Friday, June 20, 2014

Tagesan Castle -Huge mountain castle built for survival-

Tagesan Castle

-Huge mountain castle built for survival-



Name: Tagesan Castle (Tagesan-jo)
Alias: Tage-jo (Tage castle)
Place: Tanomachi Utsunomiya city, Tochigi
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: Expanded in 1580's
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats

Brief History

Tagesan castle (多気山城) is located on whole body of Tage mountain at the northwest of Utsunomiya city. Tage mountain is a table mountain shaped one with steep slope and flat hilltop area, then it was suitable to build a castle. In addition to this, historically there had been Tage Fudoson temple at this mountain, a traditional temple dedicated to Acala and worshiped among local people.

Origin of Utsunomiya clan

Ustunomiya clan was a traditional clan stem from Souen Fujiwara (1033-1111) in 11th century and had the honor as one of the eight major families of Kanto region in medieval era. But Utsunomiya could not transform into an independent warlord, and became involved in the conflict of surrounding lords since the latter half of Muromachi Era.

In the latter half of 16th century, Hojo clan, the warlord of Sagami province (Kanagawa prefecture), defeated old powers of Kanto region such as Ogigayatsu Uesugi clan and Yamanouchi Uesugi clan then seized the hegemony of Kanto region by the victory at the battle of Kawagoe castle in 1546.

After the capture of south half of Kanto region, being suffered from continuous attack of Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), the warlord of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture), Hojo clan, Hojo clan next aimed north half of Kanto region, it mean Kozuke province (Gunma prefecture) and Shimotsuke province (Tochigi prefecture) where Utsunomiya clan resided.

Expansion of Hojo clan

By this time Utsunomiya clan became significantly weakened by continuous internal conflicts and revolt of important retainers. But to cope with expansion of Hojo clan, Utsunomiya clan cooperated with Kenshin and other warlords such as Satake clan of Hitachi province (Ibaraki prefecture) or Satomi clan of Awa province (Chiba prefecture) .

During 1560’s the situation of both power competed, but Kenshin gradually lost territories in Kanto region before defensive strategy of Hojo clan, and after the death of Kenshin in 1578 Uesugi clan significantly lost its power by internal conflict. Lack of the support from Uesugi clan, Satomi clan had to subordinate to Hojo clan, thus only Satake clan and Utsunomiya clan remained against Hojo clan.

Hojo clan once stopped its expansion under the interference of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), but after the sudden death of Nobunaga in the incident of Honnoji in 1582, Hojo clan expelled Kazumasu Takigawa (1525-1586), a magistrate of Nobunaga at Kanto region, and restarted its activity to unite Kanto region.

Crisis of Utsunomiya clan

In 1584, Hojo army and anti Hojo alliance army including Satake clan, Utsunomiya clan and other lords fought at Numajiri. There was no decisive result at this battle, but under superior army Hojo clan gradually intruded into north part of Kanto region and forced Yura clan of Kanayama castle (Gunma prefecture) or Sano clan of Karasawayama castle (Tochigi prefecture) to subordinate.

Same at this time, Satake clan which only had possibility to compete with Hojo clan, also fought at its north border at Mutsu province (Fukushima prefecture), and could not concentrate toward Hojo clan. Satake clan asked assistance to next central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), but support from Hideyoshi was not expected at this time.

Utsunomiya clan resided at Utsunomiya castle at the center of current Utsunomiya city, but it was not so secure castle at flat land and directly faced threat of Hojo clan. To cope with this severe situation and survive, Utsunomiya clan decided to build mountain castle at Tagesan mountain and moved there, to earn time and wait for assistance from 

Structure of Tage castle

Originally there had been a small fort on the mountain, but during 1580's they totally renovated the castle into a secure fortress. Completed Tagesan castle was a huge castle of over 1 kilometer square, and core areas of the castle were built in line along with the main ridge of the mountain. 

As the mountain itself is natural fortress surrounded by sheer wall, hilltop areas are basically just flat space separated by low clay wall. Central area is a triangle shaped one of 200 meter long with watchtower basement at its backside, and another large area was built at lower terrace where climbing road passes.

Contrary to hilltop areas, small terraces were built at gentle slope from halfway to hillside area. Outer barrier consisted of huge clay wall and dry moats surrounds the south half of the mountain. Later Tagesan castle was regarded as one of seven excellent castles in Kanto region, along with Maebashi castle, Kanayama castle, Kawagoe castle, Oshi castle, Utsunomiya castle and Karasawayama castle.

Afterward of castle

After the completion of Tagesan castle attack of Hojo clan became further fierce, but coordinating Satake clan still survived, Utsunomiya clan barely stood the invasion. In the meantime Hideyoshi Toyotomi who captured western half of Japan extinguished Hojo clan  at the battle of Odawara campaign 1590. Utilizing secure castle, Utsunomiya clan could survive tough situation.

Under Toyotomi government, Utsunomiya clan once approved to continue, but in 159x the clan was suddenly confiscated its territory and expelled, thus a traditional house from 12th century became an end. Even though having secure castle, Utsunomiya clan could not win against caprice of dynasty. Tagesan castle was also abolished at this time.

Tagesan castle was abandoned for long time, but currently investigation on this castle is proceeding and full picture of this huge castle gradually becomes clear. It is difficult to see all part of this castle, but only by limited area we can feel tenacity of Utsunomiya clan to continue their clan. Tagesan Fudoson temple still locates on the halfway of the mountain and revered by local people as before.


20 minutes drive from Tohoku Jidoshado Expressway Utsunomiya interchange or Tokujiro interchange to halfway parking. 30 minutes walk from parking to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Utsunomiya Castle -Castle with long history of disturbance-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

No comments:

Post a Comment