Monday, October 3, 2016

Matsuo Castle -Short-lived castellum in mountains-

Matsuo Castle

-Short-lived castellum in mountains-



Name: Matsuo castle (Matsuo-jo)
Alias: Koishiwara-jo (Koishiwara castle)
Place: Koishiwara Toho village, Fukuoka
Location: 33.4715019541358, 130.82384617992417
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 15th century?
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Matsuo castle (松尾城), which is also called as Koishihara castle (小石原城), is located on Shiroyama hill, one of about 50 meter height from hillside at the center of the valley of Koishikawa, in the north part of Toho village at the south edge of current Fukuoka prefecture. Koishikawa araa is a small valley of 1 kilometer square near the source of Koishikawa river, which is a large tributary of Chikugogawa river that flows westward and forms Chikushi plain toward Ariake sea.

Even though a small mountainous valley, Koishihara area is a cross point of roads from Kuruma area at westward passing Akizuki area, from Kama area at the north across Kama-toge pass, mountainous road to eastward for Hikosan moutain, Tagawa providence to Bungo bay, and to southward toward Hita area of Bungo province. Because of this geographical condition, Koishihara area was a strategic point at the south edge of Chikuzen provine (western part of Fukuoka prefecture).

Origin of Matsuo castle

Precise year is unknown but small castle might be built in the middle of 15th century, when Otomo clan which was the governor of Bungo province (Oita prefecture) and Ouchi clan which was the warlord of Suo province (Yamaguchi prefecture) which also held northeastern part of Kyushu island fiercely fought. Along with the fall of Ouchi clan at the middle of 16th century, Otomo clan once seized hegemony at the north half of Kyushu island, and Matsuo castle might be kept under Otomo clan.

But after the defeat of Otomo clan at the battle of Mimikawa before Shimazu clan which was the warlord of Satsuma province (Kagoshima prefecture), Otomo clan rapidly lost their power because of the leave of retainers and local lords. Looking at this opportunity, Tanezane Akizuki (?-1596) who was the lord of Koshosan castle at the west of Koishihara area rapidly grew into a strong warlord of the area.

Akizuki clan was a traditional local lord stem from central noble Haruzane Okura (?-?), who subjugated the rebellion of Sumitomo Fujiwara (?-941) in 10th century. Akizuki clan originally belonged to Ouchi clan, but after the fall of Ouchi clan once followed to Otomo clan. 

Border castle of Akizuki clan

But in 1557, Fumitane Akizuki (1512-1557), the leader of Akizuki clan, left Otomo clan and turned to Mouri clan which was the warlord of Aki province (Hiroshima prefecture) and proceeded into north part of Kyushu island. But this time Otomo clan attacked Koshosan castle with dominant army and Akizuki clan once ruined.

Later Tanezane Akizuki (?-1596),who was the son of Fumitane and survived the battle, returned to former territory and restored the clan. Tanezane once belonged to Otomo clan, but looking at the rebel of important generals of Otomo clan such as Akitane Takahashi (1529-1579) who was the lord of Homanyama castle or Akitoshi Tachibana (?-1568) at Tachibanayama castle under the support of Mouri clan, Tanezane also raised against Otomo clan. But this time Otomo clan finally suppressed these rebellion after tough battles, and Tanezane surrendered to Yoshishige Otomo.

However, looking at the fall of Otomo clan at the battle of Mimikawa in 1578, Tadazane allied with Shimazu clan and captured neighbor territory of Otomo clan. Being defeated several time before Dosetsu Tachibana (1513-1585), an excellent general of Otomo clan,  Tanezane increased his territory around Buzen province by sending his son as successors of Takashi clan or Nagano clan. 

Reform by Kuroda clan

After the death of Dosetsu, Otomo clan could not protect their territory any more, and Tanezane had a vast territory. To protect the border to Bungo province, Akizuki clan reformed Matsuo castle and placed their retainer Hosyuyama clan. But at the time of Kyushu campaign by central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) in 1587, Akizuki clan was defeated by Hideyoshi then surrendered but lost their original territory.

After the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Nagamasa Kuroda (1568-1623) was appointed as the lord of Chikuzen province. Other than his new main base Fukuoka castle, Nagamasa placed six branch castle at its eastern border against Buzen province, including Wakamatsu castle, Kurosaki castle, Takatoriyama castle, Masutomi castle, Koishikawa castle and Matera castle from north.

Structure of Matsuo castle

Nagamasa reformed medieval castle and built a castellum using the form of original terrain. Core area of the castle is a rectangular one of 50 meter long and 20 meter wide, which is separated into upper layer at eastern half and lower layer of western half. Being simplified to the utmost limit, Matsuo castle quite resembles to Roman castellums in Western world, which consist of square shaped stone walls with watchtowers at each corner.

At the end of eastern half, there is a basement of main building which might be a barrack turret covered northeastern corner and south eastern corner. At this layer there is a ruin of corner stone which might be used as a residence of the lord. At the middle of northern and southern line, there is a basement of corner turret which worked as projection points to made side attack to the enemy climbing stone walls.

On the other hand, at the western edge of lower half, there is a four meter wide formal Masugata style main gate of the castle, which is a large one compared with small size of this castle. This gate might be protected by barrack turret crosses over the gate, and there might be a barrack building at this area. The slope of the hill is covered by numerous lines of vertical dry moats, which might be built at Akizuki period to prevent the movement of enemy.  

Commander of short lived castle

Nagamasa appointed Munetane Nakama (1551-1625) as the commander of Matsuo castle. Nakama clan was originally a local lord of Buzen province, and a tributary of Utsunomiya clan which was the largest local lord of province. At the time of Kyushu campaign by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Utsunomiya clan once followed to Hideyoshi along with Nakama clan.

But Utsunomiya clan became opponent with Nagamasa Kuroda who was appointed as the lord of Buzen province then rebelled at their main base Kinoi castle. At this time Nakama clan kept loyalty to Nagamasa, and activated at the suppression of rebellion. Furthermore, at the time of the battle of Sekigahara, Munetahe contributed to the victory at the battle of Ishigakihara against Yoshimune Otomo (1558-1610) who was expelled by Hideyoshi and tried to restore his territory.

To reward the achievement of Nakama clan, Nagamasa appointed Munetane as the commander of branch castle. But in 1615, based on Ikkoku Ichijo Rei (one domain one castle rule) published at that year, Matsuo castle was abolished and ended its short history as modern castellum.

Afterward of castle

Now all building was lost but shape of the castle well remain on the hill. At the time of abolition stone walls especially around main gate was broken, but partially remains around main building and turret basements. It is interesting to see the coincidence of Matsuo castle and Western castellums, but it might be a reasonable shape to combine watching, living and protecting purpose at minimum ground, both in the East and West. Visit by public transportation is difficult, but by car it is accessible with Masutomi castle or Ganjaku castle.


40 minutes bus drive from Haki bus station to Koishikawa bus stop of Nishitetsu bus. 30 minutes drive from Oita Jidoshado Expressway Haki interchange.

Related Castles

Masutomi Castle -One day siege and one day build (2)-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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