Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tsutsujigasaki Castle -Main Base of "Tiger of Kai"-

Tsutsujigasaki Castle 

-Main base of "Tiger of Kai"-



Name: Tsutsujigasaki Castle (Tsutsujigasaki-Yakata)
Place: Kofuchu Kofu city, Yamanashi
Location: 35.686721694712205, 138.57730695236503
Type: Flat castle
Built: 1519
Remaining remnants: Clay walls, stone walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Tsutsujigasaki castle (躑躅ヶ崎館) is located at the north of current Kofu city central, where Aikawa river flows from mountain area into Kofu basin. Castle site exists at the inside of a valley that is about 1.5 kilometer long square and being surrounded by ridges at both side, and was a suitable place to build medieval main base of governor and attached town.

Tsutsujigasaki castle was built as a main base of Takeda clan, which was a traditional branch family of Minamoto clan goes back to Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu in 11th century, and served as the governor of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) from 13th century to 16th century.

In the beginning of 15th century Takeda clan was once subjugated by Muromachi Shogunate related to the revolt of Zenshu Uesugi (?-1417) and once significantly declined. But in the latter half of the century Takeda clan gradually regained its power defeating deputy governor Atobe clan or other major local lords.

Build of Tsutsujigasaki castle

On the beginning of 16th century, Nobutora Takeda (1494-1574) who was the young leader of Takeda clan broke the alliance of hostile uncle Nobuyoshi Aburakawa (?-1508) and other non obedient local lords then united Kai province again. As a sign of unification, Nobutora moved his residence from Isawa area at the east of Kofu basin to the center of basin and built Tsutsujigasaki castle in 1518.

Tsutsujigasaki was not suitable for defense because it was small and placed on moderate slope, thus a supporting castle named Yogaisan castle, which was used as shelter in case of need, was also built on the mountain near this palace. This place is famous for a residence or castle of Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), nicknamed as "Tiger of Kai".

Structure of castle

Main part of castle consisted of central area and western area. Central area is 200 meter length square and it was an ordinary style of palaces of Shogun or other governors. During era of Shingen, central area was used for private life. After the extinction of Takeda clan a base of main tower covered by stone wall at northwest corner of central area, but it places in off limit area and we can't see it. 

Western area is a half size of central area, and used as public space. There were entrances at north and south side, and they were built as Umadashi-style (composite gate) usually used for castles at front. Main areas are surrounded by moats, and outside of main areas surrounding areas such as Miso-guruwa or Baioh-guruwa were built in line with expansion of Takeda clan.

Shingen's Succession of leader

Shingen Takeda was the eldest son of Nobutora, but Nobutora favored younger brother Nobushige (1525-1561) and planned to succeed the position to him. In response to this, planned with retainers having antipathy against Nobutora, Shingen expelled Nobutora to Suruga province (middle part of Shizuoka prefecture) and became a leader of Takeda clan in 1541.

Expansion into Shinano and conflict with Kenshin Uesugi

As a new leader Shingen started to expand his territory into Shinano province (Nagano prefecture). First he occupied Suwa region beating Yorishige Suwa (1516-1542), a former ally and brother in law in 1542, and next advanced to middle and north part of Shinano province governed by Ogasawara clan and Murakami clan. 

In spite of serious defeat at the battle of Uedagahara and siege of Toishi castle (Nagano prefecture), Shingen finally drove them in 1553. At the same time, In 1554, he made a triangle treaty with Yoshimoto Imagawa (1519-1560), a warlord of Suruga province, and Ujiyasu Hojyo (1515-1571), a warlord of Sagami province, to keep the backward secure.

Murakami clan who lost their territory seeked assistance from Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), a warlord of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture) at Kasugayama castle and who was nicknamed as "Dragon of Echigo", and a fatal rival of Shingen. From 1553 to 1564, they intermittently fought five times at Kawanakajima (near Nagano city) for the dominance of northern part of Shinano province. Suffering serious damage including loss of Nobushige, Shingen finally expelled Kenshin from north Shinano and built Kaizu castle (Matsushiro castle) as local military and administrative base.

During expansion into Shinano province, Shingen built or reformed many castles such as Matsumoto castle, Takato castle, Iida castle, Kaizu castle, Komoro castle and so on. After that, Shingen changed his troop to Kouzuke province (Gunma prefecture), and occupied Minowa castle at 1566.

Advance into Tokai region, battle with Tokugawa-Oda ally and death

In 1560, Yoshimoto Imagawa was defeated against Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), a warlord of Owari province (western part of Aichi prefecture) and died. Imagawa clan became weak under next leader Ujizane Imagawa (1538-1614), thus Shingen decided to break the treaty and attack Imagawa clan with Ieyasu Tokugawa (1542-1616), a warlord of Mikawa province (eastern Aichi prefecture) and former subordinate of Imagawa clan.

Shingen's eldest son Yoshinobu (1538-1567) opposed this strategy because he married with Imagawa princess, but Shingen expelled Yoshinobu as attempting rebellion, and forced him to die. In 1568 he attacked Imagawa clan with Ieyasu, and occupied Suruga country. Hojyo clan became furious with this action and trooped into Suruga province, but Shingen finally kept it.

Once occupied Suruga province, Shingen's next target was Totomi province (western part of Shizuoka prefecture) held by Ieyasu Tokugawa. As Ieyasu allied with Nobunaga, Shingen had to fight with both Ieyasu and Nobunaga. In autumn 1572, Shingen started his campaign to advance westward, aiming at Kyoto, the capital of Japan and held by Nobunaga. 

Shingen occupied Futamata castle of Tokugawa clan and Iwamura castle of Oda clan, and defeated ally of Tokugawa and Oda army at the battle of Mikatagahara. Next he moved his troop to Mikawa province, but due to ill Shingen died on the return way to Kai province in April 1573.

Supported by many excellent generals later called as "24 brilliant generals of Takeda army" and strong cavalry, Shingen expanded his territories into five countries. With the flag of Takeda army stating "Furin kazan" (Wind, woods, fire and mountain, an abbreviation of a proberb by Sun Zi, stating (armies should be) quick as wind, silent as woods, aggressive as fire and firm as mountain), Shingen is still a local hero.

Throughout Shingen's era, as there was no danger in Kai province, Tsutsujigasaki castle was gradually expanded but still remained simple. It is said that Shingen mentioned "The people of Kai province is my castle, my stone wall and my moat". 

Period after Shingen Takeda

After the death of Shingen, his successor Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582) suffered serious defeat against Oda clan on the battle of Nagashino at 1575. Takeda clan faced pressure from surrounding enemies, and Katsuyori intended to strengthen the defence of capital. In 1581 Katsuyori built Shinpu castle, a new and larger castle at Nirasaki and transferred his residence then. But just after that Oda clan invaded Takada clan on February 1582, and Takeda clan perished next month.

Subsequently loads appointed by Tokugawa or Toyotomi clan also used Tsutsujigasaki-yakata for a while, but due to its old style and limitation of expansion, they started to build Kofu castle on the Ichijo-modoriyama hill, south of Tsutsujigasaki. After the completion of Kofu castle, Tsutsujigasaki castle ceased to be in operation.

Currently the central area is used for Takeda shrine, which commemorates Shingen Takeda. It is a valuable site as it keeps the style of medieval palace until now.


Bus, taxi or rental bicycle from JR East Chuo Honsen line Kofu station. 20 minutes drive from Chuo Expressway Kofushowa interchange. 

Related Castles

Shinpu Castle -Castle built by tragic successor of Takeda clan-
Kofu Castle -Important point of defense for Edo city- 
Yogaisan Castle -Returned King Lear-
Kasugayama Castle -Residence of "Dragon of Echigo"-
Matsushiro Castle -Important base used at fatal battle of two rivals- 
Toishi Castle -Might and plot-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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