Thursday, July 3, 2014

Kitanosho Castle -Calm end of proud veteran general and princess-

Kitanosho Castle

-Calm end of proud veteran general and princess-


Name: Kitanosho Castle (Kitanosho-jo)
Place: Chuo Fukui city, Fukui
Location: 36.06020190640677, 136.21964401958783
Type: Flat Castle
Built: 1576
Remaining remnants: None

Brief History

Kitanosho castle (北ノ庄城) was located at the same place of current Fukui castle, mainly at between current central area of Fukui castle and Ashimorigawa river.

Echizen country (Fukui prefecture) was originally goverend at Fuchu area, 20km south of current Fukui city in medieval area, or Ichijyodani valley at 10km east of current Fukui city during the period of Asakura clan, but they were narrow area and had no room for expansion. On the other hand, current Fukui area was a large plain and faced Hokurikudo way, the main road connected Kyoto and Hokuriku region, but surrounded by large rivers such as Ashimorigawa river and Kuzuryugawa river, suffered from severe flood.

Brave veteran general of Nobunaga

In 1576, Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), the central ruler and who extinguished Ikko Ikki uprising temporally seized Echizen country, placed Katsuie Shibata (1522-1583), his veteran general as a regional commander of this area. Katsuie was a retainer of Oda clan from the period of Nobuhide Oda (1510-1551), the father of Nobunaga. When Nobunaga succeeded Oda clan in 1551, once Katsuie supported Nobukatsu Oda (1536-1557, also known as Nobuyuki) and once opposed to Nobunaga. But defeated by Nobunaga at the battle of Inou in 1556, Katsuie knew the talent of Nobunaga and became loyal general of him.

Katsuie participated in many battles of Nobunaga and regarded as the most bravest general of Nobunaga. In 1570, when he served as a commander of Mitsukuriyama castle (Shiga prefecture), he was besieged by dominant army of local riot. Due to shortage of water the situation was bad, but Katsuie broke all water bottle to show his desparate will, and Katsuie left the castle and attacked enemy then totally defeated them.

The truthness of this story is unclear but he was praised as “Kamewari Shibata” (Water bottle breaking Shibata). Besides, people said four major generals as “Shibata was good at attack, and Sakuma (Nobumori, 1528-1581) was appropriate for the rear guard. Tokichiro (later Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598)) was useful as cotton cloth, and Goroza (Nagahide Niwa (1535-1585)) was indispensable like rice”.

Regional commander of Hokuriku region

After assignment to Echizen country, Katsuie decided to build a new castle at current Fukui city, and named it as Kitanosho castle. The castle is located at the merging point of Ashimorigawa river and Yoshinogawa river (now reclaimed), and the central area existed just aside the merging point, current place of Shibata shrine.

Central area was covered by stone walls, and it is said that there was a nine story main tower at the southeast corner of central area, facing Yoshinogawa river. Outer area spread to the site of current Fukui castle, and was surrounded by water moats connected to rivers. Katsuie also made built an embankment and created large castle town. This castle town became the origin of current Fukui city.

Katsuie at first suffered from the attack of Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), a warlord of Echigo country (Niigata prefecture) and said as god of war. Once caused severe defeat at the bettle of Tedorigawa river by Kenshin, but after the death of Kenshin, Katsuie gradually expand his territory to Kaga country (Ishikawa prefecture) and Ecchu country (Toyama prefecture) utilizing internal conflict of Uesugi clan after Kenshin. Hokuriku area was a difficult area where Ikkoshu, a denomination of Japanese Buddhism and fiercly resisted to Nobunaga, was strong, but Katsuie governed this area well by both hard and soft policy.

When Nobunaga died at the accident of Honnoji, a coup d’etat of his general Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582), Katsuie could not move for revenge due to facing Uesugi clan and unstable Ikkoshu situation. In the meantime, Hideyoshi Toyotomi came back from Chugoku region and defeated Mitsuhide at the battle of Yamazaki, and seemed as successor of Nobunaga.

At the same year, the Kiyosu conference was held by sons and major generals of Nobunaga. As a result of this conference, Hideyoshi who performed revenge seized Hidenobu Oda (1580-1605), grand son of Nobunaga, and territory around Kyoto, and approached to next ruler. On the other hand, Katsuie only got small territory, but also decided to marry with Princess Oichi (1547-1583, Oichinokata).

Beautiful princess under severe fate

Princess Oichi was a younger sister of Nobunaga, and was said as a beautiful lady. Once married with Nagamasa Azai (1545-1573), a warlord of Omi country (Shiga prefecture) at Odani castle and former ally of Nobunaga, but due to his betrayal Azai clan was attacked by Nobunaga and extinguished. Princess Oichi stayed Azai clan by its end, but rescued by Oda army with three daughters.

Remarried Princess Oichi moved to Kitanosho castle. There were 25 years difference of the age, but it is said that they kept a good relation. But the confrontation between Katsuie who tried to keep the structure of Oda clan and Hideyoshi seek next hegemony became serious, and in 1584 their arouse the battle between both parties.

During the winter Katsuie could not move by snow, Hideyoshi attacked Katsuie side lords and let them surrender. In response to this, in March of 1585 Katsuie advanced to Shizugatake mountain at the north border of Omi country, and faced with Toyotomi army.

Defeat at Shizugatake and death with castle

After one month deadlock, Hideyoshi left his base and moved to backside to attack another lord. Utilizing this situation Morimasa Sakuma (1554-1583), a general of Katsuie, assaulted Hideyoshi army and once defeated their vanguard such as Kiyohide Nakagawa. But this was the trap of Hideyoshi to entice Shibata army, and Hideyoshi quickly returned to Shizugatake with large army and attacked disordered Shibata army.

Shibata army well fought and once kept the front, but Toshiie Maeda (1538-1599), a general of Katsuie but also a friend of Hideyoshi, suddenly left the battlefield. Looking this situation the moral of Shibata army collapsed, and Katsuie managed to returen to Kitanosho castle but most of his army were lost.

Hideyoshi quickly chased Katsuie and sieged Kitanosho castle. Even though Kitanosho castle was a secure castle, but it was only matter of time before the fall of the castle and Katsuie told Princess Oichi and three daughters to leave the castle. Princess Oichi let her daughters to escape, but for herself chose to die with her husband this time.

Katsuie and Oichi shared their fate with the burning main tower of Kitanosho castle. As a blood relative of Nobunaga, remained three princess married with those in power, and still involved in the movement of period.

After the fall Kitanosho castle was still kept, but after the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Hideyasu Yuki (1574-1607), the second son of Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) decided to build a new castle at the site of former Kitanosho castle. Kitanosho castle disappeared under the new Fukui castle, and materials were used for construction.

Currently at the traditional place of former central area there exist Shibata shrine, commemorating Katsuie and Princess Oichi. As a result of investigation, a basement of stone wall was found in the deep underground, and it is thought as a part of Kitanosho castle built by Katsuie.


15 minutes walk from JR West Hokuriku Honsen line Fukui station. 20 minutes drive from Hokuriku Jidoshado Expressway Fukui interchange.

Related Castles

Fukui Castle -Magnificent stone walls remain in city center-
Maruoka Castle -Traditional style brown tower endured snow and storms- 
Komaru Castle -Record of suppression-
Ichijyodani Palace -100 year prosperity of Asakura clan-
Odani Castle -History of three generations of Azai clan-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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