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)

No comments:

Post a Comment