Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Iga Ueno Castle -20 meter tall stone walls aiming at Osaka castle-

Iga Ueno Castle

-20 meter tall stone walls aiming at Osaka castle-



Name: Iga Ueno castle (Iga Ueno-jo)
Alias: Hakuhou-jo
Place: Ueno-marunouchi Iga city, Mie
Type: Hill castle
Built: Originally 1585, expanded at 1611
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles, Designated national historical site

Brief History

Iga Ueno castle is located on a hill at the northwestern corner of plateau formed by Kizu-gawa river and Tsuge-gawa river, in the center of current Iga city. about corner of on center 
of Iga basin, west part of Mie prefecture.

Iga basin is a small basin of about 10 kilometer square but an important place of communication. Tsuge-gawa river which runs from Suguka mountains to Iga city and Kizugawa river which merges Tsuge-gawa river at Iga city and flows westward to the border of Kyoto prefecture and Nara prefecture then meets Yodo-gawa river forms by-pass route between Kansai region and Chubu region. Even now this route remains as Kintetsu line, JR Kansai Honsen line or Route 25.

Build of Iga Ueno castle by Tsutsui clan

In the medieval era, being separated from the surrounding mountains from neighbor provinces, there were numerous small local lords formed autonomy apart from central authority. Through the competition between these small lords, skills of intelligence were developed and local people were hired by warlords for their spy skills. Later they are called as Ninja.

In 1581, central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) assaulted Iga region, ruined many local lords and captured Iga province. Four years later, under Toyotomi government, Sadatsugu Tsutsui (1562-1615), the son of Junkei Tsusui (1549-1584) who was famous for fence-sitting at Horagatoge path for the battle of Yamazaki,  was transferred from Koriyama castle of Yamato prefecture (Nara prefecture) to Iga province. 

Sadatsugu built a new castle for residence on a hill at the center of Iga basin, and named it as Ueno-jyo at 1585. Iga Ueno castle at Tsutsui period is a smaller one around current park area, and divided current hilltop area into upper eastern half and lower western half. It is said that a three story main tower was built on the small peak at eastern edge of eastern half terrace.

Expansion by Takatora Todo preparing for Osaka castle

In 1600, after death of central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord under Toyotomi government and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600) fought for next hegemony. At the decisive battle of Sekigahara Ieyasu broke Mitsunari then established Edo Shogunate, but Hideyori Toyotomi (1593-1615), son of Hideyoshi, still existed at Osaka castle, and there were many lords promoted under Toyotomi government in western Japan. 

Ieyasu planned to ruin Hideyori in the future, but it was necessary to prevent an ally of Toyotomi army and supporting lords troop from Osaka toward east. Sekigahara route which is still a main route between Chubu region and Kansai region such as Shinkansen or Meishin Expressway was protected by newly built Hikone castle (Shiga prefecture), but Iga route also needed protection.

Under such situation, in 1608, Ieyasu expelled Sadatsugu Tsutsui then placed his confident general Takatora Todo (1556-1630) as the lord of Iga province and north half of Ise province (Mie prefecture). Takatora Todo promoted to large lord by his braveness and intelligence changing his masters, and also known as an excellent castle builder worked for Uwajima castle or Imabari castle (Ehime prefecture).

Structure of the castle

Takatora significant expanded Iga Ueno castle around the whole part of the corner of height, about 800 meter long and 400 meter wide. In addition to the former castle area, large terraces of over 100 meter long were built at east and west of the castle. As castle area significantly expanded into westward, Takatora moved the center of the castle from eastern half of hilltop area to western half, to keep the view of whole part.

The size of hilltop at the hill is about 150 meter wide and 300 meter long. Hilltop area is roughly divided into two areas. Eastern one becomes the secondary area but the highest place of the castle, formerly used as a central area in Tsutsui period. It was said that Tsutusi clan built a three story main tower in this araa and ruin of basement of main tower during Tsutsui period still exists. During Todo period, this area was used as a residence of commander of the castle.

Western half is the current central area and main tower locates at the center. As western side of the hill was a gentle slope, Takatora built a wide water moat and nearly 30 meter tall sheer stone walls cover western and north line of central area. This stone wall is one of the tallest walls of Japanese castles, and has no fence on the stone wall and feel scared if we look down from the top of the wall (there is no fence on the edge!).

Cancel of expansion and afterward

Takatora also started to built a five story Soto-gata (simple tower) style main tower, but just before completion it was lost by severe storm in 1612. However, Hideyori Toyotomi was extinguished at the battle of Osaka castle in 1615, and Edo Shogunate published Ikkoku Ichijo-Rei (one domain one castle rule) and banned construction of new castle.

There was no necessary to strengthen Iga Ueno castle any more, thus main tower had not been built any more during Edo period and only basement existed. The southern line of the castle connected to the plateau is expected battle front then line of stone wall and water moat might be planned, but this was also cancelled. Because of this reason, Iga Ueno castle seems unfinished as a whole.

Throughout Edo era, Iga Ueno castle had been a branch castle of Todo clan. After the Meiji revolution all building were lost, but being lead by a local representative an imitation of main tower was built in wooden style at 1935. This is one of the oldest reconstructed main towers and passed near 80 years of tradition.


30 minutes walk from JR West Kansai-Honsen line Iga-Ueno station. 5 minutes walk from Iga-Tetsudo line Iga-shi station. 15 minutes drive from Meihan-Kokudo road Iga interchange.

Related Castles

Tsu Castle -People who does not change his master seven times is not full fledged-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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