Monday, August 3, 2015

Matsumae Castle -Half-Western style coastal fortress-

Matsumae Castle

-Half-Western style coastal fortress-


Name: Matsumae castle (Matsumae-jo)
Alias: Matsumae Fukuyama-jo (Matsumae Fukuyama-castle)
Place: Matsumae Matsumae town, Hokkaido
Location: 41.43014195555421, 140.10740494326453
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 1854
Remaining remnants: Gates, stone walls, clay walls and moats 
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Matsumae castle (松前城) is located over Fukuyama hill, a 20 meter high hill spreads at the center of Matsumae town. Matsumae area is a narrow flat land of 2.5 kilometer long and 0.5 kilometer wide at the southwestern edge of Oshima peninsula, and separation place of maritime route along Sea of Japan and Tsugaru straight. Small gulf and narrow mouth of the river is not necessarily suitable for a port, but because of its location and closeness to Honshu mainland, Matsumae area prospered as a trading port of coastal maritime trade along Sea of Japan.

Origin of Kakizaki clan

Main land people started to cross Oshima peninsula after 12th century, and they built colonies centered at the residence of the lords along the coast. These colonies area called as Donan 12 Tate (12 residences at south Hokkaido area), and Odate is built at the backside mountain from current Matsumae castle. But in 1456, because of the rise of local Ainu people lead by their leader Koshamain, Odate fell along with other colonies.

After the rise of Koshamain, Kakizaki clan which survived this attack increased their power and became the leader of mainland oriented people society in Hokkaido island. Kakizaki clan at first built Katsuyamadate at their homeland Kaminokunitown as their residence, but later in 1514 they moved their main base to Odate. 

Kaminokuni town was a good port and easy to defend location, but it was too inside and not suitable to govern whole colonies of Oshima peninsula. Furthermore, situation of main land significantly changed, and Ando clan which was the master of Kakizaki clan lost their territory at Tsugaru area before the attack of Nanbu clan, and Ando people escaped to Hokkaido island and seek the chance to recover Tsugaru area. But Ando clan couldn’t realize their hope, and finally left for the north part of Dewa province (Akita prefecture) and became the warlord there.

Growth of northern lord

In 1590, Ando clan subordinated central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) and visited Kyoto city, then Yoshihiro Kakizaki (1548-1616), leader of Kakizaki clan, accompanied this visit. Yoshihiro appealed his presence as a lord of Hokkaido island, and based on political judgment Hideyoshi appraised the subordination of xx and gave him a certification as a lord of Hokkaido island. Now Kakizaki clan became an independent lord, and next ruler Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) also admitted the status of Kakizaki clan, Kakizaki clan continued as a feudal lord of Hokkaido island under Tokugawa Shogunate.

Yoshihiro who became the feudal lord newly built their residence at the current place of Matsumae castle. As Kakizaki clan was still a small lord with limited budget, this was not a castle but a residence. This residence was called as Fukuyamatate, using the name of location. During 17th century, Matsumae domain expended their territory toward inland area, and after the suppression of rise of Shakushain in 1689, they indirectly governed western half of Hokkaido island/ 

Next in 17th century, merchants under Matsumae clan gradually expanded their commercial territory, and they finally reached to north eastern shore of Hokkaido island including Nemuro peninsula and northern territory. But their greed business sometimes evoked rise of local people, including a large one named the battle of Kunashiri Menashi occurred in 1789. 

Tension with Russian Empire and build of Matsumae castle

But at the same time, Russian empire which crossed Siberia and reached to Primorsky Krai, further ascended to Kuril island and northeastern coast of Hokkaido area. Russian empire requested to open territory and commerce, but Edo Shogunate adopted national isolation policy did not agree it. But Russian empire increased their activity, and in in 1792 Russian envoy lead by Adam Laxman (1766-1806) visited Nemuro to return Japanese castaway named Kodayu Daikokuya (1751-1828). 

In 1804, Nikolai Lezanov visited Nagasaki port to request commercial relationship but Edo Shogunate declined it. As a response to this, in 1806 Russian navy attacked base of Matsumae domain at Sakhalin and Iturup island, and made another assaults in next two years. Furthermore in 1811, Russian fleet lead by Mikhailovich Golovnin (1776-1831) intruded into Kuril island and made survey, thus officer of Matsumae domain captured and confined them for two years. As above, before the arrival of US Pacific fleet, north border of Edo Shogunate was already involved into international situation in unwanted shape.

Build of coastal fortress

Facing the increasing pressure of Russian Empire, Edo Shogunate at first took up Hokkaido island from Matsumae domain and tried to guard it directly. But Shogunate did not have experience about governing Hokkaido island, thus Shogunate returned the island to Matsumae domain and ordered to secure it. Especially Tsugaru straight is an important sea lane from Russian Empire to Edo city, Shogunate ordered the domain to build a castle to guard the straight in 1849. 

Next year Matsumae domain let the military professor Ichigaku Ichikawa (1778-1858) to make a plan of new castle. Ichigaku insisted to build a castle at inland area to avoid direct attack from battleships, but considering budget and convenience it was decided to build a castle as a reform of current residence. After 5 years construction, new castle completed in 1854 and was named as Matsumae castle. This castle was built in half-Japanese, half-Western way, consist of traditional building and modern plan.

Structure of Matsumae castle

Matsumae castle spreads over the hill and front side gentle slope of Fukuyama hill. Central area of the castle is 100 meter long square area, which might keep the shape of Fukuyamadate. At the southern line of the area, a three story main tower and large main gate was built in line, and residence buildings existed inside the area. East line of the central area is separated from secondary area by water moat, and north line at backside is divided by clay wall.

Secondary area and third area spreads at the gentle slope from central area to the seashore. West side of the castle is protected by deep valley and water moat, and southeast edge of the castle is seemed as a weak point of the castle. Southeastern corner of the castle is built in a folding line based on the technique of Western fortress to erase the dead angle, and above the wall there was a corner turret to watch outside.

At the north of this star shaped corner there is a backside gate of the castle. This gate also adopts Western way such as funnel like wall and blinder banking to protect the gall from attack of cannon. On the other hand, front gate of the castle at the southern line is built in traditional Japanese way, but it faces sideways from the coast not to be hit by direct attack from the sea. 

Below the secondary area, third area continues from eastward to southward. Seven cannon basements were built along the clay wall, and gates from castle town with folding path exist at the middle of southern and eastern line. The backside of the castle directly connected to outside is the most important defense point, but under the limited budget Matsumae castle had to cope with the attack from the sea then built only low wall at this side. Instead temples protected by walls were intensively built at this side as forts, but they had only limited defense ability.

Two time fall at Hakodate war

Over 10 years after completion, Matsumae castle was actually involved into the battle, but not by foreign attack as expected but as internal war. In 1868, after the surrender of Edo Shogunate to Meiji new government, former Shogunate army lead by Takeaki Enomoto (1836-1908) left Edo city and landed at Hakodate city. Enomoto army captured Goryokaku, a Western style fortress at the back of Hakodate city, and next aimed at seizure of whole Oshima peninsula.

On November, Enomoto army lead by Toshizo Hijikata (1835-1869), formerly a famous sword master of swordsman group Shinsengumi and vice commander of Enomoto army, attacked Matsumae castle. Matsumae domain was already divided for the attitude to Enomoto army, and being attacked from its weak point at backside Matsumae castle fell only in one day. But next April, Meiji new government army landed Oshima peninsula, and attacked Enomoto army at Matsumae town. Meiji government recovered Matsumae castle, and during two battles at Hakodate war Matsumae castle suffered severe damage.

Accidental lost of survived main tower and afterward

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, Matsumae castle was abolished and stone walls used at stone walls were used to build levee at Matsumae port. Buildings were also broken or moved, but three story main tower and front gate were remained. This main tower survived WW2 and was close to remaining 13th main tower, but regrettably this main tower was lost by accidental fire. It was a confused era just after WW2 and could not protect cultural property as now.

Main gate at the next of main tower survived this fire and still shows its magnificent shape with copper roofing block, along with another gate transferred to neighbor temple. In 1861 the exterior of main tower was reconstructed and based on the result of investigation, gates, stone walls and fences of secondary area were restored in 2000.

Currently cherry blossom trees are planted at castle site, and it becomes famous cherry-blossom viewing site in May. Although it has relatively unfortunate history, but combination of advanced plan and low and simple stone walls shows desperate efforts of Matsumae domain and Edo Shogunate to guard the straight and island in severe fiscal condition.

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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