Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Shuzan Castle -Time to treason (9) capturing remaining part of Tanba province-

Shuzan Castle

-Time to treason (9) capturing remaining part of Tanba province-



Name: Shuzan castle /Syuzan castle (Shuzan-jo / Syuzan-jo)
Place: Keihoku-Shuzancho Ukyo-ku Kyoto city, Kyoto
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 1579
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and clay walls 

Brief History

Continued from Part 8

Shuzan castle is located at Shiroyama mountain, one of over 200 meter height from hillside at the west of Shuzan town. Shuzan town is a small valley of the upstream of Katsura-gawa river in mountainous area at 10 kilometer north of Kyoto city.

Shuzan area is important place as a crossing point of Shuzan Kaido (Shuzan road), a road of north and south ward from Kyoto city to Obama city of Sea of Japan coast, and another road of east and west ward from Sakamoto town (Shiga prefecture) to Yagi town, even now used as Route 162 and 477, respectively. 

Origin of Shuzan castle

Shuzan castle might be built by Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582), the general of central ruler of Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) and attacked Tanba province under his order since 1575. In 1579, Mitsuhide ruined Hatano clan and Akai clan, two major local lords of Tanba province (east part of Tanba province and west part of Kyoto prefecture) and seized major part of the province.

However, as Mitsuhide attacked the province clockwise from southward, there remained several enemy side local lords in the northeast part of the province, such as Yokoyama clan at Fukuchiyama area, Naito clan at Yagi castle (Kyoto prefecture) of Kameoka basin, and Uzu clan at Shuzan area.

Major local lords of Tanba province were already lost, and Issiki clan which was the lord of Tango province which was at the backward also surrendered to Hosokawa clan, which was the colleague of Mitsuhide. Other fronts at neighbor area became stabilized thus Mitsuhide could focus on the capture of remaining area.

History of former lord

The origin of Uzu clan which had been the lord of Shuzan area is not clear but said as the descendant of Toki clan, a distinguished branch family of Minamoto clay stayed at Mino province. Anyway Uzu clan uplifted to the Kuwata provindence of Tanba province and activated at the battles around Kyoto city in the former half of 16th century.

Furthermore, Uzu clan illegally occupied the manor of the Imperial Household spread around the north part of Kyoto city. Even though in the mountains, this area produced rich woods, and also brought fishes transported from Sea of Japan side. Thus this occupation brought significant economic damage to the Emperor.

Of course the Emperor ordered Muromachi Shogunate to recover their manor, but significantly weakened could not execute this order, thus Imperial Household fell into severe economic situation in the short of ceremony for the change of the yuan or enthronement. Contrary to this Uzu clan set aside funds and built their castle Uzu castle.

Capture of whole Tanba province

When Nobunaga Oda marched to Kyoto city and placed Yoshiaki Ashikaga (1537-1598) in 1568, Yoshiaki ordered Uzu clan return to the manor but Uzu clan ignored it. But when Yoshiaki and Nobonaga broke, Uzu clan belonged to Yoshiaki same as other local lords of Tanba province and resisted against Nobunaga.

In 1579, Mitsuhide who ruined Hatano clan and Akai clan finally attacked remaining local lords of Tanba province. Mitsuhide ruined Yokoyama clan and Naito clan in short time, then turned his army to Shuzan area. Before overwhelming army of matchlock guns, Uzu clan could not resist and the leader of Uzu clan died in the battle. Mitsuhide was appraised by the Imperial Household to recover their manor from Uzu clan.

Now Mitsuhide seized whole part of Tanba province. As Shuzan area is a deep mountainous area but important place to connect Kyoto city to the Sea of Japan size, and direct route from his main base Sakamoto castle (Shiga prefecture) to Tanba province, Mitsuhide newly built Shuzan castle with his latest technology at the mountain looking down the crossing point of the roads.

Structure of Shuzan castle

Shuzan castle mainly consist of central area at the peak of the Shiroyama mountain and outer areas spread along with three ridges, and the basic structure resembles to Takeda castle (Hyogo prefecture), even though a bit larger but not still so securitized. 

Central area is a 50 meter squared area, and a small height stone wall with a hollow which is thought as a ruin of basement of main tower exists at the center. Three connecting areas are about 100 meter length and have stone walls at its side and edge, and roads from hillside connect each area. 

Especially the ridge spreads toward west, the direction of backside mountains, is securely protected by the layer of terraces have tall stone walls at its edge. On the other hand, the ridge toward west, the front side of the castle, and with the height difference , two vertical line of stone walls built along the ridge like a slider. 

The overall shape of the castle is a transitional style from medieval castle to modern castle, as it has stone walls but built by still small stones and not so tall, and shape of each gate is a flat path and not so secure.

Short term use and afterward of castle

Mitsuhide placed his confident general Mitsutada Akechi (1540-1582) as a commander of Shuzan castle. Shuzan castle was used as a regional military base, but after the accident of Honnoji in 1582, a coup d'etat of Mitsuhide against Nobunaga and succeeding defeat of Mitsuhide at the battle of Yamazaki, Shuzan castle was held by next ruler Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598) who broke Mitsuhide.

Hideyoshi once placed his general Mitsuyasu Kato (1537-1593), who made achievement at the battle of Yamazaki, at Shuzan castle. Stone wall of east area is built by larger stone than western half and might be renovated at this time. But later Mitsuyasu turned to other castle, then Shuzan castle might be directly managed by Hideyoshi and later abolished along with the stabilization of Kinki region.

Now structure of the castle with half broken stone walls still remain on the mountain. A secure structure not suitable to the small valley shows the importance of this place as a north gate of Kyoto city. To reach the castle it is necessary to climb steep road over 30 minutes, but broken stone walls continues along with the ridge is worth for visiting.

Continue to Part 10


30 minutes drive from Kyoto city via Route 162 to the parking of "Woody Keihoku" (Route 477 is too narrow and not recommended). 15 minutes walk from "Woody Keihoku" to the entrance of climbing road, and 30 minutes walk from hillside to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Yagi Castle -Brothers of braveness and notorious-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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