Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Otate castle -Irreconciable conflict after god of war (1) outbreak of conflict-

Otate Castle

-Irreconciable conflict after god of war (1) outbreak of conflict-



Name: Otate castle (Otate-jo)
Place: Gochi Joetsu city, Niigata
Type: Flat Castle
Built: 1550's
Remaining remnants: none

Brief History

Otate castle (御館) is a flat style administration office spreads over Gochi area of current Joetsu city, about 500 meter west of Naoetsu station. Old Naoetsu city consists of port town area faces Seki-kawa river and governmental area at westward hill area, and Otate castle existed at the middle of these two areas and faced the main road of Naoetsu city straightly connected two areas.

Naoetsu area is located at the western edge of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture), but providence office of Yamato dynasty was placed on Naoetsu area due to closeness to Kyoto city and good port. On the other hand, Naoetsu port prospered as one of 10 medieval ports, having sufficient wide river mouth used for anchorage and good access to inland area such as Nagano city.

Origin of Otate castle

Otate castle was built by Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), the warlord of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture), as the residence of Norimasa Uesugi (1523-1579). Norimasa Uesugi was Kanto Kanrei that was the chancellor of Kamakura Kubo Highness and second highest authority in Kanto region, but was broken emerging power Hojo clan, the warlord of Sagami province (Kanagawa prefecture) and exiled to Echigo province.

Echigo province was the territory of Uesugi clan along with Kozuke province (Gunma prefecture), the main territory of Uesugi clan. And Nagao clan which Kenshin belonged (his original name was Kagetora Nagao) was the house of deputy governor next to Uesugi clan. In the past Nagao clan opposed to Uesugi clan and killed the ancestor of Norimasa Uesugi but there was no place to escape other than Echigo province.

Kenshin Uesugi who succeeded Nagao clan in 1548 suppressed the rebel of his distant relative Masakage Nagao (1526-1564), the leader of Ueda Nagao clan at Sakado castle (Niigata prefecture) in 1551. Masakage agreed with Kenshin married with Sentoin (1528-1609), the elder sister of Kenshin Uesugi, and had their son Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623).

Acceptance of Norimasa Uesugi

Kenshin who united Echigo province next faced conflict with surrounding warlords. Around 1550, Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), the warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture), aggressively intruded into Shinano province, then existing powers of Shinano province such as Ogasawara clan or Murakami clan were defeated by Shingen and exiled to Echigo province.

Kenshin accepted these refugees and intruded into Shinano province. Kenshin was excellently good at tactics and praised as god of war, then sometimes broke Takeda army and recovered castles but later lost them before Shingen due to the plot and attack in winter season when Kenshin could not send troops by deep snow.

Contrary to Shinano province where had limited land and was also close to the main territory of Shingen, Kanto region was vast and fertile, and nominally belonged to Hojo clan but far from main territory of Hojo clan and unsettled. Furthermore the authority of Kanto Kanrei was still enormous, along with the name of Uesugi clan and Nagao clan at former territories. Kenshin protected Norimasa Uesugi at Otate castle and waited for opportunity.

Expedition to Kanto region

In 1560, Kenshin made a large expedition to Kanto region, and easily captured Kozuke province being supported by former retainers of Norimasa Uesugi. Looking at the strength of Kenshin and name of Kanto Kanrei many local lords of Kanto region gathered at Kenshin, then Kenshin attacked Odawara castle (Kanagawa prefecture), the main base of Hojo clan, by 100,000 soldiers.

However, due to the shortage of supply, threat of Shingen Takeda who allied with Hojo clan, and unstable mixed army, Kenshin encircled Odawara castle for one month but could not fall it. Kenshin had a ceremony at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine to succeed Kanto Kanrei position from Norimasa Uesugi, and once retreated to Echigo province.

Kenshin built Otate castle as a residence of Norimasa Uesugi, but it also had a character the office of Kanto Kanrei even though without activity. After succession of Kanto Kanrei, Kenshin had to start his work as Kanto Kanrei for diplomatic and military purpose. Kenshin might also use Otate castle in case of necessary, then secured it to protect the source of his authority and himself.

Structure of Otate castle

Otate castle spreads over 250 meter wide and 300 meter long, and central area which is about 150 meter long and 120 meter wide occupies half of the ground. The building of Muromachi Shogunate named “Hana-no-Gosho” is thought to be 220 meter long and 110 meter wide and a bit larger than Otate castle. As Otate castle was at the next of Otate-gawa river flows southward, Japanese garden existed at south edge of Hana-no-Gosho might be omitted.

As Kanto Kanrei was a traditional status given by Muromachi Shogunate, the style of Otate castle might be the same as the residence of central noble in Kyoto city. In might include main building for public use, residential building for private use, banquet and meeting space, kitchen, and guardroom connected by corridor and separated by fences from outer space.

At the north of central area, several small terraces were placed to protect inner area in the water moat. These spaces were used to hide inner area from outward, storage or guardian’s place. Later Otate castle was used as a headquarter of Kagetora Uesugi (1552-1579), and in spite of its limited size this structure increased its defense capacity.

God of war who did not marry

Unlike many warlords, Kenshin Uesugi did not have wife and son. This fact increased mystic image of Kenshin as the god of the war, and the cause of myth that Kenshin was a female. It was not clear the will of Kenshin, but from objective situation it was difficult to marry. Warlords of this era usually married with the woman of a) upper authority, b) relatives or c) surrounding warlords.

But for a), Uesugi clan of the governor of Echigo province or Norimasa Uesugi as Kanto Kanrei did not have daughter, and the former died out just after the succession of Kenshin. For c), in the past Uesugi clan of the governor of Echigo province once tried to adopt from Date clan, the warlord of Yonezawa area, but this brought severe conflict among local lords of Echigo province.

Remaining b), Nagao clan which was the house of Kenshin Uesugi had two branch families at Echigo province. One was Ueda Nagao clan at Sakado castle, and another was Koshi Nagao clan at Suyoshi castle (Niigata prefecture). These two clans were strong local lords held current Uonuma area and Nagaoka area respectively.

Adoption of Kagekatsu Uesugi

The mother of Kenshin was said as the person of Koshi Nagao clan, and Kenshin already let his elder sister marry with Masakage Nagao (1526-1564), the leader of Ueda Nagao clan. Closeness of blood was not so problem at that era but if Kenshin married with the person of either clan, that clan definitely surpasses the other and this might cause conflict as actually occurred later.

It might be better to marry with the princess of central noble, as Shingen Takeda actually did. Uesugi clan was close to Muromachi Shogunate and had connection, but unlike Shingen processed by his father, Kenshin lost his father and elder brother in youth thus no one could not arrange his marriage. 

However, as a warlord, Kenshin had to prepare his successor. In 1564, Masakage Nagao died in the boating accidentally, then Kenshin let his son Kagekatsu Uesugi succeed Nagao Uesugi clan and adopted Kagekatsu. Kagekatsu was the son of Sentoin, the elder sister of Kenshin, and he had a sufficient background to succeed Kenshin thus problem of successor seemed to be settled.

Adoption of Kagetora Uesugi

But in 1570, Kenshin adopted Kagetora Uesugi, originally the seventh son of Ujiyasu Hojo (1515-1571), the leader of Hojo clan. Originally Hojo clan was the party which expelled Norimasa Yamauchi from Kanto region, and fiercely fought for the territory of Kanto region since the first expedition of Kenshin in 1560.

But in 1568, Hojo clan broke with former ally Shingen Takeda, blaming for Shingen who broke the treaty with Imagawa clan, the warlord of Suruga province (middle part of Shizuoka prefecture) and consisted triangle treaty between Takeda clan and Hojo clan. Hojo clan had to face with strong Takeda army, then decided to compromise with Uesugi clan and make treaty.

As a condition of treaty, Kenshin Uesugi accepted Kagetora Uesugi as a hostage. Kenshin let Kagetora marry with Seienin (?-1579), the niece of Kenshin and elder sister of Kagekatsu Uesugi. Different from agreement Kenshin did not support Hojo clan well then Uesugi clan and Hojo clan broke again in 1571, but Kenshin did not kill or return Kagetora and still kept as an adopted son.

Sudden death of Kenshin with no clear policy

Kenshin had another two adopted son, Yoshiharu Kamijo (1563-1643) and Kunikiyo Yamaura (1546-1592), but they had different surname and lower status thus had no qualification for successor. For Kagekatsu and Kagetora, Kenshin did not show clear principle how to treat them, and both of Kagekatsu and Kagetora had their own terrace just below of Kenshin at Kasugayama castle (Niigata prefecture), the main base of Uesugi clan.

From the perspective of bloodline, Kagekatsu had an authentic bloodline from Nagao clan, but Kagetora himself was married with the person of Nagao clan but he was still an outsider. Kenshin might think once leave the position to Kagekatsu but next to the son of Kagetora, who had the bloodline of both of Hojo clan and Nagao clan, to keep balance of Ueda Nagao clan and Koshi Nagao clan but it is just an expectation.

In 1570, Kenshin turned his army to Ecchu province (Toyama prefecture) and concentrated on the expansion toward west. By 1575 Kenshin lost the territory at the middle of Kanto region, but next year captured whole part of Ecchu province. In 1577 Kenshin captured Nanao castle (Ishikawa prefecture) and broke the army of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) at the battle of Tedorigawa, but in March 1578 Kenshin prepared next expedition toward Kanto region fell ill and soon died.

Outbreak of internal conflict and afterward

As Kenshin suddenly fell down unconscious and did not leave his will, both of Kagekatsu and Kagetora started conflict just after the death of Kenshin. Kagekatsu quickly captured the central area of Kasugayama castle, with the official stamp of Kenshin and his fund. Kagekatsu insisted he succeeded Kenshin, and attacked Kagetora who stayed at his terrace at below.

In response to this, Kagetora asked coordination of Norimasa Uesugi between Kagekatsu, but Kagekatsu might decline it. In May 1578 Kagetora gave up the besiege at his area of Kasugayama castle and moved to Otate castle. In addition to its defense capacity, Kagekatsu who lost Kasugayama castle hoped to achieve the authority of Kanto Kanrei which was succeeded from Norimasa Yamauchi to Kenshin Uesugi. Now irreconcilable internal conflict after god of war named "Otate no Ran" (conflict of Otate) started.

Otate castle was kept after the cease of internal conflict in 1579, but abolished after the use of Hori clan in the beginning of 17th century as a temporal base during the construction of Fukushima castle (Niigata prefecture). Now due to the development the ruin of Otate castle was completely lost but small park is built to show past existence of Otate castle. 

Near from castle site the shape of Kasugayama castle is clearly seen, same as the view of Kagetora who might hoped the settlement of battle and looked for his brother in law at distant Kasugayama castle. 

Continue to Part 2


15 minutes walk from JR East Shinetsu-Honsen line Naoetsu station. 20 minutes drive from Hokuriku Jidoshado Expressway Joetsu interchange but no parking around castle.

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Pictures (click to enlarge)

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