Saturday, July 23, 2016

Inuyama Castle (Echizen) -Deep rift between lord and vassal-

Inuyama Castle (Echizen)

-Deep rift between lord and vassal-



Name: Inuyama castle (Inuyama-jo)
Place: Kiyotaki Ono city, Fukui
Location: 35.983830018006145, 136.4733306656423
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 14th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Inuyama castle (戌山城, different from Inuyama castle with beautiful main tower at Aichi prefecture) is located at Inuyama mountain, one of about 150 meter from hillside. Inuyama mountain is one of sheer slopes protrudes into Ono basin toward northeast from backside mountains, and an ideal place to build a mountain castle. 

Ono basin is one of rectangular shape of 5 kilometer long and 3 kilometer wide, at the midstream of Kuzuryu-gawa river. Kuzuryu-gawa river flows from just aside of Aburakawa-toge, a border of Echizen province (Fukui prefecture) and Mino province (Gifu prefecture) toward Sea of Japan through Ono basin, Katsuyama basin and Fukui plain. 

There lies over 20 kilometer long mountainous area between Ono basin and Shiratori area, an upstream of Nagara-gawa river of Mino province, but it is long but passable route where it was seriously considered to build a railway. Ono area is a first flat area from Mino province, and both for offense and defense, it was an important area even though at backyard of province.

Origin of Inuyama castle

Precise year is unknown but it is said that Inuyama castle was built by Yoshitane Shiba (1352-1408) in the latter half of 14th century, Shiba clan was a high class retainer of Muromachi Shogunate which was close to Ashikaga clan, the house of Shogun. Shiba clan activated at the establishment of Ashikaga Shogunate, and achieved the governor position of large provinces at Hokuriku region and Tokai region such as Echizen province, Kaga province (Ishikawa prefecture), Owari province (western part of Aichi prefecture) or Totomi province (western part of Shizuoka prefecture).

But same as other high class retainers of Muromachi Shogunate, Shiba clan lost the power because of internal conflicts and rise of deputy governors at each province. In Echizen province, Takakage Asakura (1428-1481, called by his Buddhist name Eirin to distinguish from great-grandson has same name), a substantial leader of Asakura clan as a warlord, built Ichijodani palace (Fukui prefecture) as a main base then gradually grew his power during internal conflicts in the province.

When the battle of Onin occurred at Kyoto city in 1467, Takakage activated at many battles and let the Shogunate accept his talent. After the battle Takakage returned to Echizen province, and tried to overthrow Shiba clan to seize the province. Takakage fought with alliance of Shiba clan and Kai clan, another vice governor of Echizen province, and finally beat Shiba clan at Ono basin and expelled from Echizen province.

Important castle for military and diplomacy

Asakura clan captured Echizen province but still lacked legitimacy and its situation was unstable. Under this circumstance, Asakura clan cooperated with Saito clan, a powerful vice governor of Mino province at the same situation, and had a marital relationship with Saito clan. In addition to military element, Ono clan became important place to connect with Saito clan.

In the former half of 15th century, under confusion of Mino province and Saito clan, Asakura sometimes sent army to Mino province. In 1544, facing the revolt of Dosan Saito (1494-1556) who deprived Mino province from its governor Toki clan, Asakura clan sent a large army in alliance with Nobuhide Oda (1510-1551), the father of Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) who ruined Asakura clan 30 years later. But this time Nobuhide Oda suffered severe defeat before Dosan Saito at the battle of Kanoguchi, and Asakura army also retreated.

As an important area, Asakura clan placed relative of the leader as a commander of Ono area along with Tsuruga area. In the beginning of 16th century, Kagetaka Asakura (?-?), a younger brother of clan leader Takakage Asakura (1493-1548, called as his Buddhist name Sojun to distinguish from former Takakage) was appointed as a commander of Ono area. But Kagetaka conflicted with Takakage then changed to his son Kageakira Asakura (1525-1574). Kageakira stayed at Iyama castle near current Echizen-Ono station, but might improve Inuyama castle as an important military base.

Structure of Echizen Inuyama castle

Echizen Inuyama castle spreads over the peak and three ridges of the Inuyama mountain. Central area of the castle is a small round shaped area of 20 meter diameter at the peak of the mountain, with a small basement of watchtower at east edge. At lower layer on the northwest of central area, there is another flat area worked as an entrance area. Considering the size of these areas, there is no room to build large residence thus Inuyama castle might be used only for military purpose.

There are three ridges spreads from the peak toward northwest, northeast and south. Northeastern ridge is a main route from hillside, and securely protected by deep dry moat. Especially a dry moat just before core part is about 10 mater tall, and it is necessary to climb the wall gripping guide ropes. 

Before that there is a small peak has dry moat at both edge. Southward ridge is a backward of castle connected with backside mountain, and a front fort consist of several terraces protects intrusion of enemy from the ridge. Northeastern ridge is a small one and only guarded by dry moats.

Total size of castle is over 500 meter long, even though not having large areas. It is said that core areas is wholly protected numerous vertical walls, but webmaster visited in summer and could not find it well. Residence of the lord might exist at eastern hillside of mountain.

Rise of deep rift between lord and vassal

In the former half of 16th century, Asakura clan experienced prosperity of unprecedented. But after the death of Soteki Akakura (1477-1555), a relative and great general had been the backbone of Asakura clan over 50 years, Asakura clan gradually involved into troubles. In spite of superficial strength, Yoshikage Asakura (1533-1573), the last leader of the clan, could not well manage relatives and important retainers.

In addition to this, on and after 1570, a long conflict with central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) arouse. Once Asakura clan lost Tsuruga area before fierce attack of Nobunaga, but was saved by the change of Nagamasa Azai (1545-1573), a brother in law of Nobunaga but originally close to Asakura clan. Asakura clan and Azai clan held back the invasion of Nobunaga, and in spite of the defeat at the battle of Anegawa in 1571, confronted Oda army at Omi province (Shiga prefecture) for three years.

But long time military service was a burden for the general of Asakura clan. Yoshikage missed several chances to defeat Nobunaga, and dissatisfaction of retainer gradually increased. Some retainers left Asakura clan and changed to Nobunaga, by the plot of Oda clan. In 1573, Nobunaga captured branch castles of Odani castle (Shiga prefecture), the main base of Azai clan, encircled Odani castle with his whole army.

Betrayal at the fall of lord

Receiving request of reinforcement Yoshikage summoned force, but Kageakira Asakura and other retainers refused this order, thus Yoshikage himself took army and marched to the north of Odani castle. But Oda clan captured Ozuku fort, the connecting point of Odani castle and Asakura army, in heavy storm. Asakura army could not rescue Odani castle any more, lost moral thus Yoshikage decided to retreat his army.

However, Nobunaga expected this movement of Yoshikage and fiercely chased retreating Asakura army. Asakura army lost many generals and soldiers, then Yoshikage barely returned to his main base Ichijodani castle but no army remained. Looking at this situation, Kageakira Asakura informed to accept Yoshikage at his territory and protect with monk soldier of Heisenji temple, thus Yoshikage moved to Ono basin and resided Kenshoji temple. 

But Kageakira already connected to Oda army. Army of Kageakira and monk soldier of Heisenji temple assaulted Yoshikage, and Yoshikage killed himself in resentment. Kageakira surrendered to Nobunaga and was forgiven, then changed his name to Nobuakira Tsuchihashi. Kageakira continuously held Ono basin at Iyama castle.

The impression of Nobuakira who betrayed his master at the last stage and killed was quite bad, and later at the fall of Takeda clan in 1582, Nobushige Oyamada (1545-1582) who also left his mater Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582) and forced to suicide was purged as a betrayer. But this time Oda army was still surrounded by enemies, and Nobunaga had to use Nobuakira to govern occupied area. 

Afterward of castle

However, after the leave of Oda army in 1574, army of Ikko Ikki, a group of Ikkoshu believer which is an active denomination of Japanese Buddhism which had been suppressed by Asakura clan, rebelled everywhere in the province. Ikko Ikki army captured Fukui area assaulted Ono basin in large number, then Heisenji temple and Kageakira desperately fought but finally were ruined.

In 1575, Nobunaga who broke Katsuyori Takeda at the battle of Nagashino and stabilized eastern border, sent whole army to Echizen province managed by Ikko Ikki army. Nagachika Kanamori (1528-1608), a general of Nobunaga, intruded into Ono basin from Mino province and broke Ikko Ikki army. After the cease fire, Nobunaga gave Ono basin to Nagachika Kanamori. Nagachika abolished Inuyama castle and newly built Echizen Ono castle.

Now all building was lost but structure of castle including deep dry moats still remain on the hill. The height of Inuyama mountain is ordinary but undulation of terrain and dry moats is hard and scary and it is necessary to take care not to slip. Webmaster could not go down from central area to southward hill, as the guide rope is pressed to the ground by fallen trees and could not grip it well. Deep dry moats shows military importance of this castle, and also reminds deep rift between Yoshikage Asakura and Kageakira Asakura.


30 minites walk from JR West Etsumi-Hokusen Echizen-Ono station. 30 minutes drive from Hokuriku-Jidoshado Expressway Fukui interchange to hillside entrance at the north-northwest of mountain via Route 158. 30 minutes walk from hillside entrance to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Ichijodani Palace (1) -100 year prosperity of Asakura clan-
Echizen Ono Castle -Old fasioned stone wall looking at traditional town-
Odani Castle (1) -History of three generations of Azai clan-

Pictures (click to enlarge)