Sunday, March 2, 2014

Kaerikumo Castle -Tragic castle disappeared by earthquake-

Kaerikumo Castle

-Tragic castle disappeared by earthquake-

帰雲城, Kaerigumo castle, Kiun castle


Name: Kaerikumo castle (Kaerikumo-jo)
Alias: Kaerigumo castle (Kaerigumo-jo), Kiun-jo (Kiun Castle)
Place: Hokiwaki Shirakawa village, Gifu
Location: 36.210541324121714, 136.89157570773884
Type: ?
Built: ?
Remaining remnants: None

Brief History

In the history, it is quite regretful but cities such as Pompei were destroyed by natural disasters. It is also applicable to Japanese cities and castles, especially by earthquakes. With wooden structure and heavy Kawara (thick tile) roof on weak ground, Japanese castles were naturally weak to earthquakes.

In the last period of 16th century there were large earthquakes such as Tensho earthquake in 1586 and Keicho earthquake in 1596 around central Japan. Many castles such as Kibune castle (Toyama prefecture)), Kanie castle (Aichi prefecture), Kiyosu castle or Nagahama castle (Shiga prefecture) collapsed or were damaged by Tensho Earthquake, and Fushimi castle (Kyoto prefecture) of Shigetsu period was lost at Keicho earthquake.

These castles were basically flat castles built at weak ground along the river. Around this time the building of castles became heavier and heavier with Kawara roof and thick plaster wall preparing for gun shooting, and this might be increased weakness to the shake. Among them, Karikumo castle was the most tragic case.

Origin of Kaerikumo Castle

Kaerikumo castle (帰雲城) was a residence of Uchigashima clan, a small local lord of Shirakawago village, in the northwest part of Hida province (northeastern part of Gifu prefecture). The site of the castle is at the middle of Takayama city, the center of Hida province, and Shirakawa-mura village, a village of world heritage known for straw roofed houses located at heavy snow area. There were gold mines around this area, and Uchigashima clan was thought to manage them.

In 1585, when Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi), a central ruler and Narimasa Sasa (1536-1588), former general of Oda clan who was the lord of Toyama castle of Ecchu province (Toyama prefecture) fought, Uchigashima clan supported Sasa side and was defeated by Hashiba army same as other local lords of Hida province such as Miki clan. Finally Uchigashima clan was forgiven by Hideyoshi, probably because of their skill for gold mining.

Disappearance in earthquake

It seemed Uchigashima survived this crisis, but on January of next year as above Tensho great earthquake occurred. Kaerikumo castle might have been located at the slope or hillside of Kaerikumoy-ama mountain, and due to this severe earthquake the body of mountain heavily collapsed, and incredible amount of debris flow attacked this castle. People of Uchigashima clan including Ujimasa Uchigashima (?-1586), the leader of the clan, gathered at Kaerikumo castle to celebrate new year and their survival were involved into this disaster and shared their fate with the castle.

A priest in Kyoto recorded this fact as "There was Uchigashima clan in Hida province, but due to the earthquake the mountain collapsed into the river. A fatal flood occurred and all people disappeared. Only four people visiting other province survived, and returned to their land in sadness".

Precise location of the castle is still unidentified, and there is only a memorial of this castle near the expected location in front of still damaged body of Kaerikumoyama mountain. Location of this castle is still unidentified, and this fact attracts interest of treasure seekers who believe this castle disappeared with good amount of gold.


20 minutes drive from Tokai-Hokuriku Jidoshado Expressway Shirakawago interchange toward Takayama city by Route 156.

Related Castles

Fushimi Castle -Ironical result of secure castle-
Nagahama Castle -Castle prepared future ruler-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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