Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hiroshima Castle -Deviation from clan’s tradition on castle-

Hiroshima Castle

-Deviation from clan’s tradition on castle-



Name: Hiroshima castle (Hiroshima-jo)
Alias: Ri-jo (Carp castle)
Place: Motomachi Naka-ku Hiroshima city, Hiroshima
Type: Flat Castle
Built: 1598
Remaining remnants: Stone wall and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Hiroshima castle (広島城) is located in the center of Hiroshima city, at a sandbank surrounded by Kyu Otadagawa river and Kyobashigawa river. Hiroshima area is a large delta area produced by Otagawa river, and many sandbanks spread between six streams of Otagawa river. Utilizing its location as a center of western half of Chugoku region and at the middle of Kinki region and Kyushu region, facing Setonaikai sea, Hiroshima city rapidly grew into the largest city of Chugoku region. 

Hiroshima area before Mouri clan

In medieval era, current Hiroshima city area was only a narrow tidal flat area at the mouth of Otagawa river, and was governed by Aki Takeda clan at Sato Ginzan castle (Hiroshima city). Aki Takeda clan was a close family of Takeda clan, which was the governor of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) and famous for Shingen Takeda (1521-1573). In 13th century, Takeda clan was also gaind a territory at Aki province, and later people of Takeda clan moved to Hiroshima area.

In 14th century, Aki Takeda clan was once appointed as a governor of Aki province but soon lost this position. After that Aki Takeda clan growth their power in the western half of Aki province, but in east half there are many non obedient small lords such as Mouri clan, and above all Aki Takeda clan had to face with Ouchi clan, the governor of Suo and Nagato province (Yamaguchi prefecture) and one of the strongest governors of Muromachi era. 

Around 1500, Motoshige Takeda (1467-1517), leader of Aki Takeda clan, left Ouchi clan under support of Amago clan, a warlord of Izumo province (Shimane prefecture) and rival of Ouchi clan. Nomuzane grew their power to neighbor area, and in 1516 attacked Mouri clan where leader died and coufused for succession.

But because of surprise counter attack of Mouri clan lead by Motomari Mouri (1497-1571), Motoshige was defeated and died in the battle. After that Mouri clan rapidly grew their power, and in 1541 Sato Kanayama castle was captured by Mouri and Ouchi army, then Aki Takeda clan was extinguished. It is said that Ekei Ankokuji (1533-1600), a famous monk activated at diplomacy of Mouri clan, was descendant of Aki Takeda clan.

Seizure of Hiroshima area by Mouri clan

After the fall of Sato Kanayama castle Ouchi clan once held the castle, but at the coup d’tat by Harukata Sue (1521-1555) against Ouchi clan, Sato Kanayama castle was held by Sue army. But later Mouri army captured Sato Kanayama castle, and defeated Sue army at the battle of Itsukushima. 

Mouri clan which grew into the ruler of Chugoku region thought to move to current Hiroshima area, from their original main base Aki Koriyama castle. Aki Koriyama castle is a secure and huge castle and convenient to move into Sanin region, but it locates at a small basin in mountain and it is difficult to grow castle town. To control marine transportation at Setonaikai sea and manage sea clans, Mouri clan needed another base at Hiroshima area. It is said that Motonari planned to build his retirement place at Hiroshima, but it did not realize and Motonari died in 1571.

Crisis and continuation of Mouri clan

After the death of Motonari, his grandson and successor Terumoto Mouri (1553-1625) was involved in a long and severe battle against Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598), a regional commander of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582). At first Mouri army was dominant against Hideyoshi, but because of his supreme intelligence Hideyoshi gradually reversed the situation and started to invade into Mouri territory.

In 1579 Naoie Ukita (1529-1582), a large warlord of Bizen province (Okayama prefecture) under Mouri clan changed to Hideyoshi, and in 1581 Tottori castle (Tottori prefecture), an important base was fallen by Hashiba army. 

Further in 1582 Hideyoshi sent his whole army to Bicchu Takamatsu castle (Okayama prefecture) and siege the castle by flood tactics. Mouri clan sentfull army as a reinforcement to Takamatsucastle but could not do rescue it, and seeing that whole Oda army was planned to come to Bicchu Takamatsu castle to beat Mouri clan. Mouri clan was exactly forced into the corner, but just at that time Nobunaga died in the incident of Honnoji, a coup d’etat against Nobunaga by his general Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582). 

Hideyoshi knew the death of Nobunaga hided this information and made peace with forced Mouri clan, then moved his army to central area and made revenge of his former master. Terumoto Mouri did not chase retreating Hideyoshi, and indirectly supported him to seize next hegemony. Because of this reason, under Toyotomi government, Mouri clan was favorably treated, and regarded as a supporting party. 

Build of Hiroshima castle

Even though decreased from its peak, Mouri clan kept western half of Chugoku region and became second largest feudal lord under Toyotomi government. In 1588, Terumoto visited to Kyoto city to meet Hideyoshi, and saw magnificent newest castles built by Hideyoshi such as Jurakudai in Kyoto city or Osaka castle at Osaka city, and might be impressed. 

As Mouri clan was originally a local lord of mountainous area, Mouri clan liked mountain castles. Aki Koriyama castle which had been the main base of Mouri clan was a huge castle over steep mountain, and located at inland part in the north of Aki province. It was a secure castle attack of rejected overwhelming Amago army, and also convenient to move the army to whole part of Chugoku region. But after the unification of Japan by Hideyoshi, situation of siege at main castle is no more expected, and growth of economy utilizing castle town becomes more important than military affairs. 

Terumoto Mouri had to show his authority as a feudal lord to retainers and people, and Toyotomi government which thought important of marine transportation between Osaka city and Halata city via Setonaikai sea also wanted Mouri clan to do so. Next year, Terumoto started to build a new castle at the delta area of Otagawa river, which is more convenient to build a castle town and manage marine transportation at Setonaikai sea. As castle place was a muddy area and it was difficult construction to build stone walls, construction of castle continued to 1599, after 10 years construction.

Structure of Hiroshima castle

Structure of the main part of Hiroshima castle was quite simple. Central area is a nearly square shaped area of 200 meter long, and at the northwest corner there was xx story main tower. At the south of central area, there is secondary area of 100 meter long and 50 meter side, worked as a buffer area into the central area. This plan is strongly affected by Jurakudai built by Hideyoshi as his residence in Kyoto city, and Hiroshima castle was also a method to show the dignity of Hideyoshi to Chugoku region. Outside of these main area, third area of 400 meter long square with water moat existed.

Same as castles built by Hideyoshi, the wall of main tower was painted by black Japanese lacquer, and roof was decorated by gold colored roofing blocks and also gold colored statud of grampuses. In eastern countries, another major road Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623) also started construction of Kouzashi castle (Fukushima prefecture) also having square style resembles to Jyurakudai, but this one was cancelled because of war with Ieyasu Tokugawa.

Leave of Mouri clan

But after the death of Hideyoshi in 1598, fate of Mouri clan was heavily shaken. Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord under Toyotomi government and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), chief administrative staff, struggled for next hegemony. As a seconda largest lord, Terumoto was regarded as the rival of Ieyasu, and became the nominal leader of Mitsunari. But Hiroie Kikkawa (1561-1625), the highest retainer of the clan at Yonago castle (Tottori prefecture), tried to prevent Mouri clan to became the participant of the battle and secretly communicated with Ieyasu. As a result, at the main battle of Sekigahara between both party, Mouri clan did not move then Ieyasu broke Mitsunari.

After the battle, Ieyasu once persuaded Terumoto who stayed at secure Osaka castle to leave and return to the country, under condition to preserve their territory. But once Terumoto did so, Ieyasu broke this agreement because of no clear document, and punished Mouri clan the deprived most part of the territory. Mouri clan easily  accepted this treatment, and the fact that their main base Hiroshima castle was not suitable for battle might be one reason. 

Anyway Mouri clan lost Aki province, and left Hiroshima castle which had just completed. After that, Mouri clan rethought the importance of secure fortress as a last resort, and their next main base Hagi castle (Yamaguchi prefecture) was a secure castle protected by mountain castle area and backside sea. In addition to this, when Mouri clan moved its location to Yamaguchi castle (Yamaguchi prefecture) in 1864, they also chose the place at the hillside of mountain castle named Konomine castle. Hiroshima castle was a temporal deviation of the tradition of Mouri clan on castle.

Period of Masanori Fukushima

Next to Mouri clan, Masanori Fukushima (1561-1624) was appointed as a lord of Aki province and Bingo province then moved to Hiroshima castle. Masanori was a relative of former ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and served Hideyoshi from youth as a page. After growing up Masanori became a commander under Hideyoshi, and activated at the battle of Shizugatake in 1584 against Katsuie Shibata (1522-1583) then was praised as one of “seven braves at Shizugatake”.

Later Masanori promoted to the commander of Imabari castle (Ehime prefecture) in 1587, and became the lord of Kiyosu castle (Aichi prefecture) in 1595. Hideyoshi placed Masanori at Kiyosu castle to hold Ieyasu Tokugawa who tried to central area from Kanto region, but after the death of Hideyoshi, because of dispute against administrative staffs such as Mitsunari Ishida, Masanori supported Ieyasu. 

Prior to the battle of Sekigahara, Masanori captured Gifu castle (Gifu prefeture) as a vanguard, and collapsed strategy of Mitsunari who tried to control Kinki region before the battle with Ieyasu. Furthermore, at the actual Masanori fought with Ukita army which was the main part of Ishida side, and finally let them ran away.

Ieyasu gave Aki province and Bingo province as a reward to Masanori. Masanori who entered former enemy territory had to secure themselves, thus Masanori built or reformed secure branch castles such as Kamei castle, Ozekiyama castle, Kannabe castle, Tomo castle or Mihara castle. For Hiroshima castle, as his residence, Masanori built outer area spread whole part of sand bank, and built over 30 turrets all around the castle. Total castle area was expanded to 800 meter long and 600 meter width.

But once Ieyasu destroyed Hideyori Toyotomi (1593-1615) at the battle of Osaka castle in 1615, Masanori who was the relative of former ruler became an obstacle to Edo Shogunate. Finally in 1619, Masanori was confiscated his territory because of the suspect of the reform of broken Hiroshima castle without approval. Masanori was sent to Kawanakajima area of Shinano province (Nagano prefecture) and died in despair.

Asano clan period and afterward

After Fukushima clan, Nagaakira Asano (1586-1632) who was the commander of Wakayama castle (Wakayama prefecture) moved to Hiroshima castle. Asano clan kept Hiroshima castle by the end of Edo era, and Hiroshima city prospered as a capital of large domain. Subsequent to Meiji revolution, Hiroshima castle was used as a headquarter of Imeperial Japanese army as Hiroshima area can manage whole part of western Japan and there is no risk of direct naval attack because it does not face Sea of Japan. Furthermore Kure city near Hiroshima city became the main port of Imperial Japanese navy, then Hiroshima city became a military center of Japan. Original main tower and several turrets of the castle was kept as a symbol of headquarter.

But in 1945, because of the explosion of an atomic bomb, Hiroshima castle lost all building including original main tower. In 1968, exterior of main tower was reconstructed as a symbol of restoration of the city. In addition to this, from 1989 to 1994, main gates, turrets and connecting corridors of secondary area were also rebuilt in old wooden style. Precise reason is unknown but Hiroshima castle is called as castle of carp, and is loved as an origin of big city.


Bus or Hiroshima Dentetsu tram from JR West Sanyo Shinkansen or Sanyo Honsen line Hiroshima station. 30 to 60 minutes drive from Sanyo Jidoshado Expressway Hiroshima interchange.

Related Castles

Aki Koriyama Castle -Proverb of three arrows-
Hagi Castle -Beautiful combination of mountain, sea and stone walls-
Kamei Castle -Largest and strongest branch castle-
Konomine Castle -Castle like Hesperian Dragon guarded golden apple-
Niitakayama Castle -Intellectual pillar of Mouri clan-
Kannabe Castle -Six year in past and 10 minutes now-
Mihara Castle -Naval base castle at Inland Sea-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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