Thursday, July 23, 2015

Matsune Castle -Fateful confrontation of former colleagues (1) Preparation for decisive battle-

Matsune Castle

-Fateful confrontation of former colleagues (1) Preparation for decisive battle-



Name: Matsune castle (Matsune-jo)
Place: Matsune-cho Kanazawa city, Ishikawa
Location:36.61643279731323, 136.78431540068553
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 16th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Matsune castle (松根城) is located at Uchiyama mountain, a part of Tohami hills which is long mountainous area and  separates Kanazawa plain of Kaga provinece (Ishikawa prefecture) and Ecchu prefecture (Toyama prefecture). 

Historically Hokurikudo Road, a main route from Kyoto city toward Tohoku region, started Kanazawa city and went north, passed Kurikara-toge pass which is famous for the battle between Yoshinaka Mimanoto (1154-1184) and Taira clan in 1183, and go down to Toyama bay along Shokawa river then arrived current Toyama city.

But in addition to this, there was another bipass route named Obaramichi which directly connects Kanazawa city and Toyama city, which is equivalent to current Route 369. Although this route is more steep than Hokurikudo Road but shorter, thus it was also an important to road for both side. This route passes the border of two provinces at Matsunetoge path, and Asahiyama castle is built just at the north of Matsunetoge path.

Origin of Matsune castle

Precise year is unknown but Matsune castle might have been built in 15th century. In the latter half of 15th century, in Kaga province, Ikko Ikki army which consist of believers of Ikkoshu, a denomination of Japanese Buddhism, beat Togashi clan which was the governor of Kaga province and established their autonomy. Because of its origin Ikko Ikki army frequently fought with the governors of surrounding provinces, and they built many border castles to protect their land. Matsune castle might have been expanded under such situation.

In the former half of 15th century, Ikko Ikki group became much stronger and sometimes assaulted other nations in cooperation with local believers. They have many high moral soldiers and easily beat weak lords, but they were not professional soldiers and could not beat strong warlords such as Asakura clan or Uesugi clan and seesaw struggle continued in Hokuriku region continued for decades in the middle of 16th century.

But in 1573, central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) who extinguished Asakura clan which was the warlord of Echizen province (Fukui prefecture), attempted to advance into Hokuriku region. Ikko Ikki group once captured Echizen province which was governred by former Asakura retainers under Nobunaga at that year, next year Nobunaga recovered Echizen province and slaughtered many Ikko Ikki person.

After the recovery of Echizen province, Nobunaga placed his confident general Katsuie Shibata (1521-1583) as a commander of Hokuriku region. Furthermore, to support and monitor Katsuie, Nobunaga attached young generals such as Toshiie Maeda (1538-1599), Narimasa Sasa (1536-1588) and Mitsuharu Fuwa (?-?) to Katsuie.

Activation and promotion of two rival generals

Toshiie and Narimasa both served to Nobunaga from youth, and served as commanders of Horoshu, the direct guard of Nobunaga. Later they promoted to the commander of matchlock gunners, and activated at famous battle of Nagashino in 1575 in which matchlock guns of Oda army gave fatal damage to cavalry of Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), the warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture).

Under Katsuie, Narimasa and Toshiie assembled to fight to expand the territory of Oda clan. Shibata army was once defeated by Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), the warlord of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture) who was praised as the god of war and advanced into Kaga province at the battle of Tedorigawa in 1575. 

But Uesugi clan lost their power because of the internal conflict after the death of Kenshin, and Oda army steadily advanced into northward. By 1580, Oda army captured Oyama Gobo (later Kanazawa castle) which was the main base of Ikko Ikki army, and also Nanao castle which was the government of Noto province.

Next target of Oda army was Ecchu province. In 1578 Nagasumi Jinbou (?-?), son of Nagamoto Jinbo (?-1572) who was expelled from Ecchu province by Uesugi clan, entered Toyama castle supported by Oda army in advance. In 1581 Oda army intruded into Ecchu province, and captured west part and middle part of province. 

Just after that Nagasumi Jinbo was expelled from Toyama castle by Uesugi side retainers, thus Oda army recovered Toyama castle and held by themselves. In 1581, Narimasa was given half of Ecchu province including Toyama castle, and Toshiie also got Noto province including Nanao castle.

Separation of two generals

If situation was stable, both of Toshiie and Narimasa ended their life as large feudal lords under Nobunaga. But in 1582, Nobunaga died in the incident of Honnoji, a coup d’etat by his general Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582). Oda army including Narimasa and Toshiie attacked Uozu castle and fell it just at the day of incident, but hearing the death of Nobunaga, Oda army once disposed occupied Uozu castle and retreated to secure their territory and suppress the rebellion of former Ikko Ikki army and extinguished local lords.

After the death of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) who broke Mitsuhide at the battle of Yamazaki and made revenge of his former master, seeked the position of next ruler. On the other hand, Katsuie was a highest and veteran general under Nobunaga and tried to keep the hegemony of Oda clan supporting Nobutaka Oda (1558-1583), the third son of Nobunaga.

Narimasa and Toshiie were both involved in this conflict. Toshiie had been an old friend of Hideyoshi from youth, and wanted to keep neutral between Hideyoshi and Katsuie but. On the other hand, Narimasa was elder than Hideyoshi and disliked him who rose up from the son of poor pheasant. In April 1583, Katsuie and Hideyoshi fought at Shizugatake, and Hideyoshi beat Katsuke then Katsuke killed himself at burning his residence Kitanosho castle (Fukui prefecture). 

Preparation for decisive battle

Among the battle Toshiie left the battlefield to keep neutral, and belonged to Hideyoshi afterward. On the other hand, Narimasa could not move from Ecchu province to protect Uesugi clan which indirectly supported Hideyoshi, and survived Narimasa once subordinated to Hideyoshi and kept Ecchu province. 

But in 1584 Nobukatasu Oda (1558-1630), survived second son of Nobunaga, raise his army against Hideyoshi in cooperation with Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the former ally of Nobunaga, and Narimasa also hostiled to Hideyoshi at this time.

As Narimasa was encircled by Toshiie and Uesugi clan, it was necessary for Narimasa to break the one as soon as possible and next attack another. It was difficult to attack Uesugi clan in short time considering their army and geographic condition, and first target of Narimasa became Toshiie.

 At this time Toshiie held north half of Kaga province and Noto province, thus Narimasa planned to divide both province and  attack Kanazawa castle, the residence of Toshiie as a next step. But Narimasa had less army compared with Toshiie, and had to extract attacking army from each castle.

To perform this tactics, it was necessary for Narimasa to guard the border from the attack of Maeda army during attack of main force. To obstruct Maeda army at the border, Narimasa reformed border castles such as Wadayama castle, Ichijyoji castle and this castle. Expected and necessary period to stand was at the longest one week, thus Matsune castle was built to stand one week against enemy.

Structure of Matsune castle

Matune castle consist of wide front area and narrow inner area, like a shape of spike faces northward. Front area of this castle is a two layer flat terrace of 100 meter long, 50 meter width for lower terrace and 20 meter width for upper terrace. Lower area is a forefront area faces Obara road from Kanazawa toward Matsunetoge path and had a turret basement at both corner.

 On the other hand, upper area is separated by steep wall from lower area, and had a combined gate at its east half. If enemy broke the front gate and intrude into lower area, garrisons are expected to attack the enemy from upper area, and make a counter attack from combined gate toward confused enemy.

Contrary to front area, inner area is a continuous line of narrow terrace, to delay attack of enemy which occupied front area of the castle as long as possible. To prevent side attack to inner areas, side wall of inner areas area protected by dry moats, and at western slope which is a gentle one a line of clay wall was built to shoot climbing up enemies from inside. The north edge of the castle is separated by deep dry moat from connecting ridge, and total length of Matsune castle is over 300 meter from its front line to the most inner part.

Fail of attack and fall of Narimasa

In September 1584, Narimasa secretly marched to Suemori castle (Ishikawa prefecture) at the border of Kaga province and Noto province with his whole army and siege the castle. Narimasa made a fierce attack to the castle and occupied outer area, but Nagatomi Okumura (1541-1624), the commander of the castle, stand the attack of Narimasa with small army. 

In the meantime, Toshiie lead the reinforcement army, routed to the backside of Sassa army and attacked it. Tired Sassa army was damaged by this attack, then Narimasa judged his tactics of quick attack failed and returned to Ecchu province. 

This time Narimasa had to prepare for the pincer attack of Toshiie and Uesugi clan, thus Sassa army retreated from border area including and protected core castle. Furthermore, Narimasa hoped to collaborate with Ieyasu Tokugawa and Nobukatsu Oda who faced Hideyoshi at Tokai region, but after the tactical achievement at the battle of Komaki Nagakute, Ieyasu made peace with Hideyoshi and Narimasa became isolated.

In August 1585, Hideyoshi at last attacked Narimasa with nearly 100,000 army. Narimasa only had 20,000 soldiers could not resist and surrendered to Hideyoshi, and once retired. Three years later Narimasa was appointed as the governor of Higo province (Kumamoto prefecture) captured by Hideyoshi, but was accused of large scale rebellion of local lords against Narimasa and was forced to die. On the other hand, Toshiie got Ecchu province after Narimasa, and Maeda clan became the largest lord in Edo era.

Afterward of castle

After the disposal by Narimasa, Matsune castle was used by Maeda clan but abolished around 1600. Now all building was lost but terraces and dry moats of the castle still remain at castle site. Matsune castle is a castle separates Kaga province and Ecchu province, thus it reminds separated fates of former rival generals. It seems Toshiie who could save his life is far happier than Narimasa who died in disappointment but is not certain if both parties actually thought or not.

Continue to Part 2


30 minutes drive from Hokuriku Jidoshado Expressway Oyabe interchange. 

Related Castles

Suemori Castle (Noto) -Fateful confrontation of former colleagues (2) assault and counter attack-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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