Sunday, July 19, 2015

Yamazaki Castle -Temporal main base at transitional period-

Yamazaki Castle

-Temporal main base at transitional period-



Name: Yamazaki castle (Yamazaki-jo)
Alias: Tennozan Hoji-jo / Hoshakuji-jo
Place: Tennozan Oyamazaki town, Kyoto
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 15th century, renovated in 1583
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and moats 

Brief History

Continued from Shoryuji castle

Yamazaki castle (山崎城)  locates at the top of Tennozan mountain, one of 270 meter above sea level at the middle of Kyoto city and Osaka city. Tennozan mountain is the south edge of mountains surrounding Kyoto basin, and at the border of Kyoto basin and Osaka plain. This castle has various name such as Tennozan Hoji castle (天王山宝寺城) or Hoshakuji castle (宝積寺) using the name of related items.

As Tennozan mountain is a eye-catching one along important road connected Kyoto city and Osaka city, this mountain had been treated as a sacred place, and old shrines and temples such as Sakatoke shrine of Hoshakuji temple were built. Beside this, at hillside Yamazaki town the guild of vegetable oil prospered throughout medieval era.

Origin of Yamazaki castle

Because of its location, Tennozan mountain had been involved into many battles, and castle was built on the mountain around the end of 15th century as a gate of Kyoto city. But once Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), the warlord of Owari province (western half of Aichi prefecture) captured Kyoto city in 1567 and became the central ruler, Yamazaki castle once became not used.

In June 1582, Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582), a regional commander of Nobunaga, made a coup d'etat against Nobunaga stayed at Honnoji temple in Kyoto city and forced him to suicide. Mitsuhide once seized Kinki region, but fought against Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi), another regional commander returned from front of Chugoku region at Yamazaki. Both side seemed Tennozan as a critical place and Akechi army once occupied this mountain, but finally Hideyoshi beat Mitsuhide at this battle and accomplished the revenge of his master. Even today "Tennozan" is used to express critical point of league match of several sports. 

Complex situation after revenge

After the battle of Yamazaki, situation of Oda clan fell into complex one. Even though Nobunaga and his successor Nobutada Oda (1557-1582) died in the incident, second son Nobukatsu Oda (1558-1630) and third son Nobutaka Oda (1558-1583) were still alive. Among the generals the position of Hideyoshi who accomplished the revenge and beat Mitsuhide significantly rose up, but Katsuie Shibata (1521-1583), a veteran general from the period of Nobuhide Oda (1510-1551), father of Nobunaga, also had a power as a commander of Hokuriku region.

Once the situation was fixed, important retainers of Nobunaga including Hideyoshi and Katsuie had a conference at Kiyosu castle (Aichi prefecture) in July 1582, to decide next structure of Oda clan. Hidenobu Oda (1580-1605) became the leader of Oda clan but was still child, thus Nobutaka Oda supported Hidenobu. Hideyoshi gained Kyoto and Osaka area, but gave his old territory Nagahama castle (Shiga prefecture) to Katsuie. Hideyoshi became the first position, but Oda clan was still operated by collective leadership system.

Build of Yamazaki castle

Among such situation, Hideyoshi needed new main base in Kinki region. It was necessary to show the power of Hideyoshi, but also needed not to too much stimulate other people of Oda clan. It was still difficult to build a castle in Kyoto city because only ruler is allowed to so, and Osaka area is also impossible as Osaka area might be thought as next base by Nobunaga. 

As a result of compromise, Hideyoshi decided to build his castle at the top of Tennozan mountain. It was close to Kyoto city and Osaka city but does not exist in itself, thus it was appropriate to control both city indirectly without excessive impressions. Additionally, it was just a place where Hideyoshi beat Mitsuhide and made a revenge of Nobunaga, and Yamazaki castle shows the authority of Hideyoshi to the nation. After a rush work, new Yamazaki castle completed in the former half of 1583.

Structure of Yamazaki castle

Yamazaki castle roughly consist of two layer terraces. Upper area includes main tower basement, central area, secondary area and connecting small terraces. Main tower basement is a small one of about 30 meter long and 15 meter wide, and there might be two or three floor main tower. Total size of upper area is about 100 meter long and 50 meter wide, and north slope and east slope of central area which faces Kyoto city and hillside road were covered with stone walls.

Lower area spread at the east of upper area, and consist of several flat terraces continues over 200 meter. Main gate of the castle from Sakatoke shrine exists at south east edge, and it is built as a complex gate with folding path. Backside gate of the castle is built at north edge of the area, and is separated from outer area by dry moat and clay wall. A vertical wall is built along the slope between upper area and lower area, to guard steps from lower area to upper area. 

Current place of Sakatoke shrine might be used as a front fort of the castle, and Hoshakuji was used as a hillside residence. Total size of Yamazaki castle was about 200 meter long square, and far smaller than Nagahama castle or Himeji castle (Hyogo prefecture) already built by Hideyoshi as his main base.

Too early collapse of transitional order

New order decided at Kiyosu conference did not last long. Just at the next month of the conference Hideyoshi holds funeral of Nobunaga only by him own, and impressed him as a successor of Nobunaga. Katsuie tried to stop the movement of Hideyoshi and send envoys to Hideyoshi to accuse the hold of funeral and build of Yamazaki castle, but Hideyoshi utilized winter season when Katsuie could not move from his territory Hokuriku region, individually suppressed Nobutaka Oda and Kazumasu Takigawa who supported Katsuie.

In March 1583 Katsuie ploughed deep snow and advanced to the border of Omi province (Shiga prefecture) to rescue Kazumasu and Nobutaka, but next month Katsuie suffered fatal defeat by Hideyoshi at the battle of Shizugatake, and died at his main base Shizugatake castle. After that Nobutaka was forced to suicide and Kazumasu surrendered to Hideyoshi, and Nagahide Niwa already supported Hideyoshi. 

Now Hideyoshi significantly approached to next ruler, but Nobukatsu Oda still remain and resisted against Hideyoshi in cooperation with Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), a former ally of Nobunaga, and this lead to the battle of Komaki Nagakute in 1584.

Afterward of the castle

After a victory at the battle of Shizugatake, Hideyoshi started to build huge Osaka castle   (Osaka prefecture) as his residence without any reserve. Next year central area of Osaka castle was roughly completed, and Hideyoshi broke Yamazaki castle and moved to Osaka castle. Now all buildings were lost but shape of each area remain well, and stones used at stone walls slightly remain around the central area. 

Currently sight from hilltop area is not good limited by trees, but formerly wide area from Kyoto to Osaka might be seen from the main tower. Small but solid shape of Yamazaki castle clearly shows hidden but firm ambition of Hideyoshi to be the next ruler.


15 minutes walk from JR West Tokaido-Honsen line Yamazaki station or 20 minutes walk from Hankyu Kyotosen line Oyamazaki station to hillside entrance at Tennozan-Hoji temple. 10 minutes drive from Meishin Expressway Oyamazaki interchange. 30 minutes walk from hillside to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Shoryuji Castle -End of only 10 days hegemony-
Osaka Castle -Symbol of unification of Japan-
Nagahama Castle -Castle prepared future ruler-
Himeji Castle -Castle of Kanbe and Hideyoshi-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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