Thursday, October 16, 2014

Iiyama Castle -Castle stood long fierce attack of Shingen-

Iiyama Castle

-Castle stood long fierce attack of Shingen-

Iiyama Castle


Name: Iiyama castle (Iiyama-jo)
Place: Iiyama Iiyama city, Nagano
Location: 36.85666227847378, 138.36645018755127
Type: Hill Castle
Built: Expanded around 1560
Remaining remnants: Gates, stone walls, clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Iiyama castle (飯山城) is located at Iiyama hill, a 30 meter height hill beside Chikuma-gawa river. Iiyama area is placed at the northeast edge of Nagano plain, and is a crossing point of Iiyama Kaido way to Jyoetu area (western part of Niigata prefecture) and the Tani Kaido road to Uonuma area, an inland area of Chuetsu area (middle part of Niigata prefecture). Thus Iiyama area is a strategic point for Echigo province (Niigata prefecture) to protect attack from southward.

History of Takanashi clan

In the medieval era, Iiyama area was governed by Takanashi clan. The origin of Takanashi clan is unknown but it already grew as a local lord in 12th century. Tadanao Takanashi, the leader of Takanshi clan at that time, belonged to Yoshinaka Minamoto (1154-1584), the cousin of Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199) and who once defeated the government of Taira clan just before the establishment of Kamakura Shogunate, and regarded as one of four brilliant commanders of Yoshinaka.

In Muromachi era, Takanashi clan further grew their power and beated Nakano clan, then captured whole northeastern end of Shinano province (Nagano prefecture). Takanashi clan struggled for Nagano area against Murakami clan, another strong on at the south of Nagano plain.

But at the middle of 16th century, the situation has changed by expansion of Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), a warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture). Yoshikiyo Murakami (1501-1573), leader of Murakami clan at that time, resisted to Shingen and beat twice, but finally was expelled from its territory in 1553. Now Shingen entered to Nagano plain and next target was Takanashi clan.

Forced Takanashi clan asked assistance to Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578I, the warlord of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture), as Kenshin was the grand son of the woman from Takanashi clan. Kenshin supported Takanashi clan as a front guard against Takeda clan, but as Kenshin could not send reinforcement to Takanashi clan in winter season due to heavy snow, Shingen gradually expanded their territory and Takanashi clan lost south half of its territory.

Impregnable fortress of Uesugi clan in Shinano province

Facing this situation, around 1560, Kenshin reformed Iiyama castle as a last resort in Shinano province. There were three main areas in line at the hilltop area, and the backside was guarded by steep cliff facing Chikuma-gawa river. At front side there were two terraces along the halfway of the hill, to guard entrance of the castle. 

Whole hill was surrounded by water moats directly connected to Chikuma-gawa river. Total size of the castle was about 300 meter long and 200 meter width. Later stone wall was built surrounding central area, and still remain between central area and secondary area.

After the battle of Kawanakajima between Shingen and Kenshin continued from 1553 to 1564, Shingen grasped Nagano plain and Iiyama castle became the front against Takeda clan. Shingen continuously suppressed Iiyama castle by his death, but Iiyama castle could stand this attack. 

But at the time of Otate no Ran, an internal conflict of Uesugi clan after the death of Kenshin in 1578, next leader Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623) ceded Iiyama castle to Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), the successor of Shingen, as a condition of peace. 

After the fall of Takeda clan by cenral ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) in 1582, Iiyama castle was once occupied by his general Nagayoshi Mori (1558-1584) along with Kaizu castle (current Matsushiro castle). But after the incident of Honnoji, a coup d’etat against Nobunaga occurred at that year, Nagayoshi left Shinano country and Kagekatsu Uesugi recovered Iiyama castle. Katekatsu reformed Iiyama castle into a modern castle as a border fortress.

Afterward of the castle

In 1598 Kagekatsu moved to Aizu Wakamatsu castle, and Iiyama castle was managed by various commanders. In 1603 Tadateru Matsudaira (1592-1683), the sixth son of Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) who was the founder of Edo Shogunate, became of the lord of north part of Shinano province. 

His retainer Hiroteru Minagawa (1548-1628) who was formerly a commander of Minagawa castle became the lord of Iiyama castle, but Hiroteru was opposed to Tadateru and lost his territory. In 1717 Honda clan was appointed as a commander of this castle, and kept this castle by the end of Edo era. 

At the time of Meiji revolution, Iiyama castle was attacked by Shouhoutai, the troop of Edo Shogunate and burned down. Now castle sight is used as a park, and a gate once transferred to other place was moved back to the castle site. Furthermore, several gates are transferred to neighbor temples. The tall cliff behind the castle still kept the image of Kenshin’s last fortress stood attack of Shingen.


10 minutes walk from JR East Iiyama line Kita-Iiyama station. 20 minutes drive from Joshinetsu Jidoshado Expressway Toyoda-Iiyama interchange.

Related Castles

Minagawa Castle -Castle consists of multilayered terraces-
Matsushiro Castle -Important base used at fatal battle of two rivals-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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