan to Toyotomi government. But at that year Hojyo clan captured Nagurumi castle of Sanada clan breaking this rule, and was subjugated by Toyotomi government and extincted. Numata castle was given to Sanada clan again and became their secondary basis next to Ueda castle.

Respective choice of Sanada family

Masayuki appointed Nobuyuki Sanada (1566-1658), his eldest son, as commander of Numata castle. Under the support of Toyotomi government, a five story main tower with gold colored roofing tile was built, as a restraint to Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord transferred to Kanto region. But Nobuyuki married with princess Komatsu, a daughter of Tadakatsu Honda (1560-1610) who was the most important general of Tokugawa army, and became close to Tokugawa clan.

On the other hand, Masayuki had a relation in marriage with Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), a chief administrative staff of Toyotomi government, and Nobushige Sanada (1567-1615, later known as Yukimura), the younger brother of Nobuyuki, also had a relation with Yoshitsugu Otani (1558-1600), another general close to Hideyoshi.

After the death of Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 1598, Ieyasu started his action to seize next hegemony. In 1600, Ieyasu gathered army of other lords and started expedition against Kagekatsu Uesugi located at Aizu Wakamatsu castle (Fukushima prefecture), under approval of Toyotomi government. During Ieyasu's expedition, utilizing this military vacuum, Mitsunari Ishida raised his army with supporting lords including Yoshitsugu Otani to beat Ieyasu.

Sanada people heard this news and had a meeting at Inubuse (Tochigi prefecture). They are too connected to important person of both side, and it was also necessary to consider the continuation of the clan irrespective to the result of war. Finally, Masayuki and Yukimura supported Mitsunari and returned to Ueda castle, and Nobuyuki belonged to Ieyasu and followed his troop.

This kind of story was not specific to Sanada clan, and also seemd in other large lords such as Maeda clan, Satake clan or Nabeshima clan. On the way to return Masayuki visited Numata castle and tricked them to open, but princess Komatsu already heard the news tightly close the gate and did not let them enter.

Sanada clan and Numata castle after the battle of Sekigahara

Masayuki and Yukimura succeeded to bind Tokugawa troops moving toward central area at the battle of Ueda Castle, but Ieyasu beated Mitsunari at the battle of Sekigahara. Masayuki and Yukimura was expelled to Kii country (Wakayama prefecture) and Nobuyuki was admitted to hold whole Sanada territory.

At first Nobuyuki stayed Numata caslte, but later moved to Ueda castle and Numata castle became a branch castle. Contrary to Yukimura who fought bravely and died at the battle of Osaka castle in 1614 and 1615, Nobuyuki focused to continue Sanada clan. Even though it was a tough situation that his family beated Tokugawa clan many times, but Nobuyuki finally suceeded so and died in 92 years old, very long life at that period. 

Sanada clan was transferred to Matsushiro castle (Nagano prefecture) in 1622, but still held Numata castle as a detached territory. But in 1681, due to trouble Numata territory was confiscated and Numata castle was once demolished. 20 year later Honda clan was newly appointed as a governor of this area. They restored the castle to some extent, but main tower and stone walls were never built throughout Edo era.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution all buildings were broken, but local people bought the site of castle and donated to local government, then the place became a park. Now ruin of basement of main tower or stone wall slightly remain, and restoration of castle is under discussion.


15 minutes walk from JR East Jyoetsu line Numata station. 10 minutes drive from Kanetsu Jidoshado Expressway Numata interchange.

Related Castles

Ueda Castle -Beat overwhelming enemy twice by small troops-
Nagurumi Castle -Beginning of the end of Hojyo clan-
Iwabitsu Castle -Strategic base of Sanada clan-
Matsushiro Castle -Important base used at fatal battle of two rivals-

Pictures (click to enlarge)


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