Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kofu Castle -Multilayered stone walls guarded Edo city-

Kofu Castle

-Multilayered stone walls guarded Edo city-



Name: Kofu Castle (Kofu-jo)
Alias: Maizuru-jo (Flying crane castle)
Place: Marunouchi Kofu city, Yamanashi
Location: 35.66527957224932, 138.57097440497088
Type: Hill castle
Built: Around 1590
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Kofu castle (甲府城) is located on a hill named Ichijyo Modoriyama, in the center of Kofu city next to Kofu station. Kofu basin is a huge alluvial fan consist of Kamanashi-gawa river and Fuefuki-gawa river, two large upstream of Fuji-gawa river merge at the south of the basin and flows toward Pacific ocean. 

In ancient era the center of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) located at river terrace in the upstream both river such as Nirasaki area or Isawa area, to avoid the flood damage at Kofu area. But along with the progress of flood control of both river, Kofu area become the center of the province.  

Before the construction of Kofu castle

In 16th century, at the time of famous warlord Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), Takeda clan used Tsutsujigasaki yakata (Tsutsujigasaki palace) located at the northern part Kofu city as their residence. Shingen was supported by excellent generals and expanded the territory of Takeda clan toward surrounding nations, but died in ill on the way to expedition toward Kyoto city in 1573. 

Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), successor of Shingen, struggled with central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) and his ally Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), but suffered fatal defeat at the battle of Nagashino in 1575. To restore Takeda clan Katsuyori tried to proceed centralization, and moved his residence to Shinpu castle in 1581. But next year Takeda clan was attacked by overwhelming army of Oda clan and Tokugawa clan, then Takeda clan easily collapsed and Katsuyori killed himself.

After the fall of Takeda clan,  Hidetaka Kawajiri (1527-1582), a veteran general of Oda clan, was appointed as the lord of Kai province. But just three month after the fall of Takeda clan, Nobunaga himself died in the incident of Honnoji, a coup d'etat by his general Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582). 

Hearing that news former retainers of Takeda clan rebelled and killed Hidetaka. Ieyasu Tokugawa and Hojo clan which was the strong warlord of Kanto region fought for vacant Kai province, but Ieyasu made an even battle against overwhelming Hojo army then seized Kai province.

Build of Kofu castle

Tokugawa clan held Kai province until 1590, but after the cease of Odawara campaign by Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) who became the ruler against Hojo clan, Hideyohsi moved Ieyasu to Kanto region. Although Ieyasu followed to Hideyoshi, but considering his large territory and strong generals, Hideyoshi had to secure the road from Kanto region to Kyoto city, and make restraint to Ieyasu. 

There were three roads from Kanto region to Kyoto city, it mean Tokaido way along the Pacific coast, Koshukaido road passing Kofu city and Nakasendo road crossing Usuitoge path. Hideyoshi did not have so many relatives and close retainers, but placed them along these three roads.

For Kai province, Hideyoshi at first placed Mitsuyasu Kato (1537-1593), one of senior general as the lord of the province. Mitsuyasu at first stayed at former Tsutsujigasaki palace, but considering its poor defense facility and no room for expansion, Mitsuyasu decided to build a new castle at the place of Ichijyomodoriyama, a small hill at the entrance to the valley where Ichijyodani palace locates. Originally there was a small fort to guard the valley, and Mitsuyasu started large engineering work but died in ill.

After Mitsuyasu, Nagamasa Asano (1547-1611) was appointed as the lord of Kofu province. Nagamasa was a stepbrother of Nene (1547-1624, called as One, Kodaiin or Kitanomandokoro), the formal wife of Hideyoshi, then became one of the most important relative of Hideyori. 

Nagamasa also had an administrative sense then became the first position of five magistrates of Toyotomi government. Nagamasa continued the construction of Kofu castle and completed in 1593, then governed Kai province along with Katsuyama castle (Yamanashi prefecture) built at Gunnai area.

Structure of Kofu castle    

Because of recent development it is difficult to grasp original shape of the castle, but Kofu castle was originally a shape of "T" letter 90 degree rotated to the left. Main body of the castle spread over the hill spreads east and west ward, and front fort area spread north and south ward is attacked at the west of main area. 

Main part of the castle spread over a narrow and long hill of 200 meter long and 100 meter wide separated into three or four layer of terraces. At the top level there is a central area of 100 meter long and 50 meter wide, and at the inside of central area there is a basement of main tower which is about 20 meter long square at top level. It is said that there was a four floor black tower, decorated with gold colored roofing blocks to show the authority of Toyotomi government to Ieyasu.

At the below of central area, secondary area, Inariguruwa area and Kajiguruwa area spread at west, north and south of central area respectively. Stone walls of these area are  complexly folded, along the shape of hill and to erase dead angle. 

As backward of the castle from east to north of the hill is the weak point of the castle facing Atagoyama hill, thus stone wall of outer wall around this direction is a tall one over 15 meter and secured by Inariyagura turret. But as a castle built before the spread of cannon, this castle is to close to higher hill and weak to the firing from higher place.

At the west of the main body of the castle around Kofu station and prefecture office building, outer area of 300 meter long and 100 meter wide existed. At the north and south edge of this area gates to outside area were built, both were Masugata style combined gate. Later palaces or administrative office were built at this area and worked as the center of the castle.

Kofu castle under Edo shogunate 

After the death of Hideyoshi, at the battle of Sekigahara between Ieyasu and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), the chief magistrate of Toyotomi government for next hegemony, Nagamasa supported Ieyasu. After the battle Nagamasa was transferred to Wakayama castle of Kii province (Wakayama prefecture) with larger territory, and Edo shogunate directly governed Kai province but sometimes close relative of Shogunate served as a commander.

Edo Shogunate thought Kofu castle as an evacuation place of Shogun in case of fall of Edo castle. In case, Shogun evacuates Edo city moved westward, being lead by Hachioji Sennindoshin, a group of local guard at Hachioji area, then enter Kofu castle and wait for arrival of reinforcement.  Although main tower built at Asano clan was broken, Kofu castle itself was keep reformed.

In 1704, Yoshiyasu Yanagisawa (1658-1714), a Tairo (grand minister) of Shogunate at the time of fifth shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa (1646-1709), became a governor of Kofu domain, considering Yoshiyasu was a descendant of former Takeda retainers. Yoshiyasu made effort for the development of Kofu city, but Yoshisato Yanagisawa (1687-1745) was moved to Koriyama castle (Nara prefecture) and Edo Shogunate directly governed Kofu castle again. 

Afterward of castle

At the time of Meiji revolution war, new government army divided their army into Tokaido road and Nakasendo road, and the latter marched toward Kofu castle. Seeing this, Kaishu Katsu (1823-1899), a substantial general commander of Edo Shogunate, sent Shinsengumi, the famous swordsman group lead by Isami Kondo (1834-1868), to seize Kofu castle prior to the arrival of New government army. 

But due to a delay of Shinsengumi, new government army lead by Taisuke Itagaki (1837-1919), who became famous as a politician later, occupied Kofu castle without battle. After that new government army and Shinsengumi fought at Katsunuma area in the east edge of Kofu basin, and Shinsengumi was severely defeated and ended its history as a troop.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution all buildings was lost, and outer area was used for the space of railway or ground of offices. Stone walls at hilltop area is well remained, and now used as a historical park. Since 1990's investigation and preparation of the park is proceeding, and gates and corner turret were reconstructed.  In spite of its size, layer of profound stone walls well shows importance of Kofu castle both from Toyotomi government and Edo Shogunate.


10 minutes walk from JR East Chuosen line Kofu station. 15 minutes drive from Chuo Expressway Kofushowa interchange.

Related Castles

Tsutsujigasaki Palace -Residence of "Tiger of Kai"-
Wakayama Castle -Dragon on the back of "Tiger Hill"-
Koriyama Castle -Wise younger brother devoted himself to Hideyoshi-
Katsuyama Castle (Kai) -After Heroic Age-



Pictures (click to enlarge)

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