Saturday, December 20, 2014

Maruyama Castle -Ninja versus Nobunaga-

Maruyama Castle

-Ninja versus Nobunaga-



Name: Maruyama castle (Maruyama-jyo)
Place: Shimokanbe Iga city, Mie
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 1578
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Maruyama castle (丸山城) is located at a hill named Maruyama, at the south part of current Iga city. Maruyama area places at the middle of Iga area and Nabari area, two large plain of Iga basin, and is just beside Kizugawa river which flews from Nabari city to Iga city. Maruyama castle places at the center of Iga basin, and can manage Hatsusekaido way, a major road connected Matsusaka area (Mie prefecture) and Sakurai area (Nara prefecture), thus it was suitable place to manage whole Iga region.

History of Iga Ninja

Iga province is a small basin surrounded by steep mountains located at the mountainous area between Ise province (Mie prefecture) and Yamato province (Nara prefecture). In medieval area Iga province was nominally governed by Nikki clan, but its authority was quite weak and numerous local lords divided the nation and ruled. 

There occurred many small conflicts between these local lords, and due to low agricultural production person of this province wandered to other provinces as peddling or mercenaries. Further due to the geographical closeness to Kyoto city, many refugees lost at political or military conflicts in the capital escaped to this area, with advanced technology of medicine, weapon and fire powder. Among such reasons, famous Iga Ninja grew in this area among the conflicts and coordination of local lords, along with Koga region at the north of Iga area.

Typical image of Ninja is to attack enemies in a group by secret weapons such as Shuriken (throwing knives), Kunai (short-swords) or Fukiya (blow needle gun) and acrobatic move, then disappear under the cover of explosion of smokescreen. But their first mission was searching information, thus close combat was a last resort and they tend to avoid it. It was said that Iga Ninja was excellent at martial arts, and Koga Ninga was superior to chemical weapon such as medicine or hallucinogen.

To quickly reach the destination and escape from the enemy, Ninjas could move long distance very quickly, and it is said that some Ninja could run 200 kilometer in whole one day. They also could sneak to the enemy controlling the breath, and hide and run away by swimming. In the noon they disguised to the ordinary person, and in night they wore famous dark suits which covered all body except for the eye and performed their mission.

This pattern is quite the same of modern spy in the movie, to complete their missions by superior physical ability and various items. Actually, many ninjas were personally or collectively hired by warlords and engaged in various missions such as investigation or plots, and engaged in castle siege as mercenary. 

As Masashige Hattori (1542-1596, famous for his middle name Hanzo), the leader of Hattori clan which was the one of three largest families of Iga province, served to Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the warlord of Mikawa province (eastern part of Aichi prefecture) and founder of Edo Shogunate, Ieyasu sometimes used Iga Ninja force to fall enemy castles. 

Build of Maruyama castle and fall

In 15th century, lords of Iga area consist of self autonomy system. This system was lead by four large lords such as Momochi clan, Hattori clan and Fujibayashi clan. Momochi clan was famous as a general leader of Ninja, and other two also lead their Ninja. They rejected interference from outer powers and kept the nation over 100 years.

At the middle of 16th century, central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) extinguished Kitabatake clan, which was the house of the governor of Ise province, then placed his second son Nobukatsu Oda (1558-1630) as a successor of Kitbatake clanat Tamaru castle (Mie prefecture), in the south half of the province. As Ise province was next to Iga province across the mountain, and Nobukatsu seek to expand into Iga province.

In 1578, one local lord of Iga province communicated to Nobukatsu and introduced him to Iga region. Nobukatsu sent his important retainer Katsutoshi Takigawa (1543-1610) to build a new castle at the center of Iga basin. After half year construction, a modern castle equipped three story main tower and stone walls nearly completed in October. But facing this situation, local lords and Ninjas made total attack to the castle, and Katsutoshi and his army left the castle and returned to Ise province. 

Ninja versus Nobunaga

Next year Nobukatsu lead his army and directly invaded to Iga province, But Oda army faced the ambush of Iga army and suffered severe damage from night attack of Ninjas, thus Nobukatsu was thoroughly defeated and retreated. Nobukatsu was accused by his father Nobunaga for moving his army without approval of Nobunaga and lost many soldiers. This is said as the first "Tensho Iga no Ran" (The battle of Iga in Tensho period).

Nobunaga who aimed unified dominance from central government and faced the ability of Ninja, decided thoroughly extinguish Ninjas. In 1581, Nobunaga ordered Nobukatsu to attack Iga province by 50,000 soldiers, and Oda army marched to Iga province from all directions. 

From Koga area of northward, main force lead by important generals of Nobunaga such as Kazumasu Takigawa (1525-1586), Nagahide Niwa (1535-1585), Ujisato Gamo (1556-1595) marched, and from Yamato province of west side, Jynkei Tsutsui (1549-1585) who was the governor of Yamato province advanced. Nobukatsu himself started from Matsusaka area of southeast ward, and Katsutoshi Takigawa moved from Kabuto area of eastward. 

Iga army resisted and gave certain damage to Oda army again, but finally outnumbered by Oda army then was destructed only in half month. All castle was fell by Oda army, and major leaders including Tanba Momochi, a legendary general leader of Momochi clan, died in the battle. This is said as the second "Tensho Iga no Ran", and after the battle Iga province was mainly held by Nobukatsu Oda. Nobukatsu sent Katsutoshi to Iga again and let them govern the area. This time Katsutoshi built Iga Ueno castle and resided there, but Maruyama castle might be used after the regional base after that.

Afterward of the castle

After the death of Nobunaga in 1582 at the incident of Honnoji, Iga people resisted to Oda army again but was suppressed by Nobukatsu. But on the other hand, Masashige Hattori used Iga ninja to secure Ieyasu Tokugawa who escaped disturbance at the incident of Honnoji and  let him pass Iga province. Iga Ninjas were hired as a secret guard of Edo Shogunate under Masashige, thus one of the gate of Edo castle was named as Hanzomon gate, which was directly protected by Masashige Hattori. Because of this, in many stories ninjas are depicted to fight at both of friendly side or enemy side.

Subsequent to the battle of Komaki Nagakute in 1584, Nobukatsu lost Iga province and Sadatsugu Tsutsui (1562-1615), an adopted son of Jyunkei Tsutsui, was appointed as the governor of Iga province by Toyotomi government and moved from Koriyama castle (Nara prefecture). Sadatsugu expanded Iga Ueno castle into a large modern castle and resided it, and Maruyama castle might be abolished then.

Now all stone walls was lost, but the structure of the castle still remain along the hill over 300 meter. Continuous shaped but small terraces shows the feature of the former period castle of Oda clan. If not attacked Maruyama castle could be the center of Iga province, but limited plain area around the castle might be a problem to build a castle town.


15 minutes walk from Iga Tetsudo Iga line Maruyama station. 20 minutes drive from Meihan Jidoshado Expressway Iga-Higashi interchange. Now it is difficult to enter the castle as route to main gate at western side is closed by barricade to protect crops from wildlifes, and route to backside gate at southern side is passing private property.

Related Castles

Iga Ueno Castle -20 meter tall stone walls aiming at Osaka castle-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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