Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kozuki Castle -Castle with two tombstones-

Kozuki Castle

-Castle with two tombstones-



Name: Kozuki castle / Koduki castle (Kozuki-jo / Koduki-jo)
Place: Kozuki Sayo town, Hyogo
Location: 34.97567873105596, 134.32347227860873
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 14th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Kouzuki castle (上月城) is located at Aragamiyama hill in the middle part of Sayo town, along with Sayogawa river. Sayo town is a one places at western border of Harima province (south part of Hyogo prefecture), in the valley at upstream of Otsugawa river. 

Sayo area is an important connecting point at eastern border of Chugoku region where Izumokaido road from Himeji city to Matsue city (Shimane prefecture), Inabakaido road to Tottori city (Tottori prefecture) and road to Okayama area meets. Even now, roads, highways and railways goes through Sayo area. Because of this geographical condition, Kouzuki castle became a target of struggle between strong powers.

Origin of Kouzuki castle

Precise year is unknown but Kouzuki castle was built by Kouzuki clan, a branch family of Akamatsu clan around 14th century. Akamatsu clan was originally a local small lord of Harima province, but in 14th century Norimura Akamatsu (1277-1350) activated at anti Kamakura Shogunate campaign by Emperor Godaigo.

Akamatsu army contributed to establishment of Muromacho Shogunate by Takauji Ashikaga (1305-1358) and became one of the major retainers of Shogunate. In 1441 Mitsusuke Akamatsu, leader of the clan, killed autocratic sixth Shogun Yoshinori Ashikaga (1394-1441), and was subjugated by Shogunate then Akamatsu clan once fell. 

After decades, survived descendant of Akamatsu clan activated in the battle of Onin, and came back to the governor of Harima province, Bizen province and Mimasaka province. In the former half of 16th century Akamatsu clan proceeded centralization, but could not defeat deputy governor Uragami clan and transform into warlords. At the middle of 16th century, Akamatsu clan lost its authority and power, and descendants of Akamatsu clan individually continued as a small local lords in the west half of Harima province.

Change of holders

Because of its geographical location, in the former half of 16th century, Akamatsu clan and Yamana clan of Inaba province (Tottori prefecture) struggled for Kouzuki castle. Later in 1538, Haruhisa Amago (1514-1561), a strong warlord at Gassan Toda castle of Izumo province (Shimane prefecture) intruded into Harima province and captured major part of the province, and Kouzuki castle might be held by Amago clan at this time. 

But in 1540 Haruhisa Amago attacked Motonari Mouri (1497-1571), the warlord of Aki Koriyama castle (Hiroshima prefecture) but failed then suffered severe damage, and in 1542 Ouchi clan which was the strong warlord of Suo province (Yamaguchi prefecture) and master of Mouri clan reversely attacked Gassan Toda castle, the main base of Amago clan.

Amago clan rejected this attack but had to restore their situation, thus they retreated from Harima province including Kouzuki castle. Akamatsu clan which recovered Kouzuki castle placed Masamoto Akamatsu (?-?) as a general of Kouzuki castle. Resided at Kouzuki castle, Masamoto exercised his power over western border of Harima province.

Structure of Kouzuki castle 

Kouzuki castle was built on a ridge continued from Ushiroyama mountain. In spite of its geographical importance or holders, this castle places at only 100 meter high hill, and also not so secure having only several flat areas and dry moats. Opposite of this castle there is a higher hill named Ohira-yama and there is another castle there.

The reason why more secure Ohira-yama castle is unknown, but Aragami-yama hill is protected by sheer cliff and connect to the hillside only by two narrow ridges like a twisted package of candy, and it might be suitable to defend by small number of soldiers. 

To cope with other local lord, Kouzuki castle might be useful. But in 1570's, Kouzuki castle became the target of struggle between two super powers which significantly exceeded the capacity of the castle. From westside, Mouri clan which grew into superpower of Chugoku region expanded into Harima province, using Naoie Ukita (1529-1582) who was a warlord of Bizen province and belonged to Mouri clan. 

First battle of Kouzuki castle

Masanori Akamatsu (?-1578), son of Masamoto, was suppressed by Ukita clan and belonged to Mouri clan. Kouzuki castle became eastern border of Mouri clan and was protected by Akamatsu clan and Ukita army. But at the same time, another superpower approached to Kouzuki castle from eastward. Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), a warlord of Owari province (western half of Aichi prefecture) seized capital Kyoto city and became a central ruler in 1567, and aimed at further expansion into westward. 

In 1576, Nobunaga ordered his general Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) as a commander of Chugoku region, and Hideyoshi entered Harima province. Being supported by his brilliant military staff Yoshitaka Kuroda (15xx-16xx, known as Kanbe), Hideyoshi once gathered local lords such as Bessho clan of Miki castle (Hyogo prefecture) and attacked non obedient castles. 

As a castle of important location, Hideyoshi at first persuaded Masanori Akamatsu to change to Oda side. But Masanori refused it, thus in May 1577, Hideyoshi intruded into Sayo area with his army. At first Hideyoshi captured neighbor castles such as Rikan castle or Fukuhara castle, and then encircled isolated Kouzuki castle. In response to this, Ukita clan sent reinforcement army to rescue Kouzuki castle, but this army was driven back by Hideyoshi. 

Being lost of supply and support, Akamatsu army made a total attack to Hideyoshi but this also failed, then Kousuki castle was captured by Hideyoshi and Akamatsu people shared their fate with the castle. As a warning Hideyoshi slaughtered remaining soldiers and people, and this became one cause of later estrangement of Bessho clan. Anyway the first battle was the victory of Oda side.

Hold of Amago restoration army

Hideyoshi who captured Kouzuki castle placed Amago restration army including Katsuhisa Amago (1553-1578) and Yukimori Yamanaka (1545-1578, famous as “Shikanosuke”) as a guard of Kouzuki castle. As above Amago clan was formerly a large power held many provinces in Chugoku region, but being attacked by Mouri clan and once ruined as a warlord in 1565. 

Katsuhisa Amago was son of Sanehisa Amago (1510-1554), strong relative of the clan but purged in 1554, and lived in Kyoto as a monk. Yukimori Yamanaka was a brave young general of Amago army, and famous for praying to god that he could face many difficulties and devoted himself to the restoration of the clan. They raised Amago clan restoration army under the support of Otomo clan who fought with Mouri clan in 1568.

This Amago restoration army once retrieved certain part of Izumo province in 1569, but could not fall Gassan Toda castle, former main base of Amago clan, and was defeated by counter attack of Mouri clan. Several year later this restoration army tried to intrude into Izumo province under the support of Yamana clan which was the governor of Inaba province (Tottori prefecture), but they also failed at this attempt. Losing many soldiers, they asked assistance from Oda clan, and participated in the army of Hideyoshi as a last chance.

Second battle of Kouzuki castle

But the fate of Amago restoration army could not last long. When Bessho clan left Hideyoshi in spring of 1578, to guard their eastern border, and support Bessho clan, Mouri clan sent a large army lead by strong general Motoharu Kikkawa (1530-1596) toward Kouzuki castle. 

Hideyoshi moved his army to Kouzuki castle as a reinforcement, but in addition to the leave of Bessho clan, revolt of Murashige Araki (1535-1586) who was a major general of Oda army at Arioka castle (Osaka prefecture) occurred at backside. Hideyoshi had smaller force than Mouri army, and was forced to be in the corner. 

After hesitation, under approval of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi decided to abandon Kouzuki castle in June 1578. Hideyoshi recommended Katsuhisa to leave Kouzuki castle, but Katsuhisa denied this saying his fate was exhausted. To avoid future trouble Mouri clan did not allow Amago restoration army to survive, and made total attack to Kouzuki castle. 

Finally in July 1578, Katsuhisa opened Kouzuki castle under condition of his suicide. Yukimori Yamanaka surrendered to Mouri clan to escape and seek another chance, but he did same things before at Odaka castle (Tottori prefecture) then Mouri army seemed him dangerous and killed him on the way of escort. Now at second battle of Kozuki castle the history of Amago clan totally ended.

After two battles, both side did not use Kouzuki castle and this castle was abandoned. Now all building was lost but terraces of the castle well remain on the hill. Tombstones for Akamatsu clan and Amago clan are built at hilltop and hillside respectively, and reminds us the story of two powers disappeared at this small castle.


20 minutes walk from JR West Kishinsen line Kouzuki station. 15 minutes drive from Chugoku-Jidoshado Expressway Sayo interchange to hillside parking. 15 minutes walk from hillside entrance to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Gassan Toda Castle -Rapid rise and fall of Amago clan-
Odaka Castle -Brave general devoted his life to restoration of Amago clan-
Rikan Castle -Abandoned fortress in the sky-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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