Friday, September 16, 2016

Tenjinyama Castle (Bizen) -When it goes around it comes around-

Tenjinyama Castle (Bizen)

-When it goes around it comes around-



Name: Tenjinyama castle (Tenjinyama-jo)
Place: Tado Wake town, Okayama
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 15th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Tenjinyama castle (天神山城) spreads over a long ridge spreads toward northwest from the peak of Tenjinyama mountain, one of about 350 meter from hillside beside Yoshii-gawa river in the east part of Okayama prefecture. Yoshii-gawa river is one of three large rivers form Okayama plain at river mouth. This long ridge continues over 500 meter long sandwiched by sheer cliffs was a suitable place to build a mountain castle.

In medieval era, Sanyodo-road which was one of the main route of Japan which connected Kyoto city and Hakata city crossed Funasaka-Toge pass and run along with Kongogawa river which is a tributary of Yoshii-gawa river from Mitsuishi to Wake, and goes down along with main stream of Yoshii^gawa river toward Okayama area. 

Besides, Yoshii^gawa river was an important communication route from coastal area toward Tsuyama basin, the center of Mimasaka province and an important connection point toward Sanin region in the east part of Chugoku region. Because of this geographical reason, castle site of Tenjinyama castle was a critical point to seize the eastern half of current Okayama prefecture.

Origin of Uragami clan and Akamatsu clan

Precise year is unknown but Tenjinyama castle was built by local lord Uragami clan in the former half of 16th century. The origin of Uragami clan is also unknown, and at first they lived at Uragami providence of Harima province (south part of Hyogo prefecture). Around the turbulent period at the collapse of Kamakura Shogunate, Uragami clan belonged to another local lord Akamatsu clan and fought against Shogunate.

Akamatsu clan was a local lord significantly grew at this time. In 1333, Norimura Akamatsu (1277-1350, famous as his Buddhist name Enshin), raised his army against Kamakura Shogunate under the order of Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339). Enshin beat subjugating army of Kamakura Shogunate and reversely attacked Rokuhara Tandai, the administrative office of Shogunate at Kyoto city. 

Norimura merged with Takauji Ashikaga (1305-1358) who was sent from Kamakura Shogunate as a commander but turned to Emperor Godaigo side and fell ruined Rokuhara Tandai. Hearing that news Yoshisada Nitta (1300-1338), another large local lord at Kanto region who already raised anti-Shogunate army, attacked Kamakura city and finally ruined Kamakura Shogunate.

Rise of Akamatsu clan

But after the fall of Kamakura Shogunate, Emperor Godaigo who tried to administer directly could not well coordinate of interest between retainers. Looking at this, Takauji Ashikaga who was sent to subjugate the revolt by remnants of Kamakura Shogunate left Emperor and built his own government. Takauji once marched to Kyoto city and captured it, but was defeated by Emperor side army led by Yoshisada Nitta and Akiie Kitabatake (1318-1338). Takauji escaped to Kyushu island and seek for chance.

As Norimura supported Takauji, next Nitta army attacked the territory of Akamatsu clan. Enshin built Shirohata castle at about 5 kilometer northwest from Kanjosan castle, and built many branch castles including Kanjosan castle at surrounding mountains as front forts. Being overwhelmed by Emperor side army, Enshin and his sons tenaciously resisted and kept Shirohata castle over 60 days.

Under Muromachi Shogunate established by Takauji, because of their contribution, Akamatsu clan became one of the highest class retainers along with distinguished Samurai families. Akamatsu clan held provinces at Sanyo region as the governor but was became to be watched by Shogunate. In 1441, Mitsusuke Akamatsu (1381-1441), the leader of Akamatsu clan, assassinated sixth Shogun Yoshinori Ashikaga (1394-1441) who tried to monopolize and decrease the power of Akamatsu clan. But Akamatsu clan was subjugated by Shogunate as a traitor and once ruined.

Leave from Akamatsu clan

But after that people of Akamatsu clan contributed to Shogunate several times then Akamatsu clan revived as the governor of Harima province (southern part of Hyogo prefecture) and Bizen province (eastern part of Okayama prefecture). After the battle of Onin, Akamatsu clan strengthened its domination to the territory under Masanori Akamatsu (1455-1496) and changed to warlord. Akamatsu clan newly built Okishio castle (Hyogo prefecture) in the north part of current Himeji city.

However, after the death of Masanori Akamatsu, Akamatsu clan fell into a period of disorder. Norimune Uragami (1429-1502) worked for the revival of Akamatsu clan and was appointed as the deputy governor of Bizen province, but was later watched from Uragami clan then became opposed. Yoshimura Akamatsu (?-1521), son of Masanori, attacked Muramune Uragami (?-1531), the leader of Uragami clan at Mitsuishi clan, but Muramune rejected this attack by the assist of Yoshiie Ukita (?-1534), the grandfather of Naoie Ukita (1529-1582) who later ruined Uragami clan.

Muramune rejected the attack of Akamatsu clan now surpassed their master and seized his own authority. Muramune forced Yoshimura Akamatsu to retire and leave the leader position to his son Harumasa Akamatsu (1513-1565), and finally assassinated him in 1531. Muramune used Harumasa as a puppet and seized the power of Akamatsu clan, next participated in the internal conflict of Hosokawa clan, which seized the authority of Kyoto city. 

Turbulent era of Uragami clan

Muramune belonged to Takakuni Hosokawa (1494-1531) and participated in the battle of Daimotsu-Kuzure as a main body of Takakuni Hosokawa army, but because of the invitation of Motonaga Miyoshi (1501-1532), the enemy of Takakuni, Harumasa Akamatsu suddenly betrayed Muramune at the battlefield to make a revenge of his father and attacked from backside. Hosokawa army including Muramune collapsed, and Muramune died in the battle.

In addition to the death of the leader, Amago clan which was the strong warlord of Izumo province (Shimane prefecture) intruded into the territory of Uragami clan. Masamune Uragami (1520-1564), son of Muramune, once ran away from Bizen province with Harumasa Akamatsu, but later returned to his territory at the temporal retreat of Amago clan in 1542.

But Amago clan invaded into Bizen province again in 1551. Facing this threat, Uragami clan divided into Masamune Uragami who subordinated to Amago clan, and his younger brother Munekage Uragami (?-?) still fought against Amago clan under the support of Mouri clan, the warlord of Aki province (Hiroshima prefecture) and the rival of Amago clan. Along with the downfall of Amago clan, Munekage recovered his territory from Amago clan and advanced into the warlord. Around this time Munekage newly built Tenjinyama castle as his main base and moved from Mitsuishi castle (Okayama prefecture).

Growth into independent lord

In 1563, Munekage left Mouri clan and fought with Mimura clan, the local lord of Bicchu Matsuyama castle (Okayama prefecture) under Mouri clan advanced into Bizen province. Naoie Ukita (1529-1582) who was the retainer of Munekage assassinated the leader of Mimura clan, and Uragami army defeated Mimura army intruded into Bizen province to make revenge of their master. 

Next Masamune rejected attack of Mouri clan, then completely captured Bizen province. Now Uragami clan total overpassed Akamatsu clan and became the warlord of Bizen province, and expanded Tenjinyama castle as a main base of strong warlord held three provinces.

Structure of Tenjinyama castle

Tenjinyama castle roughly consist of two part at the both side of small valley. The eastern part is called as Taikomaru area, which is formed from about 10 terraces around the peak of Tenjinyama mountain. It is said that this part was the old castle originally built, and generally keeps the original shape of terrain. This area is protected by gates uses natural rocks, but also equips artificial small stone walls. As this area is directly connected to backside mountains, later this area might be used as a front fort.

On the other hand, western part is a modern shaped castle after the seizure of authority by Uragami clan. This area is formed by over 10 large flat terraces such as Mayano-dan, Hidanomaru, Honmaru (central area), Ninomaru (secondary area), Sakuranobaba and Sannomaru (third area). 

It is thought that these areas are fully covered by stone walls, and there might be a main tower like building at the east of central area. Total length of western part exceeded 500 meter long, and narrow and long shape of the castle with several layer of terraces looks like a warship. Total length of the castle including western and eastern part was over 1,000 meter long, and one of the largest medieval castle of Okayama prefecture along with Bicchu Matsuyama castle.

Another uplift of Naoie Ukita

Munekage who left Mouri clan rejected the attack of Mouri army, then ruined Matsuda clan at Kanagawa castle at the north part of Okayama prefecture the seized major part of Bizen province, Bicchu province and Mimasaka province. In 1573, Munekage was approved the dominance of Bizen province, Mimasaka province and Harima province by central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), and this was the peak period of Uragami clan.

But this glory days of Uragami clan did not last long. Naoie Ukita contributed to the expansion of Uragami clan by continuous assassinations, but also bore a grunge for the death of his grandfather died in the conflict with another retainer of Uragami clan. In 1569 Naoie raised his army in connection with Nobunaga Oda and former Akamatsu family, but was suppressed by Munekage and once subordinate.

However, in 1574, Naoie rebelled to Munekage again under the support of Mouri clan. This time Naoie brought the descendant of former Akamatsu clan as a nominal leader to Bizen province, and also invited retainers of Uragami clan to him. Munekage tried to resist against Mouri-Ukita alliance in cooperation with Mimura can who also left Mouri clan, but in 1575, Mouri clan ruined Mimura clan and increased pressure to Uragami clan. 

Fall of Tenjinyama castle and Uragami clan

At this point Nobunaga who still fought at Honganji temple at Osaka area and had no intention to fight with Mouri clan. Munekage became inferior besiege at Tenjinyama castle, but by the plot of Naoie, important retainers of Uragami clan such as Kagechika Akashi (?-?) turned to Naoie and opened their part at Tenjinyama castle. Finally Munekage left Tenjinyama castle and escaped to Harima province, and the history of Uragami clan as a warlord came to an end in short time.  

But Munekage did not give up revival, and in 1578 Munekage once recovered Tenjinyama castle under assistance of former retainers. But this time Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) who was the regional commander of Oda army could not rescue Uragami clan by the revolt of Bessho clan and Araki clan, then next year Munekage lost Tenjinyama castle again before the attack of Naoie Ukita. 

Naoie did not use Tenjinyama castle and newly built Okayama castle (Okayama prefecture), then Tenjinyama castle abolished at this time. Although Tenjinyama castle was secure and convenient, it located inland and was not appropriate to develop commerce using marine transportation of Setonaikai Sea. Naoie soon turned to Oda clan after that and was approved as the lord of Bizen province under Oda clan and Toyotomi government, thus there was no room for Uragami clan to recover the former territory.

Afterward of castle

Now all building was lost but structure of the castle well remain over the mountain along with partially remaining stone walls. Long line of beautifully shaped terraces well shows the power of Uragami clan once overpassed their master and became the warlord. 
But easy fall of this secure castle this also shows the fragility of Uragami clan, which just after the overpass of Akamatsu clan. It is exactly the proverb when it goes around, it comes around. 


40 minutes walk from JR West Sanyo-Honsen line Wake station to hillside and another 40 minutes walk to hilltop castle. It is possible to park car at camping site "Wake Utsukushii-Mori" and walk 30 minutes passing Taikomaru area to central area. Be careful to slippy steep slope.

Related Castles

Okishio Castle -Another prominent castle at Himeji area-
MItsuishi Castle -Castle at various borders-
Bicchu Matsuyama Castle -Castle of struggle with original main tower-
Okayama Castle -Turbulent life of holders of crow castle-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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