Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bicchu Takamatsu Castle -Leave the fame as a moss of Takamatsu-

Bicchu Takamatsu Castle

-Leave the fame as a moss of Takamatsu-



Name: Bicchu Takamatsu Castle (Bicchu Takamatsu-jo)
Alias: Takamatsu-jo
Place: Kita-ku Okayama city, Okayama
Location: 34.69290155854392, 133.8222129925917
Type: Flat castle
Built: 16th century
Remaining remnants: Moats
Title: 100 more famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Bicchu Takamatsu castle (備中高松城, to distinguish from Takamatsu castle at Kagawa prefecture, this castle is usually called as Bicchu Takamatsu castle) is located at a slight height in the plain land, between central Okayama city and Takahashi-gawa river. Historically this area had been a granary area and is said as a main base of ancient Kibi kingdom existed until 6th century.

Geographical location of castle

The site of the castle is currently far from the sea and Sanindo Road, but before the water improvement and land reclamation current coast area spread from Okayama city to Kurashiki city was a wide delta area and not suitable to transfer. Thus former Sanindo road, a major road connected Kyoto city and Hakata city, existed at a northern route from current road (Route 2) and passed through natural levee just at south of Bicchu Takamatsu castle. 

Change of commander to Muneharu Shimizu

In addition to this, a route from Sanin region through Takanashi city comes down along Ashimori-gawa river and joint to Sanindo Road near the castle. Due to this geographical location, Bicchu Takamatsu castle was a main point of communication and entrance to west half of Chugoku region.

The precise year of construction is unknown but it is said that Mimura clan, the largest local lord of Bicchu province (western half of Okayama prefecture) ordered its retainer Ishikawa clan to build a castle at current place. Mimura clan grew into a warlord based on Bicchu Matsuyama castle (Okayama prefecture) and fiercely fought with Naoie Ukita (1529-1582), a warlord of Bizen province (eastern half of Okayama prefecture) under the support of Mouri clan, a large warlord of Aki province (Hiroshima prefecture). 

But in 1575, Ukita clan suddenly allied with Mouri clan, and Mimura clan which lost support from Mouri clan was extinguished by these two clans (it is called as Bicchu Heiran, it means disturbance of Bicchu province). Ishikawa clan shared their fate with Mimura clan this time, and another local lord Muneharu Shimizu (1537-1582) became the commander of Bicchu Takamatsu castle under the support of Mouri clan.

Hideyoshi's campaign against Mouri clan

Shortly after that, another strong enemy start to approach Mouri clan and Bicchu Takamatsu castle. Central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) started his campaign against Mouri clan and appointed his general Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) as a regional commander. Hideyoshi entered Harima province (Hyogo prefecture) and started his operation against Mouri clan, under the support of his military staff Yoshitaka Kuroda (1546-1604, called as Kanbe).

Hideyoshi at first faced hard battle due to rebellion of Nagaharu Bessho (1558-1580) at Miki castle (Hyogo prefecture) and Murashige Araki (1535-1586) at Itami castle (Osaka prefecture). But Hideyoshi captured Miki castle after three years encirclement in 1580, and next year fall Tottori castle (Tottori prefecture), an important point at Sanin region from Mouri clan. Further watching this situation, Naoie Ukita held Bizen country changed to Hideyoshi side, thus Bicchu province became the front between Hideyoshi and Mouri army.

To stop invasion of Hideyoshi into western half of Chugoku region, Mouri clan strengthened seven castles around this area, and Takamatsu castle was the main base of these seven castles. Takamatsu castle consist of three main areas spread in arch shape and outer area. Total length of the castle exceeded 500 meter, and these areas were surrounded by deep marsh in all direction.

Flood attack at Takamatsu castle

In 1582 spring, Hideyoshi started to his operation in Sanyo region and advanced to Bicchu country. Hideyoshi quickly captured six castles other than Takamatsu castle and started to siege this castle. but due to wide marsh Hideyoshi's army could not approach the castle easily. Hideyoshi also invited Muneharu Shimizu, the commander of the castle, to turn to Hideyoshi by condition of giving whole Bicchu province, but Muneharu declined it.

Facing this situation, utilizing this geographical disadvantage, Kanbe Kuroda, a military staff of Hideyoshi, caught an idea of flood attack ("Mizuzeme") to the castle. Favorably the terrain of castle area was a low humid area surrounded by hills, and by constructing short embankment the castle might be sunk in water. 

In May Hideyoshi rushed construction of embankment, which was 20 meter wide (basement), 7 meter height and 3 kilometer long, in 12 days, and as expected the outer area of the castle was sunk in the water. Main areas were still above the water but losing many supplies and dwelling space the moral of the castle significantly declined. Hideyoshi and his generals stayed at the hills surrounding the castle and kept encirclement.

Opening of the castle

Facing this situation Mouri clan sent their all army as a reinforcement to Takamatsu castle, but they also could just watch the castle. Dragging out of Mouri main army at Takamatsu castle, Hideyoshi planned a decisive battle against Mouri clan and called reinforcement of Nobunaga. Nobunaga decided to send large army and moved to Kyoto city, but faced the incident of Honnoji, a coup d'etat by his general Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582) and died there.

Mitsuhide sent a secret messenger to Mouri clan to tell the death of Nobunaga and asked attack to Hideyoshi, but Hideyoshi captured this messenger and knew the situation. Concealing the death of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi quickly made agreement with Mouri clan, under the condition of opening of Takamatsu castle and transfer of Bicchu province and Houki province (western half of Tottori country) to Oda clan. 

Mouri clan did not have any choice and accepted it, and Muneharu opened Takamatsu castle and killed himself. Muneharu said at his farewell poem that "now I leave the present life, leaving the fame of Samurai as a moss of Takamtsu". Later this siege is praised as three successful siege of Hideyoshi, along with the siege of Miki castle (Hyogo prefecture) and Tottori castle (Tottori prefecture). 

Afterward of the castle

After opening the castle, Hideyoshi quickly returned to central area and beat Mitsuhide at the battle of Yamazaki, then became the successor of Nobunaga. Takamatsu castle was given to Ukita clan, but when Ukita clan lost their territory after the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Takamatsu castle was also abolished.

Now all buildings were lost but small heights used as areas remain in the rice field. Main areas are surrounded by lotus fields, and remind us the former shape of the castle surrounded by marshes. At surrounding hills the remnant of the base of Hideyoshi generals still exist, and the root of embankment also remain beside the hill.


10 minutes walk from JR West Kibi-sen line Bicchu-Takamatsu station. 10 minutes drive from Okayama Jidoshado Expressway Okayama-Soja interchange.

Related Castles

Bicchu Matsuyama Castle -Castle of struggle with original main tower-Tottori Castle -As secure as guarding general's will-
Miki Castle -Die to save the castle-
Oshi Castle -Castle rejected flood attack-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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