Sunday, October 23, 2016

Soma Nakamura Castle -1200 year history castle of 700 year history clan-

Soma Nakamura Castle

-1200 year history castle of 700 year history clan-



Name: Soma Nakamura castle (Soma Nakamura-jo)
Alias: Nakamura jo (Nakamura castle), Baryo-jo (Baryo castle)
Place: Nakamura-Kitamachi Soma city, Fukushima
Location: 37.79815595794773, 140.91510230163465
Type: Hill Castle
Built: Originally around 800, expanded in 1611
Remaining remnants: Gate, stone walls, clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Nakamura castle (中村城) is located over a small hill which is an eastern end of Abukuma mountains prolonged eastward to center of Soma city. Castle site is a flat area being  sandwiched by Koizumi-gawa river, Udawata river and moats, and is a suitable place to build castle and castle town. Soma area is an important area of communication where is the meeting point of coastal road and mountainous roads to Fukushima basin or Kakuda basin. 

Soma area places at the north part of Hamadori area, a long and narrow flat area continues over 200 kilometer from Ibaraki prefecture to Fukushima prefecture and Miyagi prefecture along the coast of Pacific Ocean. Because of limited flat area the main route of Tohoku area spreads at inland area along with Abukuba-gawa river, but Hamadori area experienced long history since ancient era.

Origin of Nakamura castle

Precise year is unknown but it is said that Nakamura castle was originally built by Tamuramaro Sakanoue (758-811) around 800. Tamuramaro Sakanoue was an ancient general of Yamato Dynasty who made large expeditions toward Tohoku region and stabilized situation, the was appointed as first Seii Taishogun later became the title of each Shogunate. 

Apart from the truth of this story, in ancient era Hamadori area where is relatively flat and less snowy than Tozando road was used as a bypass route from Kanto region to Tagajo castle, a vice capital of Yamato dynasty at Tohoku region where Tamuramaro stayed. Soma area at the north part and Iwaki area at the south part were good stopping points of the road, and it is rationale administrative and supply base was built at current castle site.

After the fall of Oshu Fujiwara clan which reigned Tohoku region as a semi-independent power throughout 12th century, Kamakura Shogunate gave the north half of Hamadori area to Soma clan and south half to Iwaki clan.

Origin of Soma clan

Soma clan was a descendant of Tsunetane Chiba (1118-1201), a local lord of Shimousa province (north part of Chiba prefecture) supported raise of Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199) who was once defeated at the battle of Ishibashiyama then escaped to Boso peninsula.

Chiba clan activated at many battles of Yoritomo, and contributed to the defeat of Taira clan and establishment of Kamakura Shogunate by Yoritomo. Furthermore, Tsunetane served as a commander of one army at expedition toward Oshu Fujiwara clan which prospered at current Tohoku region in 1190. After the fall of Oshu Fujiwara clan, Chiba clan achieved territories at Tohoku region, including current Soma area. 

Later Chiba clan placed their people at these territories, and these branch families gradually settled to each providence then turned to local lord. At the fall of Kamakura Shogunate by Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339) in 1333, unlike neighbor local lord, Soma clan consistently belonged to Takauji Ashikaga (1305-1358) who once supported Emperor but later left and established his own Muromachi Shogunate.

Crisis and growth at coast area

Emperor Godaigo sent his brilliant general Akiie Kitabatake (1318-1338) as a general commander of Tohoku region, and facing the change of Takauji, Akiie made two time long expedition from Tohoku region to Kyoto city to ruin Ashikaga clan. During this campaign, Soma clan was severely defeated and once lost their main base Odaka castle, but after the death of Akiie, they recovered their territory and was certified by Muromachi Shogunate.

Throughout 15th century, Soma clan gradually grew their power and expanded into the middle part of coastal area of current Fukushima prefecture. Furthermore, in the beginning of 16th century, Soma clan suppressed Iwaki clan and expanded into south part of coastal area. 

In 1542, at Date clan which was the strong lord of Date providence and Yonezawa basin next to Soma clan, an internal conflict named “Tenbun no Ran” occurred between Tanemune Date (1488-1565), the leader of Date clan, and his son Harumune Date (1519-1578). As Akitane Soma (1508-1549), the leader of Soma clan, married with the daughter of Tanemune, Akitane belonged to Tanemune and rescued him confined at Kori Nishiyama castle.

Struggle against Date clan

After six years battle, this internal conflict ended as the victory of Terumune in 1548, and Tanemune was forced to retire at Marumori castle. Date clan significantly declined by this long time battle, and Soma clan was regarded with hostility by new leader Harumune Date. Under such circumstance, Soma clan left Date clan and started fierce conflict.

Terumune Date moved his main base from Kori Nishiyama castle at Date providence to Yonezawa castle at Yonezawa basin at the center of south half of Tohoku region, to restore relationships with surrounding warlords. But this also declined the control to eastern territory, and Tanemune who stayed at the next of Soma clan died in ill in 1565. 

In 1566, Moritane Soma (1529-1601), son of Akitane Soma, broke Date army then advanced into Kakuda basin. Soma army captured Kaneyama area and built Kaneyama castle as a bridgehead to Kakuda basin. From Kaneyama castle Soma clan attacked surrounding castles belonged to Date clan, and finally seized Marumori castle in 1570 then captured whole part of Kakuda basin. 

Another crisis and survival

Around this time, Soma clan grew into a strong warlord which held over 60 kilometer long territory along with Pacific Ocean. To cope with the expansion of territory toward north and prepare for Date clan, Soma clan reformed and used Nakamura castle which can manage the road to Fukushima basin or Kakuda basin as another main base of the clan.

But just after that, Terumune Date (1544-1585), son of Harumune Date, won over Tamura clan at the next of south part of Soma clan by marriage of his son Masamune Date (1567-1636) and female of Tamura clan. Soma clan continued brave fight against Date clan with less army, but situation became worse and worse. In 1584 Soma clan had to make peace with Date clan, leaving Kakuda basin including Kaneyama castle and Marumori castle to Date clan.

After the seizure of Kaneyama castle, Masamune Date suppressed Soma clan then Soma clan was once forced to the corner. Soma clan resisted against Date clan in cooperation with Ashina clan and Satake clan, but once prepared last battle against Date clan. However, in 1590, Masamune Date chose to subordinate to central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598). Soma clan also followed to Hideyoshi then survived as the lord of Soma area under Toyotomi government. 

Temporal expulsion and return

After the death of Hideyoshi, Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord under Toyotomi government, and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), chief magistrate of Hideyoshi, conflicted for next hegemony. As Soma clan was attached to Satake clan along with Iwaki clan, Soma clan kept neutral along with Satake clan which was at the next of Ieyasu but close to Mitsunari.

On the other hand, Soma clan consulted the convenience of  their fatal enemy Masamune Date, who belonged to Ieyasu and tried to return to his main base Sendai castle by detouring Uesugi territory. After the victory of Ieyasu at the decisive battle of Sekigahara, Soma clan once lost its territory by Edo Shogunate. 

However, Soma clan asked revival to Shogunate, and under the support from Masamune Soma clan was approved to return to their former territory. In 1611, Soma clan renovated Nakamura castle and moved their main base from Odaka castle, considering convenience of communication and good port.   

Structure of Nakamura castle

Nakamura castle is built utilizing the edge of long and narrow plateau. Central area of the castle is a triangle shaped terrace of 150 meter long and 100 meter wide, which is surrounded by water moat and partially protected by stone walls. Originally a three story main tower was built at the southwestern corner, but burnt down by thunder in 1670.

Secondary area surrounds whole direction of central area, and third areas were placed at east, north and west of secondary area. Northward of castle is securely protected by large ponds, and outer forts were built outside of the castle. Total size of castle is about 400 meter square, and becoming as a main base of feudal lords along with structures such as stone walls or masugata-style gates.

Relatively large central area and surrounding layer of narrow outer areas is a traditional style of Eastern Japan, and alike to Kubota castle which was built by Satake clan transferred to Dewa province (Akita prefecture).

Afterward of castle

Experiencing several crisis, Soma clan reigned Soma area over 700 years by the end of Edo era. Same as Shimazu clan or Sagara clan also kept their territory long time, isolation of territory and long history of clan assisted this result, although it is as a matter of chanse. Nakamura castle was also used by the end of Edo era over 1,200 years from its first built.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, all building except for former main gate was destructed. Ground of castle site is used as a ground of shrines or baseball field, but structure of castle such as clay walls or water moats well remain in the city, including outer areas. Now castle site serves important role at Soma Nomaoi, a traditional large cavalry festival held in July, which conveys tradition of medieval Samurais ran around plains of Kanto region until now.  


20 minutes walk from JR East Joban-sen line Soma station (currently suspended from both of Mito city and Sendai city) . 15 minutes drive from Joban-do Expressway Soma interchange.

Related Castles

Pictures (click to enlarge)

No comments:

Post a Comment