Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Akibayama Castle -Irreconciable conflict after god of war (6) conditions of peace-

Akibayama Castle

-Irreconciable conflict after god of war (6) conditions of peace-



Name: Akibayama castle (Akibayama-jo)
Alias: Hanegawa-jo (Hanegawa castle)
Place: Hei Tokamachi city, Niigata
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 14th century?
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Continued from Part 5

Akibayama castle (秋葉山城) is located over Akibayama mountain, one of about 100 meter height from hillside that is the edge of the ridge prolongs westward from Masugata-yama mountain, that is a part of Uonuma Kyuryo hills. As the mountain is sharply separated by the body of plateau from Hane-gawa river and creeks, the front side of the mountain becomes a sheer cliff of triangle section and has a powerful impression.

Uonuma Kyuryo hills runs northeastward from Naeba-yama mountain between Shinano-gawa river and its tributary Uono-gawa river, which parallel run Uonuma area of Niigata prefecture. Contrary to its east slope faces Uono-gawa river, west slope faces Shinano-gawa river is gentle and has large flat space before river, then west slope becomes the center of Tokamachi-area.

As the hills are not extremely high, many roads cross the hill east and west ward. Around castle site there are three roads that pass Hakka-toge pass at the north, Tochikubo-toge pass at the middle, and Osawa-toge pass at the south, and Akibayama castle faces the middle road and could manage all of three roads. Today north route is mainly used as Route 253, but formerly Tochikubo-toge road was the main route where the width of hill is narrowest.

Origin of Akibayama castle

The origin of Akibayama castle is not clear but is said as used by local lord Hanegawa clan in 14th century. Hanegawa clan was a branch family of Nitta clan, which was a major local lord of Kanto region in Kamakura era along with Ashikaga clan and later became to the core of the South Court army under its leader Yoshisada Nitta (1301-1338).

As Nitta clan had territories at Uonuma area, Satomi clan which was a branch family and one of its descendants later became the warlord of Awa province (south edge of Boso peninsula) spread around the providence. Hanegawa clan was one of the branch families of Satomi clan, and at the battle against Kamakura Shogunate the families of Nitta clan gathered and supported Yoshisada Nitta.

But after the fall of Kamakura Shogunate, Yoshisada Nitta became the commander of the South Court army and fiercely fought by Muromachi Shogunate army of Ashikaga clan. After the death of Yoshisada Nitta, his son Yoshimune Nitta (1331?-1368) fought against Shogunate from Echigo province, but failed the attempt and died in the battle in 1368. Hanegawa clan also declined at this time.

Transition of province and castle

After the fall of Nitta clan, Uesugi clan which was the important retainer of Ashikaga clan in Kanto region, was appointed as the governor of Echigo province. Nagao clan which was the retainer of Uesugi clan was appointed as deputy governor, and held the former territory of Nitta clan around the middle part of the province.

Ueda Nagao clan, one of three major branch families of Nagao clan and became the lord of Sakado castle (Niigata prefecture), managed Uonuma area. Former branch families of Nitta clan survived the attack of Shogunate army became the local lord of Uonuma area, and Komorisawa clan later became the lord of Akibayama castle was one of such descendant of Nitta clan.

It is thought that Komorisawa clan was a branch family of Oida clan, which was also a branch family of Nitta clan and lord of Oida castle (Niigata prefecture) at 5 kilometer north of Akibayama castle. From Oida clan, Nakajo clan or Komorisawa clan diverged, and due to geographical closeness Oida clan and its relative became important retainer of Ueda Nagao clan.

In the beginning of 16th century, Tamekage Nagao (1486-1543), the deputy governor of Echigo province and leader of Nagao clan, revolted against the governor Uesugi clan and seized the authority of Echigo province. Ueda Nagao clan once opposed to Tamekage Nagao but later subordinated and became its important retainer of Nagao clan.

Castle protected military road of Uesugi clan

In the period of Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), son of Tamekage Nagao, Masakage Nagao (1526-1564), the leader of Ueda Nagao clan, married with the elder sister of Kenshin and became his important retainer. Since 1560 Kenshin repeatedly made expeditions to Kanto region to confront with Hojo clan, as a successor of Kanto Kanrei which was the general minister of Kanto region.

For the purpose of expedition, Kenshin prepared military road directly connected his main base Kasugayama castle (Niigata prefecture) at current Joetsu city and Uonuma area, an entrance to Kanto region across Higashi-Kubiki Kyuryo hill and Uonuma Kyuryo hill. The route of the road was roughly same as current Route 253 but ran straightly over the ridge to avoid avalanche of heavy snow.

The road crossed Shinano-gawa river at Biwagake castle (Niigata prefecture) at 2 kilometer northwest from Akibayama castle, then proceeded to the next of Akibayama castle then crossed Tochikubo-Toge pass then entered into Uonuma area. As Biwagake castle was used as posting point the troop did not stay Akibayama castle but it firmly kept the security of the road and might provide supplies.

Structure of Akibayama castle

Akibayama castle roughly consists of three large terraces of about 50 meter long and 20 meter width. The middle one might be the central area of the castle, as it is securely protected by Masugata style combined gate for front side and clay wall for back side, and well processed into flat land which might be used for the ground of main building.

As southward of central area is connected to higher backward mountain, this part is securely protected by south terrace encircled by sheer cliff and combination of seven dry moats. Among seven dry moats two moats at both edges are deep and wide but remaining five moats were just the hollow of the ridge. But this structure could delay the movement of enemy soldiers and exposed to the attack from south terrace.

North terraces that is used as a ground of shrine is an entrance area and might consist of several spaces divided by clay wall or dry moat but processed flat for the construction of shrine. Several terraces are built at the west slope, and north edge of the terraces might be used as a watching space with good view of the valley. Total size of the castle exceeds 400 meter long and the largest one in this area.

Intervention of Takeda clan to internal conflict

After the death of Kenshin Uesugi in 1578, two adopted sons of Kenshin it mean Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623), the son of Masakage Nagao, and Kagetora Uesugi (1554-1579) who came from Hojo clan started internal conflict for successor. As Kagekatsu Uesugi was originally the person of Ueda Nagao clan, Uonuma area belonged to Kagekatsu Uesugi.

Kagetora Uesugi who besieged at Otate castle (Niigata prefecture) at Joetsu city asked assistance to his home Hojo clan. As Hojo army faced with Satake army at Shimotsuke province (Tochigi prefecture), Hojo clan requested Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), the ally of Hojo clan and which held Shinano province (Nagano prefecture) at the next of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture), to send army to Kagetora Uesugi.

In May 1578, Katsuyori Takeda visited Kaizu castle (Nagano prefecture) at front line then sent Takeda army to Echigo province from southward across Myoko Kogen area. Even suffered severe damage at the battle of Nagashino in 1575 Takeda army still had 15,000 soldiers, and if Katsuyori allied with Kagetora Uesugi the defeat of Kagekatsu Uesugi was inevitable.

Change side of Takeda clan

To reverse desperate situation, Kagekatsu Uesugi tried to make peace with Katsuyori Takeda. Thinking in common sense the proposal of peace from weak participant to the ally of the enemy is unrealistic, but Katsuyori Takeda showed the interest on this plan then stooped the troop and entered negotiation with Kagekatsu Uesugi.

The reason of the change of diplomatic policy of Katsuyori Takeda is not certain but once Kagetora Uesugi who was the person of Hojo clan seized Echigo province, Hojo clan became far stronger than Takeda clan and surrounds whole part of east border, then Takeda clan was expected to subordinate to Hojo clan. To keep the equality to Hojo clan, Katsuyori was reluctant to assist Kagetora Uesugi.

Beside, Hojo clan facing Satake army at another front did not send their army and asked assistance to Takeda clan. Takeda clan had to cope with central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) and its ally Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) at western front, individual operation by Takeda clan to Echigo province was risky and even win little return was expected. It seemed Hojo clan handed the burden to Takeda clan and get only achievement.

Conditions of peace

Furthermore, Kagekatsu Uesugi offered the condition of sending money and territories to Takeda clan. At this point Uesugi clan did not have Sado gold mine, but had sufficient fund from trade of items. Takeda army suffered fatal defeat at the battle of Nagashino and on the process of reconstruction, then the offer from Kagekatsu Uesugi could save the fiscal difficulty and damaged authority of Katsuyori Takeda.

Of course Katsuyori Takeda had no intention to break with Hojo clan. Katsuyori might think to coordinate Kagekatsu Uesugi and Kagetora Uesugi and to gain the favor of both sides. However, the hostility between both participants fell into irrecoverable phase from long time conflict of local lords. As a result, Katsuyori Takeda had to cope with Kagekatsu Uesugi, and this brought the break with Hojo clan and reputation to break the ally for the purpose of territory and money.

At the same time of negotiation with Kagekatsu Uesugi, Takeda army captured castles of Uesugi clan at border area. In the north part of Shinano province, Takeda army seized Iiyama castle (Nagano prefecture), the remaining regional base of Uesugi army at the north of Shinano-gawa river which lost its commander Momoi clan who belonged to Kagetora Uesugi but died in the battle at Otate castle.

Cession of Akibayama castle

Furthermore, detached army of Takeda clan lead by Morinobu Nishina (1557-1582) who was the younger brother of Katsuyori Takeda and lord of Azumino area, proceeded to Itoigawa area and captured Nechi castle and Fudoyama castle (Niigata prefecture). By this capture the territory of Takeda clan expanded toward the Sea of Japan.

Tokamachi area where Akibayama castle was next to the Iiyama area of Shinano province, then Ichikawa clan which was the local lord of Nozawa area and formerly held their territory at Tokamachi area hoped to recover Tokamachi area. On the other hand, Kagekatsu Uesugi thought important of Tokamachi area to connect his base of Kasugayama castle and territory of Ueda Nagao clan, then placed his important retainer Masahide Komorisawa (?-?) as the commander of Akibayama castle.

At first Masahide Komorisawa firmly protected Akibayama castle, Kagekatsu Uesugi decided to leave the south part of Tokamachi area to Takeda army. Masahide Komorisawa left Akibayama castle and lost his territory but moved to neighbor Inubushi castle (Niigata prefecture) and continued the battle against Kagetora Uesugi. After the cease of battle Masahide Komorisawa was formally appointed as the commander of Inubushi castle.

Afterward of castle

After the fall of Takeda clan in 1582, Uesugi clan recovered north part of Shinano prefecture including Iiyama castle. Ichikawa clan belonged to Uesugi clan, and there was no opportunity for Uesugi clan to make expedition to Kanto region. Akibayama castle might be kept as local base for a while but abolished before the move or Uesugi clan to Aizu basin in 1597.

Today no building remain but structure of the castle well remain on the mountain. Structure and size of the castle shows importance of Akibayama castle protected military road and westward of Sakado castle, the main base of Ueda Nagao clan. Transfer of such castle shows the desperate status of Kagekatsu Uesugi, and also tenacity and decisiveness to reverse situation even though paying high cost.

Continue to Part 7


30 minutes drive from Kanetsu Jidoshado Expressway Muikamachi interchange to parking space at the entrance of castle. 15 minutes walk from hillside to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Nechi Castle -Giving salt and castle to rival-
Iiyama Castle -Castle stood long fierce attack of Shingen-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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