Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hara Castle -Ruin of repose of souls-

Hara Castle

-Ruin of repose of souls-



Name: Hara castle (Hara-jo)
Place: Minami-Arima Minami-Shimabara city, Nagasaki
Location: 32.62929185603958, 130.25326111136744
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 1496, expanded in 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Hara castle (原城) is located at a rectangular shaped hill of 1 kilometer long and 500 meter wide faces Ariake sea in the south part of Shimabara peninsula. As next area of the castle was expanded by later reclamation, originally the shape of the gulf at the mouth or Arimagawa river was deeper and the castle hill clearly projected to the sea. Having large flat area on the hill and being protected its backside by ocean and front side by creek, it was a suitable to build castle and to besiege, as proved later.

Origin of Hara castle

Hara castle was originally built by Arima clan in 1496. Arima clan had been a small local lord at the south part of Shimabara peninsula for long time, but since the beginning of 16th century they expanded their territory and changed into a warlord. At the time of Haruzumi Arima (1485-1566), Arima clan seized whole part of Shimabara peninsula and sent his son to surrounding lords such as Omura clan or Matsura clan as a successor. Arima clan earned enormous profit from marine transportation, and furthermore in 1550 Portuguese mission came to Kuchinotsu port next to Hinoe castle and foreign trade started.

But on and after 1560's, Takanobu Ryuzoji (1529-1584) who was the lord of Saga castle (Saga prefecture) rejected the attack of Otomo clan and started to grew. Harunobu Arima (1567-1612), son of Haruzumi and young leader of Arima clan at that time, tried to oppose against strong Ryuzoji clan somehow. At first Harunobu hated Catholic brought by his father, but to acquire weapons and profits through foreign trade Harunobu admitted Christianity in reversal. During the tough situation suppressed by strong Ryuzoji clan, Harunobu finally came to believe in it in 1580 and got the Christian name of Don Protajio

Harunobu once subordinated to Ryuzoji clan before its pressure, but in 1584 Arima clan left Ryuzoji clan and tied with rising Shimazu clan which was the lord of Satsuma province (Kagoshima prefecture). Furious Takanobu lead large army and attacked Arima clan, but allied army of Arima clan and Shimazu clan broke Ryuzoji army at the battle of Okitanawate occurred at the place of current Shimabara castle then Takanobu died in the battle. 

Expansion by Harunobu Arima

Arima clan recovered its independence followed to Shimazu clan, but at the time of expedition by central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) against Shimazu clan in 1587, Harunobu followed to Hideyoshi and survived as a feudal lord under Toyotomi government. Harunobu earned huge gain through foreign trade, then renovated his main bases Hinoe castle and Hara castle into modern castles.

Hara castle was originally built as a branch castle of Hinoe castle which was the main base of Arima clan, only 2 kilometer apart from Hara castle. A small inlet at the mouth of Arimagawa river was formerly an international port supported the prosperity of Arima clan, and Hinoe castle located at the inside of the gulf. Hara castle might be built to guard the entrance of gulf and shows authority of Arima clan to passing ships.

But considering total size of castle ruin, it was too large as mere branch castle, thus Harunobu  might consider to use as a main base in the future. In spite of renovation Hinoe castle was still an old style medieval castle, and it was difficult to prepare large flat area to build palace building. Furthermore, Hinoe castle is located at the tip of long and gentle ridge and weak for the attack from upper area especially by matchlock gunners. Furthermore, both side of the castle is now used as ports, and Harunobu might intend to control port directly.

Structure of Hara castle

Hara castle consist of L letter shaped central area at the southeast edge, secondary area and third area separated by dry moats or hollows spread toward north from central area, Uchikoshi area and Amakusamaru area at westward and outer area surrounding them. At the corner of L letter 20 meter long basement of building exists, and a main tower or similar building might be built here. At the edge of longer line there was a huge Masugata style combined front gate which occupied one third of central area, to show the authority of Arima clan to visitors.

This central area might be wholly secured by gentle slope stone walls consist of rough but large stones, similar to Hizen Nagoya castle built by Hideyoshi. At the edge of another line there was a backside gate. Contrary to this, secondary area and third area might not be secured by stone walls except for important points such as gates. Secondary area and third area consist of layers of terraces, but these terraces might be constructed to store many people at the time of later rebellion. 

Main gate of the castle is located at the middle of north line of the height, but current main route to the castle climbing gentle slope seems more appropriate as a main route. There were other several gates at this castle, and might be ferry port at the backside lower area facing the sea. Considering the difference of magnificent small central area and other plain wide areas, Harunobu at first built central area and planned to build other areas later but expansion was cancelled. If whole castle has completed, it might be a splendid one based on the wealth and technology of Arima clan.

Fall of Arima clan and abolish of castle

After the death of Hideyoshi, Harunobu supported Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) who was the founder of Edo Shogunate and won at the battle of Sekigahara, then continued as a feudal lord under Edo Shogunate. But on and after the end of 16th century, Christianity was gradually banned and situation, and Edo Shogunate did not allow private foreign trade with local lords and became to control by themselves. Finally in 1612, Harunobu was punished for suspect of sending bribe and killed, then later Arima clan moved to Nobeoka castle (Miyazaki castle) in 1614. 

In 1616, as a reward for activation at the battle of Osaka castle, Shigemasa Matsukura (1574-1630) was appointed as a lord of Shimabara peninsula. Based on “Ikkoku Ichijyo Rei” (one domain one castle rule), Shigemasa abolished Hinoe castle and Hara castle used by Arima clan and newly built Shimabara castle at the place of former Motirake castle. Shigemasa avoided Hinoe castle which was the semi-dependent Christian area and opened to outer sea, and chose Shimabara area which was closer to main body of Kyushu island. If nothing occurs, the name of Hara castle was supposed to disappear at this time. 

But Shigemasa collected heavy taxes from residents to fund the expenditure for Shimabara castle or other constructions ordered by Edo Shogunate. Shigemasa also became to crack down on Christianity, and dissatisfaction of residents gradually increased. Katsuie Matsukura (1597-1638), son of Shigemasa, further strengthened tax collection and suppression to local people and cruelly killed tax delinquents and Christian people. At the same time, on the opposite side of straight, Katataka Terasawa (1609-1647) also strictly governed Amakusa island. In Amakusa island, many former retainers of Konishi clan who was the Christian lord at Uto castle (Kumamoto prefecture) hided.

Outbreak of largest rebellion

In 1637, at last anger of residents of both area exploded. In October, representative of pheasants of both area met at an island at the middle of both area and agreed to make rebellion against their lord. Just after that people of south part of Shimabara peninsula upraised and this was the start of "Shimabara no Ran" (rebellion of Shimabara peninsula), the largest rebellion by pheasant in Japanese history. 

Rebellion army increased to over 20,000 people attacked Shimabara castle, but they could not fall secure Shimabara castle and only deprived weapon and supplies from castle town. At the same time 17,000 people of Amakusa island also revolted, but this troop also could not fall Tomioka castle (Kumamoto prefecture) then situation became deadlock. 

Besiege at Hara castle ruin

Hearing the arrival of reinforcement by Shogunate, these two group jointed and besieged at the ruin of abolished Hara castle. Hara castle was once abolished but defense facility such as stone walls or fences were left to some extent, and it had a sufficient area to secure whole rebellion army. Backside half of the castle was totally protected by cliff and sea, and front side was also secured by valley. It is said that rebellion army intentionally besieged along the sea, expecting reinforcement of Portuguese fleet.

Rebellion army besieged at castle with whole family of village. It might worked to cut off the retreat, but by this many noncombatants were included in the battle. As Hara castle had many hollows or dry moats at backside, these civilians lived at such low areas. Rebellion army was lead by former professional retainers of Arima clan or Konishi clan, and placed Tokisada Amakusa (1621-1638, known as Shiro Amakusa), a young Christian who was adored as a messiah. Majority of participants and leaders were Christian, but non Christians also participated or were involved in this army. They secured castle by materials on hand and guarded each part of castle by troop of each village.

Failure of first attack

Matsukura clan and Terasawa clan could not settle the rebellion and reported the occurrence of rebellion to Edo Shogunate. Edo Shogunate mobilized lords in Kyushu island and sent Shigemasa Itakura (1588-1638) as a commander of reinforcement army. In December Shogunate army attacked Hara castle, but this attack was rejected and Shogunate army suffered severe damage.  

Rebellion army was a mixed up army consist of pheasants, but lead by former soldiers and had sufficient matchlock guns. Shimabara castle was a ruin but only attacked from front side, and without solid structure it terrain gave defense ability to defense side. For attack side, over 20 years after the battle of Osaka, experienced commander had already retired and siege weapons such as cannons were prohibited. As it was a rebellion there was no possibility of additional territory as a reward, and Shigemasa himself was a small lord and did not have sufficient authority to command large lords. 

Irritated Shogunate decided to send Nobutsuna Matsudaira (1596-1662) who was the confident and highest retainer of Shogun, and Shigemasa heard this news forcibly attacked Hara castle but was killed in the battle. Next January Nobutsuna and reinforcement army arrived at the encampment, and Muneshige Tachibana (1567-1643), who was the experienced brave lord of Yamagawa castle (Fukuoka prefecture) who survived turbulent era was also called.

Fall by second attack and afterward

Nobutsuna who saw the secure but isolated castle adopted starve out tactics. Nobutsuna also asked Netherland to assist their siege, and Dutch ship actually participated in the siege and attacked castle from sea side. This attack was done to show there was no possibility of foreign reinforcement to rebellion army. As it was a sudden besiege and rebellion army did not have sufficient supply, then stock of supply ran out by the middle of February.

Finally at the end of February, Shogunate army charged into the castle. Rebellion army could not fight any more, and all person besieged at castle included Shiro Amakusa shared their fate with castle. After the cease of rebellion, blamed for their failure Katsuie Matsukura was executed, and Katataka Terasawa lost Amakusa island and later killed himself for shame. 

To erase the trace of rebellion, after the battle, site of Hara castle was totally destructed. Stone wall of the castle was clearly broken, and gate was filled with sand. Other ruins of abolished castles all over Japan was thoroughly destructed again, to prevent reuse at rebellion.

Now site of Hara castle became an historical site, and investigation of ruin is proceeding. As a result of investigation, in addition to castle structure, many relic of Christian was found and exhibited at neighbor museum. When looking at vast ruin of castle, there is nothing but to hope the repose of souls died at this castle.


75 minutes drive from Nagasaki Jidoshado Expressway Isahaya interchange. It might be possible to ride buses from JR Kyushu Nagasaki Honsen line Isahaya station via Kuchinotsu or Shimabara but unrealistic.

Related Castles

Shimabara Castle -Highly completed castle isolated from local people-
Hinoe Castle -Majestic castle of pious Christian lord-
Tomioka Castle -Abolished to save local people-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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