Saturday, May 16, 2020

Suemori Castle (Noto) -Fateful confrontation of former colleagues (2) assault and counter attack-

Suemori Castle (Noto)

-Fateful confrontation of former colleagues (2) assault and counter attack-



Name: Suemori castle (Suemori-jo)
Place: Chikubuno Hodatsu-Shimizu town, Ishikawa
Location: 36.834484619640925, 136.78186102996773
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 16th century?
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Continued from Part 1

Suemori castle (末森城) spreads over Suemori-yama mountain, one of about 130 meter height from hillside at the western root of Noto peninsula. The mountain exists at the edge of hills spreads from Hodatsu-san mountain, which separates former Kaga province (middle and south part of Ishikawa prefecture), Noto province (north part of Ishikawa prefecture) and Ecchu province (Toyama prefecture).

At the west of mountain there is only one kilometer flat area before Sea of Japan, and it is an important point for communication between Kanazawa area and Noto Peninsula where many roads and railroad pass. Additionally it is a diverging point of mountains roads toward Himi area at eastern side of Noto Peninsula, across low height hills between Hodatsu-san mountain and Isurugi-yama mountain.

Origin of Suemori castle

Precise year is unknown but Suemori castle might be built by Hatakeyama clan, which was the governor of Noto province as a forefront castle toward Kaga province in the former half of 16th century. At that time Kaga province was governed by Ikko Ikki army, which was formed by the believers of Ikkoshu, a denomination of Japanese Buddhism, and Hatakeyama clan opposed to them.

But in the middle of 16th century Hatakeyama clan significantly lost their power by continuous internal conflicts caused by their important retainers such as Cho clan, Yusa clan or Nukui clan. In 1577, Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), the warlord of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture) who was praised as “god of war”, invaded into Noto province and fell Nanao castle (Ishikawa prefecture), the main base of Hatakeyama clan  after one year siege.

Kenshin who captured Nanao castle next attacked Suemori castle and captured it, then placed his retainer Chikazane Dohi (?-1583). Kenshin further marched southward and broke the army of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) at the battle of Tedori-gawa, but died in ill next year then Uesugi clan entered severe internal conflict.

Capture by Oda army and use of Maeda clan

Looking at the decline of Uesugi clan, Katsuie Shibata (1522-1583), the regional commander of Nobunaga Oda, attached Ikko Ikki army which lost the support of Uesugi clan, and captured Kanazawa area in 1580. Next Katsuie attacked Suemori castle then Chikazane opened the castle and surrendered to Oda army.

Suemori castle became the territory of Toshiie Maeda (1539-1599), a major general under Katsuie and who became the lord of Noto province, and Chikazane Dohi kept the position of commander of Suemori castle under Toshiie. Oda army further entered into Ecchu province, and Narimasa Sassa (1536-1588), another major general of Katsuie, was appointed as the lord of Ecchu province.

After the death of Nobunaga Oda in the incident of Honnoji in 1582, Katsuie Shibata opposed to Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) who broke Mitsuhide Akechi (1521-1582) at the battle of Yamazaki and rose as next ruler. In 1583, Hideyoshi broke Katsuie at the battle of Shizugatake, and Katsuie killed himself at Kitanosho castle (Fukui prefecture, current Fukui castle). Chikazane Dohi also died in the battle.

As Toshiie was originally close to Hideyoshi, Toshiie kept neutral and retreated from the battle without fighting against Hideyoshi. After the battle Hideyoshi gave north half of Kaga province to Toshiie and treated him as an important general. As an important castle to connect his old territory and new territory, Toshiie placed his confident general Nagatomi Okumura (1534-1624) to Suemori castle.

Structure of Suemori castle

Suemori castle spreads over the ridge of the mountain which prolongs north and south ward, and consist of three parts at the north half of the ridge, south half of the ridge and approaching area which meet at dry moat at the center of the castle. Approaching area exists at western slope and is formed by several terraces, which might have residence of retainers and main gate of the castle.

North half of the ridge is core part of the castle and formed by central area, secondary area, third area and Umakakeba area. Each area are basically flat and have no clear clay wall but main route connects each area is narrow and complexly folded, to delay the attack of enemy and earn time for rescue army. At the north of central area there are several terraces only separated by dry wall which might be kept as original form.

In the south half of the ridge, there are Wakamiya area or Wakamiya-maru area, which might originally used as a ground of shrine from its name. Wakamiya area directly faces approach route from hillside, and might be intended to attack the enemy at the route from upward and also the enemy try to enter core part of the castle from backward. Total size of the castle is about 600 meter long and 400 meter wide and significantly large in the area.

Sudden assault of Narimasa Sassa to castle

At the battle of Shizugatake, Narimasa kept neutral preparing for Uesugi clan still struggling for the east edge of Ecchu province thus kept the lord of Ecchu province. But the situation of Narimasa got worse was Toshiie Narimasa and Uesugi clan both belonged to Hideyoshi thus there was no room for expansion and risk of loss of territory.

In the spring of 1584, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), former ally of Nobunaga and became the large lord after the death of Nobunaga, started the battle at Tokai region. Looking at this opportunity, as a part of anti-Hideyoshi treaty, Narimasa raised his army and assaulted Suemori castle by his whole army of 15,000 soldiers.

The intention of Narimasa might be to separate Kaga province and Noto province, and utilizing the narrow place of this area prevent the reinforcement army of Toshiie and capture Noto province at first. At this time Suemori castle only held 500 soldiers and the attack of Narimasa became sudden attack, then outer part of Suemori castle fell before the attack of Narimasa.

Failure of tactics

But commander Nagatomi Okumura firmly defended the core part and asked for the reinforcement army to Toshiie. Toshiie gathered 2,500 soldiers and formed rescue army, then approached to Suemori castle. Utilizing the height of coastal terrace and the darkness of the night Toshiie could sneak to the northward of the castle and entered into Suemori castle from backside gate.

As Toshiie entered into Suemori castle and Nagahide Niwa (1535-1585), a large lord belonged to Hideyoshi, sent supporting force to Toshiie, Narimasa had to abandon his blitz tactics. Narimasa retreated his army from Suemori castle and still stayed at the border to watch the situation, but finally returned to Ecchu province before the approach of snow season. 

If this time Suemori castle was lost, Maeda clan could actually collapse or even not so it might be punished by central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Actually this battle was the turning point of Maeda clan to be the largest feudal lord under Edo Shogunate. On the other hand, Narimasa could not change the situation had no other mean to surrender to Hideyoshi being wholly surrounded by opponents.

Afterward of castle

Next year in 1585, Hideyoshi who substantially got the subordination of Ieyasu sent large army to Ecchu province, utilizing Toshiie Maeda as is vanguard. Narimasa could not resist to overwhelming army of Hideyoshi surrendered, and Ecchu province was given to Toshiie. As there is no necessity to protect the border, Suemori castle might be abolished soon.

There remains no building but structure of the castle well remain on the mountain. Considering low height of the mountain, limited defense facility and small defense force, it seems Narimasa could fall this castle in one day if serious. Narimasa might intentionally kept Suemori castle to force Toshiie to send reinforce army and directly attack it, but his tactic did not realize by skillful maneuver of Toshiie. It was a place of confrontation of not only the army but also the tactics of two skillful generals.

Continue to Part 3


30 minutes walk from JR West Nanao-sen line Hodatsu station. 15 minutes drive from Noto-Satoyama Kaido Toll road Imahama interchange.

Related Castles

Matsune Castle -Fateful confrontation of former colleagues (1)Preparation for decisive battle-
Shiratori Castle (Ecchu) -Fateful confrontation of former colleagues (3) across heavy snowy Tateyama Mountains-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

No comments:

Post a Comment