Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tatebayashi Castle -Castle held by important persons of Edo Shogunate-

Tatebayashi Castle

-Castle held by important persons of Edo Shogunate-



Name: Tatebayashi Castle (Tatebayashi-jo)
Place: Shiro-machi Tatebayashi city, Gunma
Location: 36.24365766889265, 139.54531369384972
Type: Flat Castle
Built: Originally in 15th century, expanded in 1590's
Remaining remnants: Clay walls

Brief History

Tatebayashi castle (館林城) is located at the side of Shironuma moat, at the center of Tatebayashi city. Tatebayashi city places along the way from Koga castle or Sekigado castle, the center of Kanto plain toward northwest Kanto region along Kinugawa river, and an important castle connecting east and west at north edge of Kanto plain. 

Shironuma moat became small due to recent land reclamation but formerly was a huge moat, and the site of Tatebayashi castle was a peninsula shaped height protruded into the marsh. Guarded its backside by water, Tatebayashi castle was a secure castle. Throughout Edo era, Tatebayashi castle was treated as one of important bases of Edo shogunate, and important people of Shogunate served its commander.

Early days of Tatebayashi castle

The precise year is unknown but Tatebayashi castle was originally built in 15th century. Later Yura clan, a lord of Kanayama castle (Gunma prefecture), captured Tatebayashi castle and used it as a branch castle.

But in 1583, Hojyo clan, a warlord of Sagami country (Kanagawa prefecture) and held most part of Kanto region, attacked Yura clan. As a condition of peace Tatebayashi castle was transferred to Hojyo clan, and Hojyo clan also used Tatebayashi castle as one of major bases. 

At the time of Odawara campaign by central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) against Hojyo clan in 1590, the castle was attacked by large Toyotomi army lead by Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), later chief administrative staff of Toyotomi government, and accepted a summon to surrender and opened it without resistance.

After the extinction of Hojyo clan, Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) was appointed as a lord of Kanto region by Hideyoshi, and held current Kanagawa, Tokyo, Saitama, Gunma and north part of Chiba prefecture.

Ieyasu placed his important generals at major castles near to each border of new territory. Tadakatsu Honda (1548-1610), the bravest general of Tokugawa army,was located at Otaki castle aiming at Satomi clan at Awa country, and Tadachika Okubo (1553-province1628), a trusted general of Ieyasu became the commander of Odawara castle looking at Tokai region. 

Naomasa Ii (1561-1602), young brilliant commander became the commander of Minowa castle (Gunma prefecture) to guard against Shinano province (Nagano prefecture) or Shinano province (Niigata prefecture), and Yasumasa Sakakibara (1548-1606), an excellent general equivalent to Tadakatsu was placed at Tatebayashi castle to guard the attack from Tohoku region.

Another brave general of Tokugawa army

Yasumasa Sakakibara was a commander of guard troop of Ieyasu along with Tadakatsu Honda, and fought with Ieyasu from young age. Not so famous as Tadakatsu but Yasumasa was also a brilliant general of Tokugawa army. At the battle of Anegawa in 1570, Yasumasa made side attack to Asakura army and contributed to victory. 

Further, during the battle of Komaki Nagakute against detached army of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), Yasumasa lead the back attack to Hidetsugu Toyotomi (1568-1595), nephew of Hideyoshi and commander of the troop, and thoroughly beat them.

Yasumasa was also good at calligraphy, and before the battle of Komaki Nagakutehhe wrote agitation documents severely abusing Hideyoshi and delivered. After Ieyasu subordinated to Hideyoshi in 1586, at the Odawara campaign against Hojyo clan in 1590, he attacked many castles as a vanguard and also served as a representative to accept surrender of Odawara castle.

Yasumasa transformed Tatebayashi castle as a modern one. The main areas including central area, secondary area and third area was placed at a straight line, and outer areas consisted another line next to main areas. The root of peninsula is most secured area guarded by high clay walls and composite gate. Even though this castle did not have stone walls, but there were several turrets including a three story one as a substitute of main tower.

As a front general Yasumawa was unfortunate after the establishment of Edo Shogunate in 1600, and died in 1606 at this castle. Next 50 years hereditary retainer of Edo shogunate served as commanders of this castle.

Castle produced Shogun and its candidate

In 1661, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa (1646-1709) , younger brother of 4th Shogun Ietsuna Tokugawa (1651-1680) was appointed as a governor of Tatebayashi castle. But in 1680, Ietsuna died without successor, thus Tsunayoshi became the fifth Shogun of Edo shogunate. 

The period of Tsunayoshi was a maturity time of Edo era and its reign was mostly smooth, but Tsunayoshi also issued “Shorui Awaremi no Rei” (Rule of protection animal” and strictly banned capture of stray dogs and forced people to feed them, and it was quite unpopular among people.

When Tsuyanoshi became the Shogun of course he moved to Edo castle, thus his son Tokumatsu (1680-1683) became the nominal commander. But Tokumatsu died in youth thus Tatebayashi domain became extinct and Tatebayashi castle was once broken.

Next in 1707, Kiyotake Matsudaira (1663-1724), a nephew of Tsunayoshi, was appointed as a governor of this castle and restored it. Kiyotake was once nominated as 8th Shogun after the death of 7th Shogun Ietsugu Tokugawa (1709-1716), but he was too old to be a Shogun at that time, this plan was cancelled and Yoshimune Tokugawa (1684-1751) , the leader of Kishu domain, became the Shogun.

After Kiyotake, hereditary retainer of Edo shogunate served the commander of the castle by the end of Edo era. Subsequent to Meiji revolution, all buildings were lost and the place of castles was used for a ground of administrative offices and schools. Today it is difficult to grasp the shape of former important castle, but there remain a limited part of clay wall remain in the castle area, and an imitation of former main gate into third area and outer gate are each restored.


10 minutes walk from Tobu Isezaki-sen line Tatebayashi station.  10 minutes drive from Tohoku Jidoshado Expressway Tatebayashi interchange.

Related Castles

Kanayama Castle -Impregnable castle with mystic atmosphere-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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