Sunday, September 4, 2016

Kanjosan Castle -Wild stone walls on craggy mountain-

Kanjosan Castle

-Wild stone walls on craggy mountain-



Name: Kanjosan castle (Kanjosan-jo)
Place: Yano-cho Aioi city, Hyogo
Location: 34.88190605790833, 134.44963329929914
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 14th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and clay walls 

Brief History

Kanjosan Castle (感状山城) is located at Kanjosan mountain, one of about 250 meter height from hillside in the north part of Aioi city near the western end of current Hyogo prefecture. Now castle site is a small quiet valley apart from east and westward trunk lines such as Sanyo Shinkansen, Sanyodo Highway or Route 2 at southward. 

But in ancient and medieval era, Sanyodo road which was a main route connected Kinki region, Sanyo region and Kyushu island passed just at the south of the castle, at current Hyogo prefecturel road No.5. Furthermore, Kanjosan mountain itself is a steep mountain between Yanogawa river and its tributary, and it was an appropriate place to build a castle.

Origin of Kanjosan castle

The origin of this castle is unknown but is said to be built by local lord Uryu clan in Kamakura era. 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.

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.

Battle at Kanjosan castle

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. 

At Kanjosan castle Norisuke Akamatsu (1314-1372), son of Norimura, firmly guarded the castle gain time but finally left the castle and retreated to Shirohata castle. Kanjosan means the mountain of citation, which was given to Akamatsu clan from Takauji to praise the brave fight at this time.

Among this time gained by Akamatsu clan, Takauji formed large army at Kyushu island and beat Emperor side army at the battle of Tatarahama, then marched to Kyoto city again. Finally Takauji broke Emperor side army at the battle of Minatogawa, thus Emperor Godaigo left Kyoto city and moved to Yoshino region and opened Southern Court there.

Rise and fall of Akamatsu clan

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.

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 part in the north part of current Himeji city.

However, after the death of Masanori Akamatsu, Akamatsu clan fell into a period of disorder. At Bizen province, Uragami clan which was deputy governor of the province and the lord of Mitsuishi castle (Okayama prefecture), gradually grew their power and exercise their power in Akamatsu clan. Yoshimura Akamatsu (?-1521) who feared the power of Uragami clan tried to suppress the power of Uragami clan and attacked Muramune Uragami (?-1531), but due to the counter attack Yoshimura was forced to retire and later was assassinated. 

Overthrow of Akamatsu clan by Uragami clan

Now Uragami clan overcame their master Akamatsu clan and became the warlord, but their foundation was also unstable. Muramune Uragami participated in the internal conflict of Hosokawa clan at Kyoto city, and died in the battle of Daimotsu-Kuzure. After the death of Muramune, Uragami clan was divided into two houses at Harima province and Bizen province, and furthermore Amago clan which was the strong warlord of Izumo province (Shimane prefecture) intruded into Bizen province and Harima province.

Harima house of Uragami clan belonged to Amago clan, but after the conflict with Akamatsu clan and their retainer, their leader was assaulted at the marriage party and killed. On the other hand, Bizen house of Uragami clan asked assistance of Mouri clan, the warlord of Aki province (Hiroshima prefecture) and rival of Amago clan, and overcame this crisis. They fixed their situation and newly built Tenjinyama castle (Okayama prefecture) as their main base.

In 1563, Munekage Uragami (?-?), the leader of Uragami clan at Bizen province, left Mouri clan and fought with Mimura clan, the local lord of Bicchu Matsuyama castle (Okayama prefecture) advanced into Bizen province. Naoie Ukita (1529-1582) 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.

Another overthrow by Naoie Ukita

However, this time Naoie Ukita intended to overcome Uragami clan. Naoie who already ruined major local lords around Okayama area raised his army against Munekage Uragami. But this time Munekage Uragami suppressed Naoie then Naoie once surrendered to Munekage. At this time Munekage coordinated with central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) and was approved as the governor of the territory.

But Naoie who did not give up again raised his army against Munekage in 1574. This time Naoie brought the people of Uragami clan at Harima province, and asked assistance of Mouri clan. Munekage asked support from Nobunaga but Nobunaga still faced Takeda clan at its eastern border and could not send reinforcement to Munekage. 

In 1575 Ukita army and Mouri army at first ruined Mimura clan which allied with Munekage at Bicchu Matsuyama castle, then attacked Tenjinyama castle which was the main base of Uragami clan. At last. Munekage escaped from Tenjinyama castle at that year, and Uragami clan which was the warlord of Bizen province ended its history. As Munekage once captured western border of Harima province such as current Ako city or Aioi city including Kanjosan castle, Kanjosan castle was seized by Ukita clan at that time.

Calculating change of Ukita clan

For a while since then, Naoie attacked neighbor local lord under Mouri clan and increased his territory. In 1577, Nobunaga Oda who beat Takeda clan at the battle of Nagashino and fixed its eastern border started its expansion toward west in earnest. Nobunaga appointed his general Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) as a regional commander of Sanin region and let him start the campaign against Mouri clan.

At first Mouri clan rejected attack of Hideyoshi and supported the revolt of Bessho clan or Murashige Araki (1535-1586) against Oda clan. At this time Mouri army and Ukita army fell Kozuki castle at 20 kilometer north from Kanjosan castle, once captured by Oda army and protected by remnants of Amago clan restoration army. However, after a tough two year siege, Hideyoshi fell Miki castle by supply cutting and also ascended into Tajima province (north part of Hyogo prefecture).

Looking at this situation, Naoie judged that there is no room of expansion under Mouri clan and Ukita clan might be the next target of Oda army sooner or later, turned to Oda army. It was a great support to Hideyoshi who still had limited army, and Hideyoshi’s operation against was accelerated by this turn. Hideyoshi thought important of Ukita clan, and even though Naoie died in ill in 1582, approved current territory to his son Naoie Ukita (1572-1655). 

Border castle of Ukita territory

After the death of Nobunaga in the incident of Honnoji in 1582, Hideyoshi and Mouri clan made peace, including cession of Bicchu province and Mimasaka province (western and north part of Okayama prefecture) to Ukita clan. Ukita clan became a large warlord held whole part of current Okayama prefecture. As Tatsuno castle (Hyogo prefecture) at five kilometer east from Kanjosan castle was the territory of Hideyoshi, Kanjosan castle became the eastern border of Ukita territory at the side of Sanyodo road.

Under this situation, Ukita clan significantly expanded Kanjosan castle as a border castle. Kanjosan castle roughly consist of hilltop area which stem from medieval castle and halfway area expanded at this time.

Structure of Kanjosan castle

Hilltop area is a long continued line of narrow terraces over 200 meter, which are lined at a ridge spreads north and south ward. Central area of the castle is a roughly rectangular area of 40 meter long and 20 meter long, equips stone walls at its south line where was the gap to lower area and entrance of the area. At the south of central area, two large flat areas having low stone wall at both side continues till a steep slope, and this steep slope is shaped into layer of terraces, having low stone walls for the purpose of protection and expanding grounds.

Halfway areas is an irregular shaped flat area of about 150 meter long and 40 meter wide, spreads toward southwest having low stone walls at the side. This area is separated into several square spaces by line of stones, and might be used as a ground of the residence of the lord of warehouses. Southern end of this area is called as a watchtower, has a natural huge rock might be used a basement of watchtower. 

At the southeastern slope just below of halfway area, there is a ruin of main gate of the castle. This main gate is built utilizing small valley, being protected by stone wall at both side and had a folded path. Just above of main gate, there is a ruin of well strengthened by stone walls.

At the northwestern slope, on the opposite side, there is ruin of backside gate which is smaller but has a similar structure of main gate, and ruin of well. Total size of the castle exceeds 500 meter long, and its scale and remnant is prominent among medieval castles of Hyogo prefecture along with Okishio castle.   

Afterward of Ukita clan and Kanjosan castle

Ukita clan prospered as one of the five general ministers under Toyotomi government. But at the battle of Sekigahara between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord under Toyotomi government, and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-160), the chief administrative staff occurred in 1600 after the death of Hideyoshi, Ukita clan became the core of Ishida side army but lost the decisive battle. After the battle Ukita clan lost whole territory, and the leader of Ukita clan was exiled to Hachijojima island. Kanjosan castle was also abolished this time.

Now all building was lost but half broken stone walls well remain both at hilltop area and halfway area. In spite of modernized stone castles used just before Edo era, layer of stone walls and terraces built over a steep slope at the south end of hilltop area has a powerful impression not seen in other castle of same period. This castle is not so famous one but has a satisfactory value to visit. The road from hillside to castle gate is well maintained, but especially a route between halfway area and hilltop area is quite slippery and rough, and visitors should take care to walk around.


20 minutes drive from Sanyo Jidosyado Expressway Tatsuno-Nishi interchange or Harima Jidoshado Expressway Harima-Shingu interchange to "Rakan-no-Sato" camping place at hillside. 15 minutes bus ride to Uryu bus stop of Shinki-Bus from JR West Sanyo-Honsen line Aioi station. 30 minutes walk from hillside entrance to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Tenjinyama Castle (Bizen) -When it goes around it comes around-
Mitsuishi Castle -Castle at various borders-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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