Sunday, May 28, 2017

Akutagawasan Castle -Prototype of pre-modern regime (2) struggle with old powers-

Akutagawasan Castle

-Prototype of pre-modern regime (2) struggle with old powers-



Name: Akutagawasan castle / Akutagawayama castle (Akutagawasan-jo / Akutagawayama-jo)
Place: Hara Takatsuki city, Osaka
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: Around 1520
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats 
Title: 100 more famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Continued from Part 1

Akutagawasan castle (芥川山城) is located over Miyoshi-yama mountain, one of about 100 meter tall from hillside at 5 kilometer northwest from Takatsuki city central. Castle site exist in the middle of Settsukyo valley, the one formed by Akutagawa river, and Miyoshiyama mountain is not so tall mountain but securely protected by curved Akutagawa river for its north west and south side. 

In addition to its tactical condition, from geographical view it is an appropriate place to hold a castle at the middle of the capital Kyoto city and Osaka city, and being connected toward Tanba province (western part of Kyoto prefecture) by mountainous route aside of Akutagawa river, and provinces of western Japan by Saigoku-Kaido road.

Origin of Akutagawasan castle

Akutagawasan castle is relatively newly built castle around 1520, under Takakuni Hosokawa (1484-1531). Takakuni Hosokawa was one of three adopted son of Masamoto Hosokawa (1466-1507) who held the experiment of Muromachi Shogunate around 1500. After the assassination of Masamoto Hosokawa in 1507, Takakuni struggled with other two brothers in law Sumiyuki Hosokawa (1489-1507) and Sumimoto Hosokawa (1489-1520).

In 1508 Takakuni Hosokawa allied with Ouchi clan, the strong warlord of Suo province (Yamaguchi prefecture), then broke Sumiyuki Hosokawa and his general Yukinaga Miyoshi (1457-1520) and expelled them from Kyoto city next year. But Sumiyuki and Yukinaga who kept their power at Awa province (Tokushima prefecture), opposite of Awaji island, held their government at Sakai city and still affected western half of Kinki region.

To protect the attack of Sumiyuki and Yukinaga to Kyoto city from westward, Takakuni built Akutagawa castle and placed Nose clan as the commander of the castle. In 1520, looking at the leave of Ouchi army from Kyoto city Sumiyuki Hosokawa and Yukinaga Miyoshi raised their army and once deprived Kyoto city, but facing the counterattack of Takakuni Hosokawa supported by neighbor lords such as Rokkaku clan or Asakura clan, Sumiyuki and Yukinaga suffered severe defeat and died.

Regretful death of father

Takakuni once captured the experiment of Muromachi Shogunate, but there occurred internal conflict with his general Kataharu Yanagimoto (?-1530). Kataharu allied with Motonaga Miyoshi (1503-1532), the grandson of Yukinaga Miyoshi, and raised his army against Takakuni Hosokawa in 1526. At this time Akutagawasan castle was captured by Kataharu Yanagimoto, and finally Motonaga and Kataharu broke Takakuni and expelled him from Kyoto city.

However, in 1529 Takakuni raised his army being supported by Uragami clan which was the lord of Harima province (Hyogo prefecture), and Kataharu Yanagimoto who tried to suppress it was assassinated. Accelerated Takakuni aimed at Kyoto city by huge army, but Motonaga Miyoshi barely stopped it and finally ruined at the battle of Daimotsu Kuzure in 1531.

However, this time Motonaga Miyoshi broke with his master Harumoto Hosokawa (1514-1563). In 1533 Motonaga encircled Iimoriyama castle (Osaka prefecture) held by Nagamasa Kizawa (1493-1542) who belonged to Harumoto Hosokawa, but because of the plot of Harumoto, overwhelming army of Ikko Ikki by believers of Jodo-Shinshu denomination of Japanese Buddhism attacked Motonaga from backside. Motonaga let his son Nagayoshi Miyoshi (1522-1564, also called as Chokei) escape then fought with Ikko Ikki army and died there.

Appearance of Nagayoshi Miyoshi

After that Harumoto suppressed Ikko Ikki army by alliance with their rival Hokke-shu, then burnt down Yamashina Honganji temple, the main temple of Jodo Shinshu. Harumoto became the first class retainer of Muromachi Shogunate used Akutagawasan castle as a main base, and strengthened it into a secure castle. Harumoto agreed with Nagayoshi Miyoshi who grown up, and his government seemed stable.

But Harumoto Hosokawa also suffered from internal conflicts between strong retainers including Nagamasa Kizawa and Nagayoshi Miyoshi. Furthermore, in 1543, Ujitsuna Hosokawa (1514-1564), an adopted son of Takakuni Hosokawa, started his activity against Harumoto Hosokawa. 

In 1547, Ujitsuna Hosokawa allied with Naganori Yusa (1491-1551), the deputy governor of Kawachi province (south part of Osaka prefecture), and deprived Akutagawasan castle held by the relative of Nagayoshi. In response to this, Harumoto Hosokawa and Nagayoshi Miyoshi once retreated from Kyoto city to gather reinforcement army from their territory.

Nagayoshi and excellent younger brothers

At this time, younger brothers of Nagayoshi Miyoshi it means Jikkyu Miyoshi (1527-1562), Kazumasu Sogo (1532-1561) and Fuyuyasu Ataki (1528-1564) governed Awa province (Tokushima prefecture), Sanuki province (Kagawa prefecture) and Awaji province (Awaji island respectively). Jikkyu was good at politics and culture, Kazumasu was known for his braveness, and Fuyuyasu commanded navy of Awaji island.

Miyoshi army lead by Nagayoshi and excellent younger brothers reached to 20,000 soldier, and started counter attack against Ujitsuna Hosokawa. The army of Harumoto and Nagayoshi recovered Akutagawasan castle and marched into Kyoto city, then captured Kyoto city and expelled Yoshiharu Ashikaga (1511-1550) who opposed to Harumoto. Next Harumoto and Nagayoshi broke the army of Naganori Yusa at the battle of Shariji in 1547.

Now it seemed Harumoto Hosokawa stabilized his government, but originally Harumoto was the enemy of the father for Nagayoshi Miyoshi. Because of several reasons such as coordination with Yoshiharu Ashikaga or punishment for the retainer of Nagayoshi, in 1547, Nagayoshi finally changed to Ujitsuna Hosokawa and raised his army against Harumoto Hosokawa.

Leave from former master and capture of power

In 1549, Harumoto Hosokawa and Nagayoshi Miyoshi made a decisive battle at Eguchi castle. Being supported by his younger brothers, Nagayoshi broke Hosokawa army at Eguchi castle suffered from the lack of supply, and totally destroyed it. Harumoto and Yoshiharu Ashikaga escaped from Kyoto city to Kutsuki area, and the government of Harumoto collapsed. 

Nagayoshi entered vacant Kyoto city virtually established his government, for the first time by Ashikaga clan or their relatives. Since then Nagayoshi used Akutagawasan castle as his main base. Nagayoshi also attacked surrounding castles belonged to Harumoto and expanded their territory into Tanba province or Harima province.

At this time it was possible for Nagayoshi to build his own government using the relative of Ashikaga clan as a nominal Shogun, later executed by Nobunaga Oda (1537-1598). But facing insistent resistance of Yoshiteru Ashikaga (1536-1565) stayed at Kutsuki area, son of Yoshiharu Ashikaga and 13th Shogun, Nagayoshi finally chose to coordinate with Yoshiteru. 

In 1552, Yoshiteru agreed with Nagayoshi returned to Kyoto city, then Ujitsuna and Nagayoshi became the first and second retainer of Shogunate. Now Miyoshi clan originally a small lord in the deep mountain of Awa province became most powerful lord Akutagawasan castle also prospered as the main base of Nagayoshi.

Structure of Akutagawasan castle

Akutagawasan castle spreads over Miyoshiyama mountain, consist of two small peak at the east and west end of hilltop area and small valley between them. Central area of the castle is a long and narrow oblong shaped area of 60 meter long and 20 meter wide at the top of western peak. There are terraces surrounding this central area toward west and south, each is separated by dry moat and clay bridge from core area.

Contrary to western part, eastern part consist of well shaped square areas, might be expanded at later period. This side is connected to next mountains, and there might be a front fort toward east. At the saddle point of two peaks, there is a large square shaped area of 50 meter square which might used as a commanding place toward east and south.

The valley starts this saddle point of these part toward south is a main route from hillside, and there partially remain the ruin of stone wall. Other than them there are stone walls here and there, but it is difficult to distinguish if there are original ones or later built for cultivation. Total size of the castle reaches to 500 meter long and 300 meter wide, and its size and construction is prominent among neighbor castles.

Afterward of castle

In 1560, Nagayoshi changed his main base from Akutagawasan castle (Osaka prefecture) to newly captured Iimoriyama castle, and left Akutagawasan castle to his successor Yoshioki Miyoshi (1542-1563). Once agreed but Yoshiteru Ashikaga who aimed direct ruling opposed to Nagayoshi, and Nagayoshi might intend to keep distance from Yoshiaki and focus on the management of territory from its center.

Akutagawasan castle was held by Miyoshi clan by 1568, but by Nobunaga Oda who marched to Kyoto city. Nobunaga gave Akutagawasan castle to Koremasa Wada (1530-1571), along with Takatsuki castle (Osaka prefecture). But after the death of Koremasa, new lord Tomoteru Takayama (?-1595) who was the father of famous Catholic lord Shigetomo Takayama (1553-1615) abolished Akutagawasan castle.

Now all building was lost but structure of the castle well remain on the hill, in spite of partial destruction by cultivation. Ruin of the castle is covered by bamboo forest and it is difficult to grasp the whole shape, but its size and ruin shows the power of Miyoshi clan and importance of the castle. Same as its owner, Akutagawasan castle was progressive at that time but short-lived one. 


Bus ride to Tsukawaki bus stop from JR West Tokaido-Honsen line Takatsuki station. 20 minutes drive from Meishin Expressway Ibaraki interchange.

Related Castles

Onishi Castle -Prototype of per-modern regime (1) down the river and across the straight-
Iimori Castle -Prototype of pre-modern regime (3) short peak and sudden fall-
Shozui Castle -Prototype of pre-modern regime (4) the end after slow decline-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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