Saturday, November 29, 2014

Shinjo Castle -Long history of small clan-

Shinjo Castle

-Long history of small clan-



Name: Shinjo castle (Shinjo-jo)
Place: Horibata-cho Shinjo city, Yamagata
Location: 38.76736448614681, 140.2931398384499
Type: Flat Castle
Built: 1622
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Shinjo castle (新庄城) is located at at the center of Shinjo city, a city of Shinjo basin which places at the northeast area of Dewa province (Yamagata prefecture). 

Shinjo basin is a small basin of 10 kilometer length, but an important place of communication at inland connects Shonai plain from westward, Yamagata plain from southward, Sendai plain from eastward and Yokote basin from northward. 

Shinjo basin before Tozawa clan

In Medieval era Shinjo plain was governed by small local lords, but in the former half of 16th century Onodera clan, a warlord governed south half of Dewa province (Akita prefecture) expanded their territory to Shinjo area. 

Onodera clan placed their general Sakenobe clan at Shinjo basin, and Sakenobe clan resided at Sakenobe castle at north half of Shinjo plain and struggled against surrounding warlords such as Daihoji clan at Shonai plain or Mogami clan at Yamagata plain. 

In 1581, Yoshiaki Mogami (1546-1614) who united Yamagata basin attacked Sakenobe Castle, and Hidetsuna Sakenobe (1563-1646), the leader of Sakenobe clan, surrendered to Yoshiaki and became his general. Hidetsuna was known for its braveness and activated many battles including the battle of Hasedo castle in 1600, but lost his territory in 1622 along with Mogami clan.

Long history of Tozawa clan

After the transfer of Mogami clan, Tozawa clan was transferred from Matsuoka castle (Ibaraki prefecture) and became the lord of Shinjo basin. Tozawa clan is said as a descendant of Taira clan, and originally a small lord of Shizukuishi area (middle western part of Iwate prefecture) from 11th century. 

Later Tozawa clan moved to Kakunodate area (middle east part of Akita prefecture) and became the lord of that place. Being surrounded by strong warlords at neighbor area such as Ando clan at the north part of Dewa country (Akita prefecture), Onodera clan at the south part of the country, or Nanbu clan at Morioka area, Tozawa clan slowly but steadily expanded their territory.

In the latter half of 17th century, Moriyasu Tozawa (1566-1590), a brilliant leader emerged at Tozawa clan. Moriyasu was a brave general said as “Damon Kuro” and defeat Onodera clan then advanced to Oomagari area, at the south of Kakunodate area. At the same time Chikasue Ando (1539-1587) reunited divided clan and aggressively attacked neighbor warlords, but Moriyasu drove back the attack of Chikasue and firmly held his territory. 

Survival of turbulent period

In addition to his braveness, Moriyasu also had a foresight and communicated with central rulers such as Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) or Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), At the time of Odawara campaign by Hideyoshi against Hojo clan in 1590, Moriyasu was the first to arrive the siege of Hideyoshi from Tohoku region and highly evaluated his loyalty by Hideyoshi. But unfortunately Masamori died in ill at this siege.

After Moriyasu, his son Masamori Tozawa (1585-1648) succeeded leader position only in 7 years old. After the death of Hideyoshi, Masamori married with the daughter of Mototada Torii (1539-1600), an important retainer of Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1600) who was the largest lord under Toyotomi government, and became close to Tokugawa clan. 

At the time of the battle of Sekigahara between Ieyasu and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), former chief magistrate of Toyotomi government in 1600, Masamori supported Ieyasu and attacked the castle of Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623) who supported Mitsunari. From 1590 to 1600 many small lords of Tohoku region disappeared from history but Tozawa clan could continue as a modern lord.

Transfer to Shijyo basin and built of Shinjo castle

After the battle of Sekigahara, Masamori was once transferred to Matsuoka castle, but in 1622, Mogami clan which held whole Dewa province lost their territory due to the internal conflict. Torii clan became the lord of Yamagata castle and governed major part of former Mogami territory, and as a relative of Torii clan, Masamori also moved to Shinjo area at the north of Yamagata area. Masamori at first used Sakenobe castle, but it was not convenient at the top of mountain thus Masamori built new castle at plain in 1625. 

Shinjo castle consist of central area which was a rectangle of 400 meter length and 200 meter width, secondary area and third area placed eastward as a concentric circle. All wall of each area was a clay wall, but stone walls were used as a basement of each barrack gate. 

At first there was a three story main tower in the center of central area, but it was burned down in 1636 and was not reconstructed. Total size of the castle was about 800 meter long and 400 meter wide, and it was simple but considerably large compared with its territory.

Afterward of Shinjo castle

Later Torii clan was transferred from Yamagata castle but Tozawa clan kept Shinjo castle by the end of Edo era. At the time of Meiji Revolution, at first Tozawa clan supported anti new government alliance among domains at Tohoku region, but suddenly left this alliance along with Kubota domain (Akita prefecture) and supported new government. 

Furious Shonai domain next to Shinjo domain attacked Shinjo castle the all building of the castle were burned down. Lord of Tozawa clan once escaped to Kubota domain, but finally returned to Shinjyo domain along with new government army. Anyway Tozawa clan survived its over 700 years history as a lord.

The site of the castle was used as a school or administrative office, but now became Mogami park and several shrines locate in the park. Clay wall and water moat of the front side of central area wall remain along with stone wall basement of front gate, and tells long history of small clan to posterity.


15 minutes walk from JR East Ou Honsen line Shinjo station. 60 minutes drive from Yamagata city central via Route 13 to the parking of Mogami park.

Related Castles

Yamagata Castle -Castle built by lord of struggle and misfortune-

Pictures (click to enlarge)