Saturday, January 5, 2019

Shojigatake Castle -Massive terraces looks down ground from the sky-

Shojigatake Castle

-Massive terraces looks down ground from the sky-


Name: Shojigatake castle (Shojigatake-jo)
Place: Saidosho Kawara town, Fukuoka
Location: 33.69305965742025, 130.8763872638944
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 14th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Shojigatake castle (障子ヶ岳城) is built over Shojigatake mountain, one of about 350 meter height from hillside at 20 kilometer south from current Kita-Kyushu city. Former Buzen province (east part of Fukuoka prefecture) is separated into coast area and inland area by line of Hiraodai and Hiko mountains, and Shojigatake mountain is one of these lines of mountains.

Shojigatake area is an important area of communication where many roads connected Moji area and Kawaradake castle, the main base of Chikuho area passed mountains over Ajimi-toge pass, Chuai-toge pass or Kibe-Toge pass near the castle. In addition, the mountain is formed by lime stone, which is durable but relatively easy to dig and shape. Under such reason Shojigatake castle was built at this point.

Origin of Shojigatake castle

The origin of Shojigatake castle is not clear but considering its good scenery and place which can control multiple mountain roads, there might exist castle since the early period of medieval era. According to “Buzen Kojoki”, a record on old castles of Buzen province written in 19th century, Shojigatake castle was originally built by Muneuji Ashikaga, a relative of Takauji Ashikaga (1305-1358), the founder of Muromachi Shogunate once escaped to Kyushu island in the middle of 14th century.

It is recorded that Ashikaga clan held Shojigatake castle over 30 years but later was deprived by local lord Chiba clan, but another 30 years later Chiba clan lost Shojigatake castle by the attack of Ouchi clan, a strong governor of Suo province (Yamaguchi prefecture) advanced to Kyushu island.

Apart from the truthiness story of this record, since the beginning of 15th century after the fall of the South Court army in Kyushu island, Chikuho area became the front of surrounding strong governors such as Ouchi clan, Otomo clan which was the governor of Bungo province (Oita prefecture) also held Nakatsu area, and Shoni clan which remained their power in the south part of Fukuoka prefecture.

Change of holders

Among such situation, Shojigatake castle might not have particular lord and used as military camp for border defense and controlling roads. Ordinary castle of same time have more complex structure and various defense facilities but Shojigatake castle consists of simple flat terraces. Furthermore, there is no ruin of castle town and residence of the lord near the castle.

Throughout 15th century, Ouchi clan was strongest governor in western Japan and virtually defeated Shoni clan then pushed out them from Hakata port. Furthermore, Ouchi clan suppressed Otomo clan and seized middle part of Buzen province, but Otomo clan firmly resisted against Ouchi clan the front of both clans became fixed. At this point Shojigatake castle might be used by Ouchi clan against Otomo clan.

In the meantime, Otomo clan succeeded in centralization and turned to warlord under Yoshiaki Otomo (1502-1550) and his son Yoshishige Otomo (1530-1587). Contrary to this, Ouchi clan seemed at the meridian of its splendor became weakened by too much diversification to deputy governors, and lost its authority by fail of expedition toward Amago clan.

In 1551, Ouchi clan was virtually ruined by the coup d’?tat by its deputy governor Harukata Sue (1521-1555), then Ouchi army retreated from Buzen province and Otomo clan captured major part of Buzen province. Otomo clan struggled over 15 years against Mouri clan which was the warlord of Aki province (Hiroshima prefecture) succeeded the territory of Ouchi clan, then this time Shojigatake castle might be used by Otomo clan against Mouri clan. Each clan reformed Shojigatake castle as needed.

Structure of Shojigatake castle

Structure of Shojigatake castle is quite simple as it spreads over narrow and straight hill. Central area of the castle is one of about 100 meter long and 20 meter wide, separated into upper half at southward and lower half at northward which are 5 meter different height. Whole line of the area is surrounded by clay wall, and a broad part at the south edge of upper area might be used as a basement of watchtower.

At the north of central area, secondary area and “Baba” (riding space) area which are also 50 meter long and 20 meter wide continue below of the slope. Borders of areas are simply separated by steep slopes with straight road, but because of height difference over 10 meters tall this brings massive exterior to this castle.

Ahead of Baba area, across a small dry moat. Kitanomaru area are built utilizing small peak. This area is an edge of hilltop area, and might be used as a watching place toward north and connecting ridge. On the approaching route to castle there are ruins of several frat areas which might be front forts. Total size of the castle is about 300 meter long and an ordinary one as a border castle.

Branch castle of Akizuki clan

Around 1570 Otomo clan became the governor of six provinces out of nine provinces of Kyushu island and became its peak period. But in 1578, Otomo clan suffered fatal defeat at the battle of Minikawa before Shimazu clan, the governor of Satsuma province (western half of Kagoshima prefecture). The authority of Otomo clan significantly declined and local lords formerly belonged to Otomo clan started to left it.

In this area Akizuki clan, which was the lord of Koshosan castle (Fukuoka prefecture) which was once subjugated by Otomo clan and followed became independent lord. Akizuki clan sent their son to Takahashi clan which was the lord of Kokura castle (Fukuoka prefecture), and Takahashi clan captured Kawaradake castle (Fukuoka prefecture) at the next of Shojigatake castle from Otomo clan.

Shojigatake castle might be used as a branch castle of Kawaradake castle by Takahashi clan, but in 1586 central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) marched to Kyushu island with overwhelming army under the request from Otomo clan. Akizuki clan which lost Ganjaku castle (Fukuoka prefecture) only in one day surrendered to Hideyoshi, and Takahashi clan also opened castles to Hideyoshi as there is no record of battle at this castle.

Afterward of castle

After the campaign of Hideyoshi, Shojigatake castle once belonged to Kobayakawa clan which became the lord of Chikuzen province (western half of Fukuoka prefecture) under Toyotomi government. But under consolidation policy of castles to prevent rebellion at local area, Shojigatake castle was abolished in 1589.

Now no building was left but structure of castle well remain on the mountain. As all trees covered castle ruin were taken away, castle site completely shows its massive exterior especially in winter season. Wide scenery from castle site shows this was an important point to control providence. Terraces of the castle is clearly seen from hillside, totally same as 500 years ago when Shojigatake castle was in operation.


30 minutes drive from Higashi-Kyushu Jidoshado Expressway Yukihashi Interchange to Ajimi-Sakura park near Ajimi tunnel. 40 minutes walk from Ajimi-Sakura park to castle site. Be careful for narrow dirt road from Ajimi tunnel to Ajimi-Sakura park.

Related Castles

Kokura Castle -Gate to Kyushu island-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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