Monday, February 24, 2014

Takato Castle -Last glory of Takeda Clan-

Takato Castle

-Last glory of Takeda clan-



Name: Takato Castle (Takato-jo)
Alias: Kabutoyama-jo
Place: Takato-cho Ina city, Nagano
Location: 35.833272653811434, 138.06232975764246
Type: Hill castle
Built: Originally prior to 16th century, expanded at the mid of 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls, dry moats and gates
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Takato castle (高遠城) is located on a hill at the former Takato town, at the east edge of middle part of Ina valley spreads southern part of Nagano prefecture. Takato town is an important point for transportation along with Akibakaido way from Totomi province (western part of Shizuoka prefecture) to Suwa region and Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture), and also road to west half of Ina valley toward Mino province (Gifu prefecture) or Mikawa province (eastern half of Aichi prefecture). From Kai country, Takato area was a bridgehead to Shinano province, and also last fortress from Shinano province. 

Build and expansion of Takato castle

Takato castle was originally built by Takato clan, a local lord of this area and branch family of Suwa clan, the house of priest of Suwa shrine and load of Suwa area. At midst of 16th century, Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), a famous warlord at Tsutsujigasaki palace of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) who extinguished Suwa clan and captured Suwa area, assaulted Takato area and occupied Takato castle. 

Shingen significantly reformed this castle as a military basis of Ina area, and it is said that construction plan was made by his legendary military staff, Kansuke Yamamoto (1501? -1561?). Takato castle locates at edge the plateau at the connecting point of Mibu-gawa river and Fujisawa-gawa river, and being surrounded its north, west and south side by river and cliff, only east side is connected to the outside. As a core castle, Shingen at first appointed his important retainer Torashige Akiyama (1527-1575, known as Nobutomo Akiyama), but later changed to his fourth son Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582).

Structure of Takato castle

Structure of Takato castle reflects this geographical condition. Central area of the castle exists at the inner part of the plateau, and secondary area spreads the east front of the castle to guard central area. Later third area and Kansuke area were added surrounding these original areas, and castle area was extended to whole part of the plateau. Finally central area was guarded by three layer dry moats toward east side. 

At the southeast edge of castle a front fort named "Houdouin Kuruwa" was built, to use as a starting point of counter attack to the enemy which attacks third area from side. This structure is common to other castles built or expanded by Takeda clan such as Suwahara castle (Shizuoka prefecture) or Oshima castle (Nagano prefecture). Later in Edo era front gate of the castle was changed from east side to west side, which directly faced castle town at the hillside.

Rise and fall of Takeda clan

Utilizing Takato castle Takeda clan continued to expand its territories toward the south, and captured whole Ina region by around 1550. Later Shingen invaded Mino province (Gifu prefecture) held by central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) or Mikawa province managed by Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) from Ina valley, and Takato castle was used as a supporting base of these excursion. In 1572, Shingen started his last campaign toward Kyoto city, and made perfect win against Ieyasu at the battle of Mikatagahara. 

But just after that Shingen died in ill in 1573, and Takeda clan had to stop this campaign. Katsuyori Takeda who became the successor of Shingen fiercely fought with Nobunaga, but suffered serious defeat against an ally of Nobunaga and Ieyasu at the battle of Nagashino in 1575, and lost many generals and soldiers. Takeda clan started to decline, and in 1581 Katsuyori placed his trusted younger brother Morinobu Nishina (1557-1582) as a commander of this castle as a last resort of this area. 

Loyalty of Morinobu Nishina

Katsuyori managed to keep his house for next several years. But in January 1582, Yoshimasa Kiso (1540-1595), who was the local lord of Kiso valley, left Takeda clan and opened his territory to Nobunaga. Next month Oda army lead by Nobutada Oda (1557-1582), the eldest son and successor of Nobunaga, started to invade Takeda clan with overwhelming armies, in cooperation with Ieyasu Tokugawa and Ujimasa Hojyo (1538-1590), a warlord of Sagami province (Kanagawa prefecture). 

The situation was quite hard for Takeda clan being attacked from three directions, and Iida castle (Nagano prefecture) and Oshima castle in front of Takato castle easily opened without resistance.  Among many Takeda generals and soldiers betrayed or ran away, Morinobu decided to resist only by himself at Takato castle. 

Facing over 50,000 Oda army only with 3,000 soldiers, Morinobu rejected recommendation of surrender from Nobutada and bravely fought, but the castle fell in one day and Morinobu finally died with the castle at the beginning of March. Due to the the fall of Takato castle Takada clan rapidly collapsed, and Katsuyori died only 10 days after the fall of Takato castle. Morinobu's loyalty is still respected by local people.

Afterward of Takato castle

After the fall of Takada clan and death of Nobunaga just after that, under Toyotomi government Takato castle was managed by Mouri clan and Kyogoku clan at Iida castle. Subsequent to the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Takato castle had been managed by important hereditary retainers of Edo Shogunate such as Hoshina clan, Torii clan or Naito clan.

After the Meiji Revolution except for one gate all building were broken, but buildings of domain school still remain in the castle site. Local people planted cherry trees all over the ruins, and castle site became a famous site for cherry blossom around middle of April. Cherry blossoms at the castle bloom all at once and soon gone matches the short but heroic commander of this castle.


Bus from JR Central Iida line Inashi station or Inakita station. 30 minutes drive from Chuo Jidoshado Expressway Ina interchange.

Related Castles

Tsutsujigasaki Palace -Residence of "Tiger of Kai"-
Shinpu Castle -Castle built by tragic successor of Takeda clan-
Oshima Castle -Man of culture lived in turbulent time-
Iida Castle -Castle connected four provinces-
Suwahara Castle -Huge moats divide the plateau-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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