Saturday, July 19, 2014

Obama castle -Distinguished lord who showed backbone-

Obama Castle

-Distinguished lord who showed backbone-



Name: Obama castle (Obama-jo)
Alias: Kumohama Castle
Place: Jyonai Obama city, Fukui
Type: Flat castle / Water castle
Built: 1641
Remaining remnants: Stone walls

Brief History

Obama castle (小浜城) is located at the seashore of Obama city, at the north of current Obama port. Obama city is located at the mouth of Kita river, and worked as a commercial port at Wakasa bay along with Tsuruga port or Maizuru port. 

Among these ports as Obama port was the closest to Kyoto city, fishes captured at this area were transferred to Kyoto city from this area. In addition to this, Obama area is a strategic point which directly connect Sanin region and Hokuriku region bypassing Kyoto area. 

Hardtime of Kyogoku clan

The construction of Obama castle was started by Takatsugu Kyogoku (1563-1609) in 1601. Kyogoku clan was a traditional house stem from Nobutsuna Sasaki (1181-1242), and held northeastern part of Omi province (Shiga prefecture). In the former half of 14th century, Takauji Kyogoku (1296-1373), also named as Douyo Sasaki and famous as "Basara" lord being acted ingoring traditional restraint, activated for the establishment of Muromachi shogunate. Kyogoku clan was regarded as one of the highest class retainer of Shogunate, and appointed as a governor of Omi province or Izumo province (Shimane prefecture). 

But by the end of 15th century, Kyogoku clan lost Izumo country by deputy governor Amago clan, and in the Omi province also faced pressure from local lord Azai clan. After the conflict with Azai clan, Kyogoku clan fall into nominal governor of north Omi province and was captured at Odani castle, the main base of Azai clan. Takatsugu was born as a leader of Kyogoku clan under such situation.

Distinguished prince promoted by marriage

In 1573, Azai clan was extinguished by Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), and Takatsugu left Odani castle and served to Nobunaga. But when Nobunaga died at the accident of Honnoji, a coup d'etat by his general Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582), Takatsugu supported Mitsuhide cooperating with Motoaki Takeda (1562-1582), the former governor of Wakasa country (western part of Fukui prefecture), as his sister Tatsuko married with Motoaki. But Mitsuhide was defeated by Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1543-1598) at the battle of Yamazaki, and Motoaki was also executed by Hideyoshi.

Normally Takatsugu might be punished at this time, but in this time his sister Tatsuko became the concubine of Hideyoshi, and Takatsugu also became the general of Toyotomi army. Further, as Hideyoshi thought Omi country as important base for his government, Hideyoshi let Takatsugu marry with Hatsu (1570-1633), the second of three sisters born between Nagamasa Azai (1545-1573) and Princess Oichi (1547-1583), younger sister of Nobunaga to connect former two rulers of Omi province under Hideyoshi. 

By this time, Chacha (1569-1615), the eldest sister became the concubine of Hideyoshi and became the mother of his successor Hideyori Toyotomi (1593-1615), and Ogo (1573-1626) also married with Hidetada Tokugawa (1579-1632), son of Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) and future second Shogun of Edo shogunate. 

Takatsugu had a connection with powerful person with marriage, and became the commander of Otsu castle (Shiga prefecture), the final gate of Kyoto city to eastward with large territory. As he was thought to be promoted only by connection, Takatsugu was criticized as a firefly lord, it meant to flash only at the tail of his relatives.

Backborn of the criticized prince

But at the battle of Sekigahara fought between Ieyasu Tokugawa and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), a chief administrative officer of Toyotomi government after the death of Hideyoshi in 1600, Takatsugu showed his backbone. Although most part of Kinki region was seized by Mitsunari, Takatsugu finally decided to belong to Ieyasu. 

His residence Otsu castle was attacked by 30,000 soldiers of Mouri clan and Muneshige Tachibana (1567-1643), and as Omi castle placed at lower land and surrounded by hills, cannons were shot into castle and defense side caused severe damage. Takatsugu stood for over 10 days, but finally under coordination of Kitanomandokoro (1547-1624), formal wife of Hideyoshi, Takatsugu finally opened the castle.

When Takatsugu opened the castle, the decisive battle between Ieyasu and Mitsunari just began at Sekigahara, and Ieyasu gained victory at the battle. As a result, Takatsugu restrained large army of Mouri clan, and also Muneshige Tachibana who was known for braveness at Omi castle, and did not let them participate in the main battle. Being evaluated this achievement, Takatsugu became the governor of Wakasa province with larger territory. 

Construction of Obama castle

Being the governor Takatsugu once entered Nochiseyama castle formerly used as a residence of governor. But next year he started to build a new castle at the sandbank between Kitagawa river and Minamigawa river, to protect and control Obama port directly. Due to the weak foundation of seashore the construction did not smoothly proceed, and Kyogoku clan was transferred to Matsue castle (Shimane prefeture) of Izumo province in 1634 before the completion of the castle.

Replacing Kyogoku clan, Tadakatsu Sakai (1587-1662), a hereditary retainer of Tokugawa clan and served as Tairo (general minister) to third Shogun Iemitsu Tokugawa (1604-1651) and fourth Shogun Ietsuna Tokugawa (1641-1680). Tadakatsu modified the plan of the castle and completed in 1641. 

The completed Obama castle was a secure water castle of 300 meter square, and surrounded by two river, water moats and seas. The structure of the castle consisted of two layer of areas, and there were about 30 turret in the castle. At the southwestern edge of central area there was a three story main tower.

Sakai clan served as the governor of Obama castle by the end of Edo era. Subsequent to Meiji revolution all buildings were lost by fire or destruction, and outer area disappeared by land reclamation and river improvement. But major part of central area still remain surrounded by houses and rice field, and used as a shrine commemorating Sakai clan. Stone walls of central area consist of large stones still shows authority of distinguished prince who restored his family.


20 minutes walk from JR West Obama-sen line Obama station. 10 minutes drive from Maizuru-Obama Jidoshado Expressway Obama interchange.

Related Castles

Nochiseyama Castle -General indispensable like rice-
Odani Castle -History of three generation of Azai clan- 

Matsue Castle -Old style main tower looking at water city-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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