Saturday, May 27, 2017

Takao Castle -Nothing is more disgraceful than small territory lords -

Takao Castle

-Nothing is more disgraceful than small territory lords -



Name: Takao castle (Takao-jo)
Place: Himi Saijo city, Ehime
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 16th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Takao castle (高尾城) is located at Takao-yama mountain, one of about 150 meter height from hillside at the northern edge of mountainous area continues from Ishizuchi-yama mountain. Castle site exists in the western part of Niihama plain, a long and narrow one of about 50 kilometer long and 5 kilometer wide in the eastern part of current Ehime prefecture.

Currently because of the land reclamation there is a large flat land in front of the castle site by the coast line of Seto-Naikai sea, but formerly it was a huge tideland formed by Nakayama-gawa river and Kamo-gawa river except for small height at current Komatsu town. In the medieval era there might be only mountainous road connected Komatsu area and Saijo area, and Takao castle was at an useful point to control this road.

Origin of Takao castle

Precise year is unknown but Takao castle might be built around 1530 by local lord Ishikawa clan. In Muromachi era Iyo province (Ehime prefecture) was nominally governed by Kono clan, a traditional clan since the beginning of Kamakura era, but because of continuous internal conflicts and intervention from surrounding large lord, Kono clan significantly lost their power and authority.

Especially eastern part of Iyo province faced Sanuki province (Kagawa prefecture) where was a main base of strong lord Hosokawa clan which was the highest retainer of Muromachi Shogunate. In the latter half of 15th century a tributary of Kono clan at the east part of the province struggled for the leader of Kono clan supported by Hosokawa clan, but this attempt failed and ruined then Kono clan lost domination in this area.

Under such circumstance, Ishikawa clan rose to the leader of local lords of the area in the former half of 16th century. Ishikawa clan was originally a local lord of Bicchu province (western part of Okayama prefecture) but crossed Seto-Naikai sea and came to Iyo province. Ishikawa clan built Takatoge castle at the 10 kilometer east from Takao castle as their main base.

In 1520's there was conflict between Ishikawa clan and Kurokawa clan, which might be the distant relative of Chosokabe clan and the lord of Tsurugiyama castle at the west of Ishikawa clan. Finally Ishikawa clan coordinated with Kurokawa clan, but to protect their western border Ishikawa clan built Takao castle as a branch castle. 

At first Ishikawa clan appointed Gendayu Ishikawa (?-?) as the lord of Takao castle, but Gendayu later was killed by opposing local lords, and Takahashi clan which was originally local lord of Niihama area became the commander of Takao castle. According to the record Takahashi clan well managed local residents and strengthened Takao castle.

Structure of Takao castle

Takao castle is built utilizing long continued ridge toward north from backside mountains, between deep valley at both side. Central area of the castle is a round shaped area of about 20 meter diameter, with a clay basement of main building at south side.

At the north of central area, there is a lower terrace of about 20 meter diameter which has a good scenery toward north including Niihama plain and Seto-Naikai sea. For northward there are several ridges prolong, and there might be terraces on these ridges. 

Contrary to this, as southward of the castle is weak point of the castle connecting to higher backside mountains, this point is securely protected by combination of dry moats. At the tip of the main ridge 500 meter apart from main castle, there was a outer fort of Takao castle and also was used as a residence of Takahashi clan.

Rise of Kaneko clan

In the middle of 16th century, Ishikawa clan grasped eastern part of Iyo province, and opposed to Kono clan in cooperation with Miyoshi clan which was warlord of Awa province (Tokushima prefecture) and once seized central area. In 1572 Ishikawa clan raised their army with Miyoshi clan against Kono clan, but at this time facing counter attack of Kono clan Ishikawa army was broken and Takao castle once fell.

Later Ishikawa clan once coordinated with Kono clan and recovered Takao castle. But inside Ishikawa clan the power of Kaneko clan gradually rose. Kaneko clan was originally a branch family of Kaneko clan at current Saitama prefecture then became a local lord of Kaneko castle at Niihama area. Motoie Kaneko (?-1585), the leader of Kaneko clan, became marital relative of Ishikawa clan and gradually seized the power inside the clan.

In the latter half of 1570's, Motochika Chosokabe (1539-1599) who rose from small lord to the warlord of Tosa province (Kochi prefecture) started his campaign for unity of Shikoku island. Motochika attacked weakened Kono clan and Miyoshi clan, and also made pressure to the eastern part of Iyo province between both clans.

Alliance with Chosokabe clan

Facing this situation, Ishikawa clan and Kaneko clan decided to follow to Chosokabe clan, and sent their son as hostage. After the death of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) who tried to restrain Chosokabe clan in 1582, Motochika accelerated his invasion to the remaining territory of Kono clan and Miyoshi clan. 

By the end of 1584, Chosokabe clan virtually seized whole part of Shikoku island, and as the leader of Ishikawa clan died in ill, Motoie Kaneko became leader of the area under Chosokabe clan. At this time Motoie also communicated to Mouri clan, a large warlord of Chugoku region and master of Kono clan once allied with Chosokabe clan against Nobunaga.

However, on June 1585, Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) who was formerly a regional commander of Nobunaga Oda and became the next ruler, started his campaign against Chosokabe clan. At this time Mouri clan subordinated to Hideyoshi, and sent 30,000 army to Iyo province lead by Takakage Kobayakawa (1533-1597), who lead Mouri clan along with his elder brother Motoharu Kikkawa (1530-1586).

Nothing is more disgraceful than small territory lords

As Chosokabe army was totally outnumbered by Toyotomi army and had to face with attack from multiple direction, there was no hope for the assistance from Chosokabe army to Motoie Kaneko. Local lord only had 2,000 army, then gathered and discussed the response to this invasion. 

According to military tale "Chosuiki", among the dispute Motoie insisted that "nothing is more disgraceful than small territory lords. Yesterday surrendered to Chosokabe clan, and today gave in Takakage Kobayakawa leaving hostages to Chosokabe clan. Comparing with shameful survival, it was desirable to die manfully and leave the fame to later era". 

Agreed to this insist, local lords gathered to Motoie and prepared for the battle against Mouri army. Motoie placed his younger brother Motoharu Kaneko at Kaneko castle, and besieged at Takao castle with most part of army. Response to this, Kobayakawa army at first attacked Kaneko castle and fell it after one week attack.

Fall at Tensho-no-Jin and afterward

Next Kobayakawa army surrounded Takao castle by its whole army. Defenders well fought against overwhelming Kobayakawa army, but at first outer fort fell. Next Kobayakawa army climbed to backside mountain and fired inside of the castle, thus Kaneko army gradually declined. Motoie finally burnt down the buildings of Takao castle and left it, then charged into Kobayakawa army with 800 soldiers. 

After short but fierce battle, Motoie and his army all died in the battle. This continuous battle is called as "Tensho-no-Jin", gave severe damage to the area. 10 days after that, Motochika Chosokabe who lost most part of Sanuki province and Awa province surrendered to Hideyoshi, without prominent battle against Toyotomi army. During Shikoku campaign, only Motoie Kaneko made heroic fight and died.

After the battle, Takao castle was abolished. Now the structure of the castle slightly remain on the mountain, covered by the bush. Recently narrow climbing road near the bridge of Matsuyama Highway was prepared, and it became a little more accessible to the castle sight. 

As a result of the battle, local lords lost their lives and territories but surely their name remained in the history, as intended. Castle site still reminds us fierce battle and heroic death of proud local lords, as if it is the fate of the castle designated by the last order of former holders.


20 minutes walk from JR Shikoku Yosan-sen line Iyo-Himi station to hillside. 20 minutes drive from Matsuyama Jidoshado-do Expressway Iyo-Komatsu interchange. 20 minutes walk from hillside to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Pictures (click to enlarge)

No comments:

Post a Comment