Sunday, September 27, 2015

Yonezawa Castle -Castle filled with statues and monuments-

Yonezawa Castle

-Castle filled with statues and monuments-


米沢城


Overview


Name: Yonezawa castle (Yonezawa-jo)
Alias:
Place: Marunouchi Yonezawa city, Yamagata
Type: Plain Castle
Built: 13th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats 
Title:

Brief History


Yonezawa castle (米沢城) is located at the flat land between Mogami-gawa River and Hottate-gawa River, in the center of Yonezawa city at Yonezawa basin. Yonezawa area is the south edge of basins spreads north and south ward along with Mogami-gawa river which runs northward at the middle of Dewa province (Yamagata prefecture). 

This area is a meeting point of roads from Fukushima area of southeast ward, Aizu Wakamatsu area of southwest ward and Murakami area of westward, and worked as an entrance of western half of north part of Tohoku region from Kanto region through Shirakawa gate and Fukushima area.


Origin of Yonezawa castle


Precise year is unknown but Yonezawa castle is said as a residence of Nagai clan in 13th century. Nagai clan was a descendant of Hiromoto Oe (1148-1225), the first chief secretary of Kamakura Shogunate under Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of Kamakura Shogunate. Main stream of Oe clan was later involved into political conflict and ruined, but its descendants spread into many areas and became local lord. The most famous descendant of Oe clan was Mouri clan, which was the lord of Aki province (western half of Hiroshima prefecture) which grew into the ruler of Chugoku region. 

Nagai clan was also a prominent descendant of Oe clan which became a high class retainer of Kamakura Shogunate and was given Yonezawa basin. Nagai clan built Yonezawa castle as their residence and managed Yonezawa basin over 150 years. But in the latter half of 14th century, Date clan which was the small local lord of Date region at the next area of Yonezawa basin grew their power and intruded into Yonezawa basin. After fierce battle, finally Nagai clan was ruined in 1385 and the reign of Yonezawa basin changed to Date clan.


Strong warlord of Tohoku region


Date clan was originally a small retainer of north part of Kanto region but activated at the establishment of Kamakura Shogunate and became the local lord of Date region, which was the north part of current Fukushima prefecture. After the fall of Kamakura Shogunate, Date clan once belonged to Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339) side and resisted against Muromachi Shogunate, but later changed to Shogunate side and gradually grew its power throughout 14th century. 

In the south half of Tohoku region at first relative of Shiba clan such as Osaki clan or Mogami clan held the power and authority, but both clan lost their power because of internal conflict. Date clan surpassed these two clans was appointed as the governor of vast Mutsu province (current Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate and Aomori prefecture), and aggressively suppressed surrounding warlords in 15th century. Main base of Date clan was still Korinishiyama castle at Dare region, but Yonezawa castle was an important branch castle for the clan.

In the former half of 16th century, at the time of Tanemune Date (1488,1565), a great-grandfather of famous Masamune Date (1567-1636), Date clan rapidly grew their power by military action, send their son and daughter to surrounding warlords then subdued surrounding local lords and became a strong power at Tohoku region. But arbitrary decision of Tanemune and intervention to Uesugi clan which was the governor of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture) brought dissatisfaction of retainers, then an internal conflict between Tanemune and his son Harumune Date (1519-1578) occurred. 


Main base of Date clan


Tanemune retired after the battle and Harumune succeeded the leader position, but Date clan lost the power and authority during this conflict then surrounding warlords such as Ashina clan or Mogami clan left Date clan and became independent. Harumune struggled to restore the situation and the power of Date clan began to increase again, and moved his residence from Kori Nishiyama castle (Fukushima prefecture) to Yonezawa castle to change the atmosphere. It took time for the recovery by the time of Terumune Date (1544-1585), the son of Harumune.

Masamune Date, the son of Terumune, was born at Yonezawa castle in 1567. Masamune lost his one eye in ill when he was a child, but grew as a talented warlord being supported by his trusted retainers such as Kagetsuna Katakura (1557-1615) or Shigezane Date (1568-1646). Masamune became the leader of Date clan in 1584, and took the strict policy to surrounding warlords and aggressively invaded into surrounding areas.

 Facing the counterattack of the alliance of surrounding warlords Masamune sometimes fell into tough situation, but due to his decisive action finally Masamune ruined Ashina clan in 1589 and became the strong warlord which held most part of south half of Tohoku region. 

But at the same time, central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) united whole part of central and western Japan and aimed at Kanto region for complete unification of Japan. Masamune intended to oppose to Hideyoshi in alliance with Hojyo clan which held whole Kanto region, but in 1590 Hideyoshi sent large army to subjugate Hojyo clan and Hojyo clan was ruined after four month battle. 

Seeing such situation Masamune finally followed to Hideyoshi and was forgiven, but Aizu region was confiscated by Hideyoshi. Furthermore, in 1591, because of the suspect to support rebellion of Kasai and Osaki area, Masamune was transferred to Sendai area and left Yonezawa castle. At first Masamune lived Iwadeyama castle but later built Sendai castle (Miyagi prefecture) and used it as a main base.


Entrance of Uesugi clan


After the movement of Masamune Date, once Gamo clan became the lord of Aizu basin and Yonezawa basin, but in 1596 Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623) was appointed as a large lord of Aizu area and Yonezawa area at AIzu Wakamatsu castle (Fukushima prefecture) and moved from Kasugayama castle (Niigata prefecture). Kagekatsu Uesugi was an adopted son of Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), a warlord of Echigo province who was known for a genius at tactics and his honesty then praised as god of war. 

After the death of Kenshin, Kagekatsu defeated Kegetora Uesugi (1552-1579), another adopted son of Kenshin and succeeded Uesugi clan. Uesugi clan was once forced to the corner of extinction by central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1530-1578), but barely survived by the death of Nobunaga at the incident of Honnoji in 1582 and followed to Hideyoshi Toyotomi who became the next ruler from early time.

Territory of Uesugi clan consist of four basin it mean Aizu basin, Koriyama basin, Fukushima basin and Yonezawa basin, and distant Tsuruoka area at southwest edge of Dewa province (Yamagata prefecture). Yonezawa area is a connecting point of these territories, then Kagekatsu placed his trusted chancellor Kanetsugu Naoe (1559-1620) as a lord of Yonezawa castle. Territory of Uesugi clan was 1,200,000 Koku (unit of rice harvest) territory, and Kanetsugu had 300,000 Koku equivalent to one fourth of whole territory. 


Good combination of lord and chancellor


Kanetsugu was born as a son of retainer of Ueda Nagao clan, which was a birthplace of Kagekatsu. Kanetsugu served to Kagekatsu from youth, and after grow up Kanetsugu became a commander of direct force of Kagekatsu and activated at the battle against Kagetora Uesugi or Naoie Shibata (1547-1587) who was the lord of Shibata castle and rebelled against Kagekatsu. 

Kanetsugu also had a talent on administration, and processed negotiation of subordination of Uesugi clan to Hideyoshi with Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), the chief administrative staff of Hideyoshi. Under Kagekatsu, Kanetsugu totally managed Uesugi clan as a chancellor, and was praised along with Takakage Kobayakawa (1533-1597) at Mouri clan and Naoshige Nabeshima (1537-1619) at Ryuzoji clan at same situation.

After the death of Hideyoshi, Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) who was the largest lord under Toyotomi government aimed at next hegemony and accused Kagekatsu for having an intention of rebellion, to mobilize other lords. In response to this, Uesugi clan decided to resist against Ieyasu then Kanetsugu sent a war declaration letter to Ieyasu. 


Battle of Sekigahara and afterward


Mitsunari Ishida planned to raise his army against Ieyasu at his absence, then Kanetsugu and Mitsunari might have planned to do so in advance. Beside this, Uesugi clan might have planned to seize Eastern Japan utilizing conflict of Ieyasu and Mitsunari. Anyway Kagekatsu mobilized all force and prepared for the battle with Ieyasu.

In June 1600, allied force of Ieyasu and other lords marched to Oyama castle (Tochigi prefecture) knew the raise of Mitsunari at Kinki region. Ieyasu decided to return to Kinki region and have a decisive battle with Mitsunari. Utilizing the return of Ieyasu, Kagekatsu ordered Kanetsugu to attack Yoshiaki Mogami (1546-1614) who was the lord of Yamagata castle (Yamagata prefecture) from Yonezawa castle. 

Kanetsugu lead 20,000 soldiers and attacked Mogami territory, then fell Hataya castle and surrounded Hasedo castle. But during the siege, Ieyasu defeated Mitsunari at the battle of Sekigahara in September 1600 then Kanetsugu had to cancel the invasion and return to Yonezawa castle. Finally Uesugi clan made peace with Ieyasu, under condition of confiscating territory other than Yonezawa area. Kagekatsu Uesugi became the lord of Yonezawa domain and moved to Yonezawa castle as a residence. Kagekatsu reformed Yonezawa castle as residence of large lord.

Structure of Yonezawa castle


Yonezawa castle is a simple castle consists of two layer of square shaped area. Central area at inside is a 200 meter long square shaped area, which is a traditional style residence of the governor in Muromachi era similar to Tsutsujigasaki palace (Yamanashi prefecture) of Takeda clan. At northeast and southwest corner two three story turret were built as substitute of main tower, and a temple commemorated Kenshin Uesugi was built at southwestern corner.

Secondary area outside of central area is a 400 meter square shaped area, and had gates at each direction. Outside of secondary area, third area which is a rectangular shape of about 1,000 meter long and 500 meter wide was built and used for residence of retainers. Outside of third area many temples were built surrounding the castle, to work as a first defense line of castle. Yonezawa castle did not have stone walls and secure gate even though renovated after 1600, as consideration to Edo Shogunate and severe fiscal situation.


Severe situation of Uesugi clan and reform of Yozan Uesugi


Uesugi clan could survive as a feudal lord under Edo Shogunate, but its territory was significantly decreased then its financial condition became poor. Kanetsugu proceeded development of territory, but the number of soldiers were fundamentally too much. Furthermore, in the latter half of 17th century the leader of Uesugi clan died without successor, and barely the continuation of domain was approved but its territory was further decreased to the half as a penalty. Uesugi domain was on the corner of bankrupt in 18th century.

Among such situation, Yozan Uesugi (1751-1822, original name was Harunori but known as another name Yozan) became the lord. Yozan started his reform including industrial and agricultural promotion, expenditure control, establishment of domain school and social welfare. In 1780’s Tohoku region suffered severe famine, but Yozan prepared substitute crops and emergency stock in advance then limited the damage of famine.

Yozan died in ill in 1822, but next year Yonezawa domain repaid all debts and stabilized the situation. Because of this successful story, Yozan is still respected by as an excellent lord. Restored Uesugi clan held Yonezawa castle by the end of Edo era.


Afterward of castle


Subsequent to Meiji revolution, all building was lost and water moat of secondary area and third area were reclaimed. But central area and its water moat still well remain, and used as a ground of Uesugi shrine commemorating Kenshin Uesugi. Simple exterior of Yonezawa castle consists of clay wall and water moat reflects spirit of simplicity and fortitude of Uesugi clan derived from Kenshin Uesugi, and also the reform of Yozan tried to decrease the burden to the residents. Instead of stone wall or building, many monuments and statues built in the castle tells the various stories of successive lords.


Access


20 minutes walk from JR East Yamagata Shinkansen line Yonezawa station.  40 minutes drive from Tohoku Jidoshado Expressway Fukushima Iisaka interchange.


Related Castles


Sendai Castle -Residence of "Single eye dragon"-
Kasugayama Castle -Residence of "Dragon of Echigo"-
Sakado Castle -Suspension bridge in the sky-
Aizu Wakamatsu Castle -White five-story main tower endured harsh battle-
Kori Nishiyama Castle -Five time relocations in 70 years-

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