Sunday, March 9, 2014

Matsusaka Castle -Castle of magnificent stone wall built by brave and wise general-

Matsusaka Castle

-Castle of magnificent stone wall built by brave and wise general-



Name: Matsusaka castle (Matsusaka-jo/Matsuzaka-jo)
Alias: Yoihonomori-jo (Yoinomori castle) 
Place: Tonomachi Matsusaka city, Mie
Location: 34.57705024655121, 136.52042599578584
Type: Hill castle
Built: 1588
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and clay walls 
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Matsusaka castle (松阪城) is located in Matsusaka city, at west side coast of Isewan bay. Matsusaka city is a central city of south part of Ise province (Mie prefecture), and a center of communication of this area where five roads from Tsu city, Iga province (northwest part of Mie prefecture), Yamato province (Nara prefecture) and Kii province (Wakayama prefecture) and Ise shrine. Matsusaka city also had a good port and prospered by trading. Merchants of Matsusaka were known for their activities, and the founder of Mitsui enterprise was born in this place. 

Matsusaka area before Ujisato Gamo

In the medieval era Matsusaka area was governed by Kitabatake clan, a house of high noble and stem from Chikafusa Kitabatake (1293-1354), who supported Emperor Godaigo at Nanbokucho era in 14th century. But Kitabatake clan was defeated by central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), and Nobukatsu Oda (1558-1630), a second son of Nobunaga, became the governor of Ise province. At first he placed on Tamaru castle (Tamashiro town) at 10 kilometer south of Matsusaka city, but then built Matsugashima castle at seashore and resided.

After the death of Nobunaga at the incident of Honnoji in 1582, Nobukatsu fought with Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) against Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), a general of Nobunaga and aimed at next hegemony. But under the inferior situation, Nobukatsu had to make peace with Hideyoshi, dividing southern part of Ise country to him in 1584. Hideyoshi appointed Ujisato Gamo (1556-1595) who made many achievements at the battle with Nobukatsu as a governor of this area.

Construction of Matsusaka castle

Ujisato Gamo was a son of Katahide Gamo (1534-1584), a local lord of Omi province (Shiga prefecture). Originally Gamo clan served for Rokkaku clan, but when Nobunaga defeated Rokkaku clan at 1568, Katahide changed to Oda side. Ujisato was sent to Nobunaga as hostage, but Nobunaga highly evaluated Ujisato and gave his daughter to him. 

Ujisato activated at major battles of Nobunaga and regarded as a brave general. On the other hand, he also had a knowledge on culture such as Sado (Way of tea ceremony), and was a Christian who had the Christian name "Leon". At the time of the incident of Honnoji in 1582, he protected Nobunaga's relative from Akechi army with Katahide.

At first Ujisato used Matsugashima castle. But Matsugashima castle directly faced the sea and suffered from water and salt harm, and also there was limited space to build castle town. Ujisato decided to build a new castle, chose Yoihonomori hill about two kilometer  inside from the shore, and built a magnificent castle fully surrounded by stone walls in 1588.

Structure of Matsusaka castle

Matsusaka castle is built at a triangle shaped hill facing eastward and roughly consist of three layer of terrances. Honmaru (central area) located at the top of the hill is a square shape tilted by 45 degrees. A three story five floor main tower with gold colored roofing blocks located at the inner side of west edge, and Kinnoma Turret existed at the east edge, the front side of the castle.

Middle layer such as lower part of lower part of Honmaru at the front side of the castle and Kitaimaru area at the backside of the castle. At the east edge of the lower part of central area there was a large Tsukimiyagura turret, which also watched the lower area. The lowest terrace are Ninomaru (secondary area) at east edge, Inkyomaru at south part and unnamed area at north part. Small hill at the south of the castle and currently used as a shrine was also a part of the castle, and Sannomaru (third area) surrounded these two hills. 

Core area of Matsusaka castle is about 200 meter long square and not so large one. But whole wall of upper and middle layer and east half of lower layer are covered by stone walls. Stone walls of Honmaru, lower part of Honmaru and  near the front gate might be original construction by Ujisato, and consist of rough and different size of stones. On the other hand, Kitaimaru, Inkyomaru or Ninomaru were additionally built by Furuta clan or Kishu domain later, and use more shaped stones. 

There are three entrance into the core area which are front gate at northeast line and two backside gate at southeast line, and each road from entrance to core area is a steep step complexly folded and aimed from upward by turrets of upper area. 

Matsusaka castle after Ujisato

In 1590, after Odawara campaign of Hideyoshi against Hojyo clan, Ujisato was transferred to Aizu Wakamatsu castle of Aizu region (Fukushima prefecture) by Hideyoshi, as a restraint to Date clan. Hideyoshi made this transfer with confidence of Ujisato's talent, but it is said that Ujisato regretted he could not aim at hegemony from such a distant place. Ujisato well governed large territory and prevented the plot of Masamune, but unfortunately died in ill only at 39 years old. 

Replacing Ujisato, Shigekatsu Furuta (1560-1606) was appointed as a commander of Matsusaka castle by Hideyoshi. As Ujisato transferred only two years after construction, only limited area was completed by then. Shigekatsu added Inkyomaru or Kitaimaru at the backside of the castle and strengthened this castle.

At the battle of Sekigahara in 1600 after the death of Hideyoshi, Shigekatsu belonged to Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord under Toyotomi government and aimed at next hegemony. Shigekatsu and Matsusaka castle was attacked by the army belonged to Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), the chief administrative staff of Toyotomi government and tried to prevent the ambition of Ieyasu. But Matsusaka castle stand for the attack of Ishida army, and finally Ieyasu beat Mitsunari at the battle of Sekighara. 

After the battle of Sekigahara Furuta clan moved to Hamada castle of Iwami province (western part of Shimane prefecture) with larger territory. South half of Ise province became held by Kishu domain, on of three special relative domain of Edo Shogunate and originally a lord of Wakayama castle (Wakayama prefecture). To manage territory at Ise province from distant main place, Matsusaka castle remained as an exception of Ikkoku Ichijyo Rei (one domain one castle rule) and was used as an administrative place. Main tower of the castle was lost in 1644 and not reconstructed.

Afterward of Castle

Subsequent to Meiji revolution all buildings were lost, and now site of the castle becomes a park. Beautiful and secure line of the stone wall remain almost as original, and at the south of the castle barrack of guard soldiers still remain. Currently former house of Norinaga Motoori (1730-1801), a scholar of Matsusaka city and who contributed to the development of Kokugaku, a study of literatures of ancient Japan, is transferred to former Inkyomaru area of the castle. Even though not large, magnificent stone walls and steps cover the hill exceed many other castles.


15 minutes walk from JR Central Kisei Honsen line Matsusaka station or Kintetsu Yamada line Matsusaka station. 10 minutes drive from Ise Jidoshado Expressway Matsusaka interchange.

Related Castles

Tamaru Castle -Checkered life of Nobunaga’s second son who survived turbulent period-
Aizu Wakamatsu Castle -White five-story main tower endured harsh battle-
Hamada Castle -Gone with Edo Shogunate-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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