Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tanabe Castle -Art brings bread-

Tanabe Castle

-Art brings bread-



Name: Tanabe castle (Tanabe-jo)
Alias: Maizuru-jo (Flying crane castle)
Place: Minami-Tanabe Maizuru city, Kyoto
Location: 35.446190332634856, 135.33066426570127
Type: Flat Castle
Built: 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and moats 

Brief History

Tanabe castle (田辺城) is located at a narrow valley at the mouth of Isatsu-gawa river, in the center of western half of Maizuru city. Maizuru city is a part city facing Sea of Japan, at the true north of Kyoto city and worked one of the outer harvors at Sea of Japan side. In Edo era, as a trade port Wakasa port or Obama port which could utilize river transportation of Lake Biwako and Yodo river were more prosperous. 

But Maizuru port is a reverse Y letter shape inside narrow straight then had a safe harvor, then it was suitable for anchorage. In modern era, along with the development of land transportation, utilizing this shape as a guard from external attack, Maizuru port prospered as both of commercial and military port.

Tango province in Medieval era

In Muromachi era, Tango province (north part of Kyoto prefecture) was managed by Isshiki clan. Isshiki clan was a relative of Ahikaga clan which established Muromachi Shogunate, and Isshiki clan became a high class retainer of Shogunate and was appointed as the governor of several provinces. But because of the rise of deputy governor or conflict with other lords, Isshiki clan lost provinces other than Tango province then only survived at this province. Isshiki clan built their residence at the place of current Tanabe castle, and also emergency fortress on Tatebayama mountain at the backside of the residence.

In the former half of 16th century, Yoshiyuki Isshiki (?-?) once stroke back the invasion of Takeda clan which was the governor of Wakasa province (western part of Fukui prefecture) then restored Isshiki clan and stabilized the situation of Tango province. But Tango province was a small province with small population and being surrounded by strong warlords, Isshiki clan could not grew their power and expend territory to surrounding provinces. 

At the time of Yoshimichi Isshiki (?-1579), son of Yoshiyuki, Issiki clan was attacked by large army Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582) and Fujitaka Hosokawa (1534-1610), generals of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582). Yoshimichi died in the battle and his son Yoshisada Isshiki (?-1582) continued resistance, then Yoshimichi and Fujigaka once made peace and divided Tango province. But later Yoshisada was assassinated by Fujitaka under the confusion at the time of incident of Honnoji, and Hosokawa clan grasped whole Tango province.

Wandering Shogun and noble

Fujitaka was born at a branch family of Hosokawa clan, one of the highest class retainer of Muromachi Shogunate. In the middle of 15th century, Hosokawa clan held several provinces of Kinki region, the main territory of Muromachi Shogunate, and became the strongest retainer of Shogunate. Hosokawa clan became the leader of the battle of Onin (1467-1477), and once seized the power of Shogunate. But because of continuous internal conflict and uprising of their retainer Miyoshi clan, the authority and power of Hosokawa clan was almost lost.

Fujitaka who was good at culture and courtesy served as a close retainer of Yoshiteru Ashikaga (1536-1565), the 13th Shogun of Muromachi Shogunate. But among the confusing sitnation, Yoshiteru who conflicted with strong retainers such as Miyoshi clan and Matsunaga clan was at last assassinated at his residence in 1565. Rebel army also tried to kill the relative of  Yoshiteru, but Fujitaka showed his braveness unlike high class noble and assisted Yoshiaki Ashikaga (1537-1597), the younger brother of Yoshiteru and who lived as a monk, to escape from the assassins.

Yoshiaki and Fujitaka wandered several warlords and once stayed at Asakura clan, a strong warlord of Echizen province (Fukui prefecture). Yoshiaki asked Asakura clan to raise an army against Miyoshi clan and Ashikaga clan, but Ashikaga clan entertained Yoshiaki but did not take action. During this stay at Ashikaga clan, Yoshiaki and Fujitaka got to know Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582), a person of Toki clan which was a traditional retainer of Shogunate at Mino province (Gifu prefecture) but also wandered after the ruin of his house. 

Left from Shogunate

Through Mitsuhide, Yoshiaki could get the support from Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), a warlord of Owari province (western half of Aichi prefecture) who recently seized Mino province and north half of Ise province (Mie prefecture). In 1568, Nobunaga sent a large army and advanced to Kyoto city defeating Rokkaku clan or Miyoshi clan, then placed Yoshiaki as a 15th Shogun of Shogunate. Fujitaka and Mitsuhide became the close retainer of Yoshiaki, but Mitsuhide was also a general of Nobunaga.

At first the relationship between Nobunaga and Yoshiaki was good, but gradually the difference of Yoshiaki who tried to strengthen the authority of Shogunate and Nobunaga who hoped to exercise his power emerged. Yoshiaki urged surrounding warlord to ally and defeat Nobunaga, but Nobunaga survived this severe encirclement. 

In 1573, Fujitaka left Yoshiaki and served to Nobunaga, and finally Nobunaga expelled Yoshiaki from Kyoto city and substantially ruined Muromachi Shogunate. Fujitaka became a supporting general of Mitsuhide and became the lord of Shoryuji castle.

As Mitsuhide became the commander of Tanba province (northwest part of Kyoto prefecture), Fujitaka fought at the north part of Kyoto city. In 1580, Fujitaka attacked Isshiki clan which held Tango province, and after hard battle Hosokawa clan captured south half of Tango province as their territory.

 As north part of the province was still held by Isshiki clan, Fujitaka newly built Miyazu castle at northwest from Maizuru area and used as a residence but Tanabe castle was still used as an important base. Fujitaka also let his son Tadaoki Hosokawa (1563-1646) marry with Tama (1563-1600, known as her Christian name Garasha), a daughter of Mitsuhide.

Left from Mitsuhide Akechi

But in June 1582, Mitsuhide suddenly made a coup d’etat against Nobunaga and forced him to suicide in the accident of Honnoji. Mitsuhide expected Fujitaka and Tadaoki to support him, but looking at the approach of Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) who was another regional commander of Nobunaga with large army, Hosokawa clan was asked from Mitsuhide to support him. 

But Fujitaka and Tadaoki kept neutral and confined Tama. Mitsuhide could not get assistance of attached lords had to fought against Hashiba army with less soldiers, then was defeated at the battle of Yamazaki. The hegemony of Mitsuhide ended in 10 days and Hideyoshi became the next ruler.

After the cease of battle, Fujitaka retired and succeeded leader position to Tadaoki. Hosokawa clan ruined remaining Isshiki clan and seized whole Tango province, then Tadaoki lived at Tanabe castle as a main base and Fujitaka moved to Miyazu castle as a retirement place. Utilizing his cultural knowledge on Japanese tea celemony or Japanese poem, Fujitaka became a cultural figure under Toyotomi government and served to Hideyoshi. At the same time, as a lord of Tango province, Tadaoki renovated Tanabe castle into a modern one. 

Structure of Tanabe castle

Tanabe castle is built at a narrow valley between two hills and rivers, and it shape is strongly affected by the terrain. As it was impossible to use wide space, rough shape of the castle is a spiral one to keep the distance between front gate and central area. 

Central area of the castle is L shaped area of 100 meter long and 50 meter width, and at the middle of vertical line there is 20 meter long square basement of main tower. This main tower basement was built at the time of Hosokawa clan in Nozurazumi style, an old generation stone wall method built by mixture of large rough stones and small pieces filled at the gap.  At first main tower basement was plunged into water moat like an island, but later was connected to the central area by its expansion. A three story main tower was built over this basement.

Secondary area is C shaped area of 200 meter long and 100 meter wide outside of central area, and third area might be added later is a “b”letter shape area of 600 meter long and 300 meter wide surrounding secondary area. As it was impossible to build tall stone wall on weak ground, the line of stone walls were complexly folded to prevent climbing of enemies.

Crisis by attack of Ishida army

After the death of Hideyoshi, a struggle between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600) for next hegemony occurred. As Tadaoki Hosokawa was on bad term with Mitsunari in the conflict between front general and backside administrative staff, Tadaoki became the leader of anti Mitsunari group. In June 1600, Tadaoki followed Ieyasu who marched to Tohoku region, but looking at the absence of Ieyasu, Mitsunari raised his army. 

Mitsunari confined families of opposing lords who were kept as a hostage to Toyotomi government and lived near Fushimi city, but Tama let her killed by retainer to avoid to be a hostage and effect to the decision of the clan. Mitsunari lost reputation and stopped this policy, but Hosokawa clan and Mitsunari became a mortal enemy.

Next, Mitsunari sent a large force to Tango province, to secure Kinki region as their main base. As Tadaoki lead most force of Hosokawa clan to the expedition of Ieyasu, only 500 defenders remained in the territory. Fujitaka moved to Tanabe castle and prepared for besiege. In July 1600, 15,000 soldiers of Ishida side lead by Shigekatsu Onogi (1563-1600) who was the commander of Fukuchiyama castle encircled Tanabe castle.

Tanabe castle was protected by layers reviews and water moats at narrow valley, and might be able to resist direct attack from same level. But as it was surrounded by hills, it was easy to shot by cannons. Along with limited number of guarders, the castle side  fell into severe situation immediately. Fujitaka had to be ready to the fall of Tanabe castle and his death, but an unexpected intervention came to Tanabe castle from Emperor Goyozei (1571-1617).  

Art brings bread

Fujitaka had a qualification of mastery for the interpretation of “Kokin Wakashu”, an old collection of Japanese poems edited in 10th century. As this qualification named "Kokin Denju" was handed from master to only one pupil, then if Fujitaka had died, this mastery might be lost forever. 

Imperial Household strongly hoped the continuation of this mastery and sent envoy to Tanabe castle and coordinated reconciliation of both parties. Dominant Ishida army knew this situation held back the attack to avoid bad reputation from Emperor, and finally Fujitaka opened Tanabe castle after 50 days siege and was confined at the beginning of September.

But just after the opening of Tanabe castle, the decisive battle of Sekigahara between Tokugawa army and Ishida army occurred at distant Sekigahara at Mino province (Gifu prefecture), and 15,000 soldiers of Ishida army could not participate in this battle. As a result, Tanabe castle stranded many enemies and contributed to the victory of Tokugawa army, along with Otsu castle (Shiga prefecture) also attacked from Ishida army and opened just before the battle. Considering his intelligence and braveness, Fujitala utilized his reputation to the fullest and tricked the enemy.

After the battle of Sekigahara, being significantly evaluated loss of wife and binding of enemy, Hosokawa clan promoted to the large lord of Kokura castle and Nakatsu castle at Buzen province (eastern half of Fukuoka prefecture). Furthermore, in 1632, Hosokawa clan moved to the lord of Kumamoto castle (Kumamoto prefecture) and became the sixth largest feudal lord in Japan. From mere fugitive to large lord, Fujitaka survived the turbulent period by his foreseeability and boldness rarely as a high class noble.

Afterward of Tanabe castle

Along with the transfer of Hosokawa clan, Tanabe castle was held by Kyogoku clan but they used Miyazu castle as a main base then Tanabe castle was once abolished. Later Kyogoku clan divided their territory into Miyazu domain and Tanabe domain, thus Tanabe castle was restored at this time. In 1668 Kyogoku clan was transferred to Toyooka castle (Hyogo prefecture), and Makino clan which was the hereditary retainer of Edo Shogunate held Tanabe castle by the end of Edo era.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, all building and water moats were lost and outer area disappeared by development of city. But former central area is kept as a park, and stone walls of central area including main tower basement partially remain. In 1940, a corner turret like building was built at the corner of stone wall, and in 1997 main gate was rebuilt next of corner turret, even though at different place from original.Looking at elegant but low stone walls, it just looks as a residence of cultural figure than a military general. This also reminds us the extraordinary cultural mastery and formidability which let the lord survive under the siege of this small castle.


10 minutes walk from JR West Maizuru line Nishi-Maizuru station. 10 minutes drive from Maizuru Wakasa Jidoshado Expressway Maizuru-Nishi interchange.

Related Castles

Shoryuji Castle -End of 10 days hegemony-
Kokura Castle -Gate to Kyushu island-
Nakatsu Castle -Castle built by Hideyoshi's excellent military staff-

Pictures (click to enlarge)