Thursday, June 26, 2014

Oda Castle -A traditional clan of indomitable-

Oda Castle

-A traditional clan of indomitable-



Name: Oda Castle (Oda-jo)
Place: Oda Tsukuba city, Ibaraki
Type: Flat Castle
Built: Originally 13th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats

Brief History

Oda castle (小田城) is located at 5 kilometer south of Tsukuba mountain, at southwest part of Hitachi province (Ibaraki prefecture). Around this area, Sakura-gawa river flows from north side of Tsukuba mountain through its west and south slope into Lake Kasumigaura. Oda castle is located at the small height on the plain near the Sakura-gawa river and even though it was a plain castle but 
secure one guarded by river.

Currently south part of Ibaraki prefecture is a vast plain and very easy to move due to land reclamation, but in medieval era Lake Kasumigaura spread to current Ushiku city or Kashiwa city and good part of this area were covered by lakes and rivers. Thus this areas were separated into small areas separated by waters, and held by many small lords. In such small lords, Oda clan, who built and held Oda castle, was the most traditional and powerful one.

Traditional Clan of Hitachi province

Oda clan (to make sure, different from Oda clan of Nobunaga Oda) was a traditional clan stem from Tomoie Hatta (1142-1218). Tomoie was a relative of Utsunomiya clan at Utsunomiya clan, and participated in the foundation of Kamakura Shogunate by Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199). 

Tomoie made a remarkable achievement at the battle against Ohshu Fujiwara clan in 1189, and was appointed as a governor of Hitachi country by Yoritomo. Oda castle was originally built in this time, at first as a residence of Hatta clan, later renamed to Oda clan.

But during Kamakura period, Hojo clan, a vassal of Kamakura Shogunate, expanded into Hitachi country and Oda clan gradually lost their power. Facing this situation, at the time of anti Kamakura Shogunate movement by Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339) at the beginning of 14th century, Oda clan strongly supported Emperor Godaido.

After the corruption of Kamakura Shogunate in 1333, Emperor Godaigo and Takauji Ashikaga (1305-1358), a powerful lord, fiercely fought for next government, Oda clan coutinuously belonged to Emperor Godaigo side. In 1338, Chikafusa Kitabatake (1293-1354), a high class noble and military leader of Emperor Godaigo side, came to Kanto region to seek supporting lords and dropped in Oda castle.

Chikafusa stayed Oda castle over one year and wrote famous “Jinno Shotoki” (Record of orthodox emperor) during his stay. But Godaigo side became inferior against Muromachi Shogunate founded by Ashikaga clan, and Oda clan finally surrendered to Muromachi shogunate. 

Even though the position of the governer was deprived by Satake clan which supported Ashikaga clan, during Muromachi era, Oda clan still had a fame of eight traditional clans of Kanto region along with Utsunomiya clan or Satake clan.

Struggle of Ujiharu Oda

But due to its geographical limitation and surrounding accidents, Oda clan could not grow their power and stayed as a small lord. From the beginning of 16th century, Oda clan was exposed to pressure from surrounding strong powers such as Uesugi clan, Hojo clan or Satake clan. 

Basically Uesugi clan and Satake clan made alliance against Hojo clan, and Oda clan and Satake clan had territorial conflict, thus Oda clan confronted Uesugi clan and Satake clan in cooperation with Hojo clan. During this conflict, Oda castle was expanded into a large castle having multiple layer of clay walls and moats.

During the conflict against Uesugi clan or Satake clan, Ujiharu Oda (1534-1602, later known as his Buddhist name Tenan), leader of Oda clan at that time, lost Oda castle several times. In 1564 and 1566 Oda castle was occupied by Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), a warlord of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture).  

But each time of loss Ujiharu Oda retreated to Tsuchiura castle (Tsuchiura city) which was kept by his important retainer Sugaya clan, and being supported by long tradition and loyal people Ujiharu recovered Oda castle each time.

During 1560's pressure from Satake clan to Oda clan became strengthened than ever. Satake clan hired Sukemasa Ota (1522-1591), a talented general and who lost Iwatsuki castle, his own castle by Hojo clan, and let him to attack Oda clan. Satake clan first deprived Katano castle (Ibaraki prefecture), a castle at the north of Tsuchiura castle, as a bridgehead in 1566.

In 1569, Ujiharu attacked Katano castle to recover it, but was defeated by counter attack of Sukemasa, and Sukemasa in triumph siege Oda castle and captured it. Ujiharu moved to Tsuchiura castle and still activated to retrieve Oda castle, but in 1573 Satake clan attacked Tsuchiura castle by large army and Ujiharu finally lost Tsuchiura castle next year.

Phoenix of Oda clan

In general, if main castle was lost, ordinary warlord killed himself in burning castle and the history of that clan would end. But Oda clan still kept power, and once surrendered to Satake clan but persistently seek the chance of recovery of castle over next 20 years. Sometimes Ujiharu became one step away from recovery of Oda castle, but at last he failed to do so. 

As Hojo clan was extinguished by Odawara campaign by central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) in 1590 and Satake clan was approved to hold whole part of Hitachi country, Ujiharu could not return to Oda castle. But Ujiharu’s extraordinary attachment and continuous action made strong impression to people, and Ujiharu was appraised as “Phoenix of Oda clan”.
After Oda clan, Satake clan kept Oda castle until the battle of Sekigahara in 1600. But Satake clan was transferred to Dewa province (Akita prefecture) after the battle of Sekigahara, then commander of Oda castle moved to Kakunodate city of Akita prefecture and the castle was abolished. 

Afterward of castle

After the transfer of Satake clan, Oda area had been a territory of small retainer of Edo Shogunate. Subsequent to Meiji revolution, outer area of the castle was lost by development, and railway of former Kanto Tetsudo Tsukuba line penetrated the ruin (Visitor center near the castle was former ground of station, and straight line from center to the castle was former basement of rail). But main area of the castle was considerably well kept at plain land, probably because of the place of royal retainer to Imperial Household.

Recently the restoration of central area is completed, and an imposing shape of traditional governor's main base protected by huge clay wall and marsh emerged again. The shape of lost outer areas is also traced looking at subtle height difference of the ground. Even though not so prominent, but an impregnable castle guarded by multiple layer of water moats and buffer areas is easily imaginable, and this is exactly matches to the unyielding master of the castle.


10 minutes walk from Oda bus stop of Kantetsu Bus connects JR East Tsuchiura station and Kanto Tetsudo Jososen line Shimozuma station. 15 minutes drive from Jyoban Expressway Tsuchiura-Kita interchange. 

Related Castles

Tsuchiura Castle -Castle with original gates and water moat-
Iwatsuki Castle-Castle of veteran general who did not give in to Hojo clan-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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