Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sonobe Castle -Last built castle buildings in Japan-

Sonobe Castle

-Last built castle buildings in Japan-



Name: Sonobe castle (Sonobe-jyo)
Place: Sonobecho Nantan city, Kyoto
Type: Plain Castle
Built: Originally in 1619, expanded in 1868
Remaining remnants: Gate, turrets, stone walls and moats 

Brief History

Sonobe castle is located at a hillside of small mountain named Komugiyama in Sonobe town, beside Sonobegata river, a tributary of Katsuragawa river. Sonobe area is a small valley 10 kilometer upstream of Kameoka city. Although it is a small town in narrow valley, Sonobe area was an important point of communication which faces Sanindo way, one of the main roads of Japan which connects Kyoto city and Sanin area, and also is connected to Hyogo area via Sasayama or Maizuru area.

Original build of the castle

In the medieval era, Sonobe area is thought to be held by Naito clan, a deputy governor of Tanba country (northwest part of Kyoto prefecture) located at Yagi castle, a large mountain castle existed between Kameoka city and Sonobe town. In 1577, Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582), a general of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), captured east part of Tanba country and newly built Kameyama castle as a base of his conquest to Tanba country. Sonobe area might be held by the lord of Kameyama castle until 1619.

In 1619, Yoshichika Koide (1590-1668) was transferred from Izushi castle (Hyogo prefecture) and newly established Sonobe domain. Yoshichika was a grandson of Hidemasa Koide (1540-1604), a younger brother in law of former ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598). Koide clan hostile to Ieyasu Tokugawa who won at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and naturally might extinct as a relative of former ruler, but Hideie Koide (1567-1603), the uncle of Yoshichika, supported Ieyasu and made achievement, then Koide clan could continue under Edo Shogunate.

Sonobe domain was a small domain and there were already many castles in Tanba country such as Kameyama Castle, Fukuchiyama Castle and Sasayama castle. Edo Shogunate did not approve to build castle, thus Sonobe castle was formally a residence and did not have turrets and walls. But this residence had a large central area on the height and surrounding outer barrier, and was as secure as small castle.

Last built castle buildings in Japan

Koide clan kept Sonobe area by the end of Edo era. As Sonobe domain was close to Kyoto city, Koide clan became the guard of Emperor lived in Kyoto city at that time, and supported Imperial household. At the turbulent period of the end of Edo era, Koide clan submitted expansion of Sonobe castle as an evacuation place of Emperor in case of street fight in Kyoto. Originally Edo Shogunate did not approve this application, but after the establishment of Meiji new government in 1867, new government gave permission on this project. Sonobe castle was formerly approved as a castle and the last construction of the castle has started in at the beginning of 1868 and completed by the summer of that year.

Under this reform Sonobe castle was renovated into a genuine castle. Front wall of the castle was guarded by stone walls, and four corner turrets and barrack gates were built around the central area. Additionally a three story turret was built on the top of backside mountain as a watchtower. These buildings were the last ones among Japanese castles built for military or administrative purpose (50 years later reconstruction of lost buildings began and some were built in old method, but they were not genuine castle building as they were built for exhibition purpose).

But surrounding situation had significantly changed during its construction. In August 1868, Emperor itself moved to Tokyo city from Kyoto and Tokyo became the capital of Japan. Further the battle between new government army and former Shogunate supporting lords occurred in Tohoku region ceased by the autumn of 1868, and Goryokaku, the last fortress of anti new government army surrendered to Meiji government next year. Now the situation of Japan once stabilized and there became no need for evacuation plase of the Emperor near Kyoto.

Afterward of the castle

Based on this situation, Just after three years after renovation, Sonobe castle was abolished and most buildings were sold or dismantled. The site of the castle were used as a local government or school, and main gate and connecting one corner turret were kept as a gate of high school until now.In addition to this, on turret were moved to the temple in next town and also remains. Even though the period used as a castle was short, but the last built buildings of Sonobe castle still continue the history as last standing buildings among Japanese castles.

Related Castles

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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