Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Katsumata Castle -Collision of traditional powers and rising warlord-

Katsumata Castle

-Collision of traditional powers and rising warlord-



Name: Katsumata Castle (Katsumata-jo)
Place: Katsuta Makinohara city,  Shizuoka
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 14th century?
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Katsumata castle (勝間田城) is built over a slope of Makinohara Daichi plateau toward the valley of Katsumata-gawa river which flows into Suruga-wan bay at the middle of current Shizuoka prefecture. At 5 kilometer northwest of castle site there is Suwahara castle (Shizuoka prefecture), and at 5 kilometer southwest at the opposite of plateau the ruin of Yokoji castle (Shizuoka prefecture) exists.

Makihohara Daichi plateau is the one spreads at the west side of Oigawa river nearly 30 kilometer long. The upper half of the plateau is narrow but lower half spreads like a palm leaf eroded by valleys of rivers. Katsumata area is one of such valleys spreads from the plateau, and at the middle part of spread lower half of plateau.

Because of too much well drain soil at higher place, Makinohara Daichi plateau has not been suitable for agriculture thus remained as barren area. But after the Meiji revolution the plateau was developed as tea fields utilizing that soil by former retainers of Edo Shogunate. Today owing to irrigation the plateau became a big production area of tea tree and fully covered by green tea leaf.

Origin of Katsumata clan and Katsumata castle

Precise year is unknown but Katsumata castle might be built by local lord Katsumata clan in 14th century. Since 10th century there was a manor of central power at Katsumata area, and based on this manor Katsumata clan rose as an armed group to manage and protect the manor.

Later Katsumata clan grew as a local lord and became the retainer of Minamoto clan at the battle of Hogen in 1156. When Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the leader of Minamoto clan established Kamakura Shogunate, Shigenaga Katsumata (?-?), the leader of Katsumata clan, activated at the battles and became a major retainer of Kamakura Shogunate.

In the latter half of Kamakura Shogunate, Nagakiyo Katsumata (?-?), the leader of Katsumata clan, communicated with central nobles and learned the knowledge of Japanese poem. Further Nagakiyo edited private poem book “Fuboku Waka Sho”, the largest poem book of Japan including over 17,000 poems.

After the fall of Kamakura Shogunate, Katsumata clan became the direct retainer of Muromachi Shogunate. Muromachi Shogunate fought with opponent South Court army, former retainer of Kamakura Shogunate or Tadayoshi Ashikaga (1306-1352) who was the younger brother of Takauji Ashikaga (1305-1358) who was the founder of Shogunate but later conflicted with the Shogunate at Tokaido Road, Katsumata clan might be involved into such battles.

Looking at the forces and location that could control Tokaido road, Muromachi Shogunate appointed Katsumata clan and neighbor Yokochi clan as the direct retainer of Shogunate. Different from ordinary local lords commanded by the governor of province, Katsumata clan was at higher position directly served to the Shogunate. Katsumata castle might be expanded reflecting the position of Katsumata clan.

Structure of Katsumata castle

Katsumata castle spreads over the slope of the reverse “V” latter shape separated by valleys of both side from backside plateau. Central area of the castle is an oblong shaped one of about 20 meter diameter having clay walls at backside and front side. Backward of central area is protected by South area which is a triangle shape of about 20 meter long, and combination of dry moats.

Surrounding central area, East ridge area and South ridge area exist. Ahead of East ridge area there is a combination of five dry moats digging the ridge, and ahead it there is a narrow watching space toward the downstream of Katsumata-gawa river. North ridge area consists of upper half and lower half, which has huge dry moat of 50 meter long at its front side.

Ahead of huge dry moat, secondary area and third area both are about 60 meter long and 30 meter wide are built. These areas are different from upper area for large size and structure fully covered by clay walls and it might be added or repaired later. Secondary area had several buildings for residence and commanding, and third area might be used for military camp.

Total size of the castle is about 300 meter long and 200 meter wide, and considering its usage at 15th century it was a large one. Considering use of multiple dry moats at important point not seen at castles of Imagawa clan, this structure might be brought by Takeda clan after the fall of Katsumata clan/

Intrusion of Imagawa clan into Totomi province

At the battle of Onin, the internal conflict of Muromachi Shogunate occurred at Kyoto city in 1467, Yokochi clan and Katsumata clan belonged to the West army accompanying Yoshikado Shiba (1445-?), the governor of Totomi province. On the other hand, Yoshitada Imagawa (1436-1476), the governor of Suruga province (middle part of Shizuoka prefecture), belonged to the East army and aimed at Totomi province (west part of Shizuoka prefecture) including Katsumata castle.

Imagawa clan once held the governor position of Totomi province at the period of Sadayo Imagawa (1326-1420) but it was confiscated by the Shogunate and given to Shiba clan. Although Imagawa clan was a high class relative of Shogunate but Shiba clan was also a relative then Imagawa clan could not realize their aspiration to recover Totomi province.

Looking at the occurrence of the battle of Onin, Yoshitada Imagawa utilizing the situation and attacked Totomi province. However, the East army newly appointed Yoshihiro Shiba (1457-1513), a relative of Shiba clan belonged to the East army, as the governor of Totomi province. Furthermore the East army ordered Yoshihiro Shiba to arrange the local lords of Totomi province.

Fall of Katsumata castle and succeeding events

In response to this, in 1476 Yoshitada Imagawa attacked Yokochi castle and Katsumata castle then killed leaders of Yokochi clan and Katsumata clan, blaming the leave of two clans from Imagawa clan. But on the return way from Yokochi castle, at Shiokaizaka narrow slope climbing to the plateau, Yoshitada was assaulted by former retainers of Yokochi clan and Katsumata clan then died.

Even though declined, but the authority of Muromachi Shogunate was still alive at that point. Killing two direct retainers of Shogunate that followed the order to gather at Shiba clan was regarded as an attempt of rebellion, even though for Imagawa clan which was a high class relative and retainer of Muromachi Shogunate.

Imagawa clan which lost its leader had to stop its operation at Totomi province, and the leader position of Imagawa clan was temporally handed to Norimitsu Oshika (?-1487), the relative of Yoshitada Imagawa and who was close to Muromachi Shogunate. Norimitsu Oshika was supported by Dokan Ota (1432-1486), the excellent general under Ogigayatasu Uesugi clan of Kanto region.

Transform of Imagawa clan into warlord

In response to this, Ujichika Imagawa (1471-1526), son of Yoshitada Imagawa, was supported by his uncle Sozui Ise (1456-1519 later Soun Hojo) and decided to succeed the leader position of Imagawa clan after growth. In 1487, after the death of Dokan Ota, Ujichika Imagawa and Sozui Ise ruined Norimitsu Oshika who did not return leader position and became the new leader of Imagawa clan.

Ujichika resumed the invasion to Totomi province and captured whole part of Totomi province by the end of 15th century. The authority of Muromachi Shogunate was significantly damaged by the coup d’?tat of Meio occurred in 1493, the change of Shogun performed by Masamoto Hosokawa (1466-1507), the highest retainer of Shogunate.

There was no interference from Shogunate to Imagawa clan any more, then Ujichika Imagawa stroke back the revenge of Shiba clan from Owari province in 1516 and finally stabilized the dominance at Totomi province. Ujiteru also established regional laws and regulations “Imagawa Kana Mokuroku”, and Imagawa clan transformed into warlord stands on their power irrespective to the authority of Shogunate.

Afterward of castle

Retainers of Katsumata clan could revenge to Yoshitada Imagawa but could not restore Katsumata clan. Later when Takeda clan which was the warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) occupied this area, Katsumata castle might be used as a supply line from Koyama castle (Shizuoka prefecture) to Takatenjin castle (Shizuoka prefecture). But after the fall of Takatenjin castle Katsumata castle might be disposed.

Now no building remains but structure of the castle well remain on the slope from the plateau. Castle at the next of the valley and looks down it is typical scenery of medieval local manor governed by local lord. The ruin of the castle shows strong power slaughtered traditional world of local lord and stepped up the major warlord of region. Now the scenery of the valley returned to quite one same as the period of Katsumata clan.


20 minutes drive from Tomei Expressway Yoshida interchange to hillside parking. 20 minutes walk from parking to hilltop castle.

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Pictures (click to enlarge)

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