Saturday, November 29, 2014

Shinjo Castle -Long history of small clan-

Shinjo Castle

-Long history of small clan-



Name: Shinjo castle (Shinjo-jyo)
Place: Horibatacho Shinjo city, Yamagata
Type: Plain Castle
Built: 1622 century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Shinjo castle is located at at the center of Shinjyo city, a city of Shinjo basin which places at the northeast area of Dewa country (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 country (Akita prefecture) expanded their territory to Shinjp area. Onodera clan placed their general Sakenobe clan at Shinjo basin, and Sakenobe clan resided at Sakenobe castle at north half of Shinjyo 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. 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 Hojyo 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. 

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 country 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 length and 400 meter width, 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.

Related Castles

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

Pictures (click to enlarge)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tsurugaoka Castle -Peaceful castle of domain of good governance-

Tsurugaoka Castle

-Peaceful castle of domain of good governance-



Name: Tsurugaoka castle (Tsurugaoka-jyo)
Alias: Tsuruoka castle. Daihoji castle
Place: Babamachi Tsuruoka city, Yamagata
Type: Plain Castle
Built: Originally 12th century, expanded in 17th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats 
Title: 100 more famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Tsurugaoka castle (鶴ヶ岡城) is located at the center of Tsuruoka city, the one places at southern half of Shonai plain. Shonai plain is a large plain made by Mogamigawa river at the seaside of the Sea of Japan, and prospered as a large rice growing center and important port connected inner part of Dewa country (Yamagata prefecture) such as Yamagata city or Tendo city and marine transportation at Sea of Japan. The place of Tsuruoka city is not the center of Shonai plain, but the place is a meeting point of roads from Echigo country (Niigata prefecture), Yamagata plain and Shinjo basin.

Original built and expansion

Tsurugaoka Castle was originally built as a residence of Daihoji clan in 13th century and was called as Daihoji castle. Daihoji clan was a retainer of Kamakura Shogunate and named as Miura clan, and came to Shonai region as a local governor. Throughout Muromachi era Daihoji clan defeated surrounding small lords and became a small warlord, but since the beginninig of 16th century the power of the clan significantly decreased due to internal conflict or opposition of retainers, and Daihoji clan moved its residence to Oura castle, a secure castle at the mountain near Tsurugaoka castle.

Daihoji clan tried to survive in cooperation with Honjyo clan, a strong retainer of Uesugi clan at the north edge of Echigo country (Niigata prefecture), but was attacked by Yoshiaki Mogami (1546-1614), a warlord of Yamagata castle and who united Yamagata basin, then ruined in 1587. Later Shigenaga Honjyo (1540-1614) assaulted Shonai plain along with relative of Daihoji clan and beat Mogami army in 1588, thus Shonai plain became the territory of Uesugi clan. But as a result of the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Uesugi clan lost Shonai plain and Yoshiaki Mogami became the lord of Shonai plain again. 

In 1603, Yoshiaki reformed Daihoji castle as a retirement place and named it as Tsurugaoka castle. After the death of Yoshiaki, Mogami clan was confiscated its territory due to internal conflict, and Sakai clan was transferred from Matsushiro castle (Nagano prefecture) and became the lord of the castle. Sakai clan was a descendant of Tadatsugu Sakai (1527-1596), who was the old and highest retainer of Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the founder of Edo Shogunate. As a castle of distinguished and large hereditary lord, Sakai clan further expanded Tsurugaoka castle as a center of Shonai domain.

Structure of Tsurugaoka castle

Tsurugaoka castle in Edo era mainly consist of three layer of square shaped area guarded by clay walls and water moats. The central area is about 200 meter length square shaped area, and there was a complex main gate at the southeast corner of the area and a two layer turret at northwest corner. There was no main tower in this castle, but a large palace of the lord existed all over the central area.

The secondary area is a narrow area surrounded central area, and had a two layer turret at southeast corner and two gates. The third area spread vast area between two rivers run east and west of the castle, and residence of the lords and retainers or domain school were built in this area.

Sakai clan and Tsurugaoka castle

Rarely in Edo era, Sakai clan kept this area throughout Edo era without transfer. Status of the house of most important retainer of Ieyasu and large territory might make it difficult to move to different place. Shonai domain once fell in serious financial problem at the beginning of 18th century, but due to its reform they restored the domain and well protected domain people from famines. At the beginning of 19th century Edo Shogunate planned to change Sakai clan to another clan, but domain people made direct opposition to Edo Shogunate even though serious punishment was expected, and this plan was finally cancelled. At the end of Edo Shogunate, Shonai domain resisted to Meiji new government and well fought, but finally surrendered to new government.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, the castle was abolished and all buildings were broken. Third area was also lost, but water moats and clay walls of central and secondary area considerably kept its shape, and these areas are used as shrine and park. Further in the third area buildings of domain school are kept as original. From plain and peaceful shape of the castle compared from its status and territory of the lord, good and kind governance of Shonai domain is imagined.


30 minutes walk from JR East Uetsu-Honsen line Tsuruoka station. 10 minutes drive from Yamagata Jidoshado Expressway Tsuruoka interchange.

Related Castles

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

Pictures (click to enlarge)