Sunday, May 31, 2020

Hinonara Castle -Castle protected western edge of Tokyo Metropolis-

Hinohara Castle

-Castle protected western edge of Tokyo Metropolis-



Name: Hinohara castle (Hinohara-jo)
Place: Motoshuku Hinohara village, Tokyo
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 15th century?
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Hinohara castle (檜原城) is built over Shiroyama-mountain, one of about 180 meter height from hillside at the side of current Hinohara village core area. Akigawa river, which is a major tributary of Tama-gawa river, is divided into Kita-Akigawa river at north and Minami-Akigawa river and go up westward parallel, like a tuning folk. Caste site exists just at this meeting point.

Along the Kita-Akigawa river it is possible to access to Ome Kaido Road which connects Ome area and Kofu basin across Ogochi-Toge pass. Contrary to this, from Minami-Akigawa river it can be accessible to Uenohara area of current Yamanashi prefecture across Sengen Toge pass. Castle site is a narrow mountain valley but it has been an important place at western edge of Tokyo Metropolis.

Geography of Hinohara village

Tokyo Metropolis has an isosceles shape of 50 kilometer long like a compass faces east. East quarter is a bayside low height area, and middle two quarters are flat area over Musashino Height. And west quarter is a mountainous area which is surrounded by Chichibu area of Saitama prefecture and Daibosatsu Mountains of Yamanashi prefecture, kept by Tokyo Metropolis as water source forest area.

Hinohara village is a small one at near the end of this triangle shaped Tokyo Metropolis, at the upstream of Akigawa river. It is a cool and quiet area surrounded by 800 meter to 1,000 meter height mountains except for the road runs along with Aki-gawa river. Because of this geographical closure, there are many tales that many looser of the battle ran into this area to hide themselves and resided.

But Hinohara area also has been used as a bypass route from Kanto area to Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture), instead of Koshu Kaido road which runs southward and crosses Kobotoke-Toge pass or Otarumi-Toge pass. Later Edo Shogunate built a gate at the center of Hinohara village, to control the communication through this bypass route.

Origin of Hirayama clan

Precise year is unknown but Hinohara castle might be built in 15th century by local lord Hirayama clan. Hirayama clan was originally a samurai of Nishi-To group, which spreads around Tama-gawa river. Original base of Hirayama clan remains as Hirayama Castle park at the south of Aki-gawa river, in the border of current Hino city and Hachioji city.

At the establishment of Kamakura Shogunate, Sueshige Hirayama (1140?-1212?), the leader of Hirayama clan, fought under Yoshitsune Minamoto (1159-1189), the younger brother of Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199) and was good at tactics, Sueshige served as vanguard at many battles such as the battle of Ichinotani or Yashima, and contributed the collapse of Taira clan.

Later Yoshitsune broke with Yoritomo and was purged, but Sueshige survived and activated at the battle against Oshu Fujiwara clan. Hirayama clan did not become a high-class retainer of Shogunate but was not involved in the internal conflict of Shogunate then continued as local lord of the area.

Among rise and fall of powers

In the middle of Muromachi Era, Hirayama clan also held the inside of Hinohara valley and built Hinohara castle preparing for Kai province. In the latter half of 15th century long conflicts among Kamakura Kubo, Yamanouchi Uesugi clan which served Kanto Kanrei, or its branch family Ogigayatsu Uesugi clan. 

Hirayama clan might follow Yamanouchi Uesugi clan, along with Oishi clan which was the major local lord of Tama-gawa river area and the lord of Takiyama castle (Tokyo metropolis) at the side of Akigawa river. But since the beginning of 16th century, utilizing the conflicts of ancient regime Hojo clan which arose as the lord of Izu province (Izu peninsula) entered into Kanto region.

After half century battle, Hojo clan seized Sagami province (Kanagawa prefecture) and south part of Musashi province (Tokyo metropolis and Saitama prefecture). Ancient regime of Kanto region such as Koga-Kubo highness and two Uesugi clans allied and attacked Kawagoe castle held by Hojo clan in 1551 but suffered severe defeat at the night battle and collapsed.

Border castle of Hojo clan toward Kai province

After the battle Hirayama clan followed to Hojo clan along with Oishi clan. As Hojo clan allied with Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), the warlord of Kai province, Hirayama clan experienced peace time for 15 years. But in 1568, Hojo clan broke with Takeda clan blaming for the invasion of Shingen to Imagawa clan, the warlord of Suruga province (Shizuoka prefecture) and formerly allied with Takeda clan and Hojo clan.

Hojo clan prepared for the attack of Takeda clan from Hinohara area, but in 1569 Shingen lead his main army from Usui Toge pass and marched from Kozuke province (Gunma prefecture) at northward, and detached army crossed Kobotoke Toge pass. Two army merged and attacked Takiyama castle guarded by Ujiteru Hojo (1542-1590) then moved to Odawara castle (Kanagawa prefecture), the main base of Hojo clan.

In 1571, Hojo clan again allied with Shingen Takeda. But in 1579, Hojo clan broke with Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), the successor of Shingen, from the internal conflict of Uesugi clan which was the lord of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture). Takeda clan declined after the battle of Nagashino in 1575 but still attacked Hojo clan at Kozuke province (Gunma prefecture), and Hinohara castle might be strengthened preparing for Takeda clan.

Structure of Hinohara castle

Hinohara castle spreads over narrow ridge prolongs northward from the peak. Central area of the castle is an oblong shaped one of 20 meter long at the peak, with several terraces built at northern slope. As southward of central area is connected to backside mountains, this section is protected by combination of three dry moats built before saddle point to next peak.

Ahead of dry moat, the largest area of the castle of about 30 meter long exists. From the edge of this dry moat over 300 meter long vertical dry moat continues toward hillside, along with climbing road climbs sheer slope in zigzags. This dry moat was built to limit horizontal move of climbing enemy and attack them efficiently from upward.

At the north of this largest area, several terraces are built at the slope. Edge of this part is also secured by combination of dry moats. The length of the castle is about 300 meter and too much for the small valley, and this shows the military importance of this castle at the border to Kai province. Residence of the lord might exist at the place of current Kichijoji temple.

Tension at the border

In 1582, Takeda clan was ruined by central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) but Nobunaga also died in the incident of Honnoji just after that, then Hojo clan fought for Kai province with Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), an ally of Nobunaga and lord of Mikawa province (east half of Aichi prefecture) at the battle of Tensho-Jingo. 

Hojo clan had superior soldier but could not break Tokugawa army then had to leave Kai province to Ieyasu. Hojo clan and Tokugawa clan once allied but Ieyasu followed to next central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) and became its highest retainer. Next attack of Hideyoshi to Hojo clan was expected.

In response to this situation, Hojo clan strengthened border castles at westward, such as Yamanaka castle (Shizuoka prefecture) or Matsuida castle (Gunma prefecture). Hinohara area was not a main route but detour route to Hachioji castle (Tokyo prefecture), the main base of Ujiteru Hojo. Thus Ujiteru ordered Hirayama clan to strengthen the castle and keep it firmly.

Fall and end of castle and lord

In 1590, Hideyoshi started Odawara campaign against Hojo clan. In July, detached army of Hideyoshi including Maeda clan or Uesugi clan attacked Hachioji castle and fell it only in one day. Kenmotsu Yokoti (?-1590), deputy commander of Hachioji castle, left Hachioji castle and ran into Hinohara valley. Ujishige Hirayama (?-1590), the leader of Hirayama clan and commander of Hinohara castle, accepted him and prepared for the battle.

But only Hinohara castle it was impossible against overwhelming Toyotomi army. Hinohara castle also fell in short term, and Kenmotsu Yokoti and Uishige Hirayama both killed themselves near the castle. The history of Hirayama clan and Hinohara castle ended at this time, and on the same day Hojo clan itself opened Odawara castle and ended its history as the ruler of Kanto plain.

Now no building remains but structure of the castle well remain on the mountain. Overall structure of the castle is a traditional one just placing oblong terraces, but dry moats seen at the castle shows modification of the castle. This combination of old style and attachment indicate unchanged and increasing importance of Hinohara castle to protect western edge of the province. 


20 minutes drive from Keno-Do Expressway Akiruno interchange or Hinode interchange. Entrance of climbing road is inside tomb place of Kichijoji temple.

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Pictures (click to enlarge)