Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sakamoto Castle -Time to treason (6) burning down of Enryakuji temple-

Sakamoto Castle

-Time to treason (6) burning down of Enryakuji temple-



Name: Sakamoto castle (Sakamoto-jo)
Place: Shimo-Sakamoto Otsu city, Shiga
Type: Flat castle
Built: 1573
Remaining remnants: None

Brief History

Continued from Part 5

Sakamoto castle (坂本城) is located at the southwestern shore of Lake Biwako, in the north part of current Otsu city. Sakamoto area places at 10 kilometer northeast of Kyoto city, and is an entrance to Kyoto city from Hokuriku region through western coast of Lake Biwako. 

Sakamoto town had prospered as an attached town of Hieizan Enryakuji temple and Hie Taisha Shrine, both have authority and long term history. As these temple and shrine have their own manors, agricultural products were brought to Sakamoto town in addition to the donation of believers from Sakamoto port, and these materials are sold at the market of the town. Major merchants gathered to form self-administrative society, and even issued their own coin.

Origin of Sakamoto castle and Mitsuhide Akechi

Sakamoto castle was built by Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582), a commander of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) in 1573. The origin of Mitsuhide is unknown, but it is said that Mitsuhide was a person of Akechi clan, a local lord stem from Toki clan and resided at Akechi castle the middle part of Mino province (Gifu prefecture). 

As Akechi clan was ruined by Saito clan which was the lord of Mino province in 1556, Mitsuhide wandered then was hired by Yoshiaki Ashikaga (1537-1597), who was the younger brother of assassinated former Shogun Yoshiteru Ashikaga (1536-1565). 

Mitsuhide coordinated Yoshiaki to Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), the warlord of Owari province (western half of Aichi prefecture) and captured Mino province in 1567. Next year Nobunaga marched to Kyoto city and placed Yoshiaki to the 15th Shogun of Muromachi Shogunate, then Mitsuhide became the retainer of both of Nobunaga and Yoshiaki.

Anti Nobunaga encirclement

But soon Nobunaga who seek his own authority became opponent with Yoshiaki. Surrounding powers such as Miyoshi clan, Asakura clan, Azai clan, Hieizan Enryakuji temple and Ikko Ikki army feared the rapid rise of Nobunaga formed anti-Nobunaga alliance, under the name of Yoshiaki.

In 1570, Nobunaga entered total war against Asakura and Azai clan. Nobunaga once broke Asakura and Azai army at the battle of Anegawa, but Asakura and Azai army besieged at Hieizan Enryakuji temple to make pressure to Oda army and Kyoto city. Nobunaga ordered Enryakuji Temple to release enemy army or keep neutral, but Enryakuji temple declined this order.

In addition to this, at the western front, Ikko Ikki army suddenly raised against Nobunaga who fought against Miyoshi army near Osaka area. Nobunaga barely kept Kyoto city but was encircled by enemy army and lost major generals then had to coordinate with Asakura and Azai army. 

History of Hieizan Enryakuji temple

Hieizan Enryakuji Temple was a traditional temple established by Priest Saicho (767-822) at the top of Hieizan mountain, and regarded one of two highest temples of Japanese Buddhism along with Koyasan Kongobuji temple.

Hieizan mountain was at the south edge of Hira mountain runs southward along with the western coast of Lake Biwako, and separates Kyoto basin and Lake Biwako area. Even just at the next of capital Kyoto city, the mountain surrounded by sheer cliffs and deep forests were ideal place for the religious training.

Under the lecture of Saicho and succeeding monks, Hieizan Enryakuji temples produced many famous monks later opened their own denomination, such as Honen (1133-1212) of Jodoshu, Shinran (1173-1263) of Jodoshinshu, Dogen (1200-1253) of Sotoshu. Because of this Enryakuji temple is called as the mother place of Japanese Buddhism.

Political affairs of Enryakuji temple

On the other hand, based on the believe of Imperial Household, closeness to the capital and economic power from manors or Sakamoto town, Enryakuji temple hired thounsands of monk soldiers and became political power then conflicted with authority or other denomination.

Because of religious fame of Enryakuji temple, many authorities had to accept the existence of Enryakuji Temple. But strong governors who feared the power of the temple such as Yoshinori Ashikaga (1394-1441) the sixth Shogun of Muromachi Shogunate, or Masamoto Hosokawa (1466-1507), the magistrate of Muromachi Shogunate, already burned Enryakuji temple.

But in the former half of 16th century, the temple gained their power again based on the developing economy, and their role as counter party to Ikko Ikki army, the raising under Jodoshinshu.  Enryakuji Temple became half-independent power and exercised their power on the conflict between Miyoshi clan and other lords.

Support of Asakura and Azai army

In 1568, Nobunaga Oda marched to Kyoto city and virtually established his own government. At first Enryakuji Temple kept neutral, but Nobunaga seek centralized power did not allow half-independent status of Enryakuji Temple and send orders.

At the conflict between Nobunaga and anti-Nobunaga alliance, Enryakuji Temple declined the request of neutral from Nobunaga then accepted Asakura and Azai army to the mountain. Because of the closeness to Kyoto city, this was severe pressure to Nobunaga who could not move his army away from the area, then Nobunaga finally had to accept unwilling settlement with Asakura and Azai army in 1570.

Nobunaga barely escaped crisis started his revenge by individual attack to anti Nobunaga alliance. Enryakuji Temple which was close to capital Kyoto city and had less soldiers compared with warlord became the first target of his revenge. Nobunaga ordered Mitsuhide who had knowledge and network at Kyoto area to gather surrounding local lords and merchants.

Burning down of Enryakuji temple

In the autumn of 1571, looking at the stability of other front, Nobunaga gathered his whole army and encircled Hieizan mountain. Fearing religions authority of Enryakuji temple there was opposition from his general but Nobunaga dare to burn down the temple. It is said that Mitsuhide lead this burning.

At this burning, all holes except for Ruri-do hole at distant place was burnt down. Its main hole Konponchudo with "everlasting light" from the age of Saicho disappeared, and later was reconstructed with the new light brought from branch temples. Thousands of monks, monk soldiers and residents were involved in this disaster.

Burning down of Enryakuji brought cruel reputation to Nobunaga, but actually Nobunaga could remove the imminent danger to Kyoto city and his government then focus to the enemy more intensively. In addition to this, manors of the temple and economic revenue of Sakamoto town were also achieved. Nobunaga appointed Mitsuhide as the lord of Sakamoto town, and Mitsuhide could promote to the important retainer of Nobunaga only four year after hire.

Build of Sakamoto castle

In 1573, once situation stabilized, Mitsuhide who was appointed as the lord of Sakamoto town newly built Sakamoto castle at lakeside as his main base. Former base Usayama castle was a strong castle but inconvenient at the top of the mountain, thus Mitsuhide built his castle at lake side to grasp the town and port directly.

Sakamoto castle had third layer half concentric structure having Lake Biwako at backside. The central area at inner place might be about 100 meter long square, secondary area at middle layer was about 200 meter long square, and third area at outer later might be 400 meter long and 300 meter wide.

According to the limited record of the castle, the castle had water moat directly connected to Lake Biwako, and had main tower with attached small tower. To keep the shape of the area before the wave of the lake, each line of the area might be fully covered by low height stone wall. According the record of Luis Frois (1532-1597), a missionary of Catholic lived in Japan, Sakamoto castle was a brilliant castle next to Azuchi castle, the castle of Nobunaga.

Toward Tanba province

From 1572 to 1575, Nobunaga once suffered from the conflict with Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), the warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture), but could ruin Azai and Asakura clan then beat Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), the successor of Shingen, at the battle of Nagashino in 1575. Finally Nobunaga expelled Yoshiaki Ashikaga and formerly established his own authority.

Nobunaga seek further expansion appointed his three important general Katsuie Shibata (1521-1583), Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) and Mitsuhide Akechi as the regional commander of Hokuriku region, Chugoku region and Tanba province (western part of Kyoto prefecture or eastern part of Hyogo prefecture).

Tanba province was just at the next of Kyoto city, but it is a mountainous area separated into small basins and difficult to grasp then former authorities such as Hosokawa clan or Miyoshi clan also suffered to manage the province. Mitsuhide prepared for his next front but it was a tough place.

End of Akechi clan at Sakamoto castle

Mitsuhide later captured Tanba province built Tanba Kameyama castle as his main base, but Sakamoto castle was still his important base. In 1582, Mitsuhide made a coup d'etat against Nobunaga who stayed at Honnoji temple of Kyoto city and killed him. 

Mitsuhide temporally held hegemony, but soon was defeated by Hideyoshi Hashiba who quickly returned to Kyoto area at the battle of Yamazaki and was killed by local peasant at the south of current Fushimi area during his escape to Sakamoto castle. 

At that time Sakamoto Castle was kept by his important retainer HIdemitsu Akechi, and Hidemitsu was just to leave to Yamazaki as a reinforcement. But hearing the defeat and death of Mitsuhide, Hidemitsu returned to Sakamoto castle leaving the chase of Hashiba army. 

It is said that at this time Hidemitsu crossed the shallow area of lake Biwako only by himself riding horse. Hidemitsu handed over the treasure of Akechi clan to Toyotomi army, then killed relative of Mitsuhide stayed at Sakamoto castle and finally suicide in the burning castle. History of Akechi clan ended at Sakamoto castle only 10 years after its construction.

Afterward of castle

After the battle, Toyotomi generals used Sakamoto castle for a while. But in 1586, new ruler Hideyoshi decided to build Otsu castle more close to Kyoto city, thus Sakamoto castle was abolished and stones and materials were transferred to Otsu castle. 

Now almost no ruin remains, but a basement of stone wall still remains in the ocean and is seen only at dry season. Beside, a gate of the castle is used at a outer gate of Syoju-Raikoji temple near the castle. Empty scenery of the site conversely attract our imagination of former shape of splendid castle and reason of coup d'etat.

Continue to Part 7


15 minutes walk from JR West Kosai-sen line Hieizan-Sakamoto station. 30 minutes drive from Meishin Expressway Otsu interchange.

Related Castles

Tanba Kameyama Castle -Time to treason (13) now is time to treason-
Fukuchiyama Castle- Time to treason (10) rule of Tanba province-
Yagami Castle -Resistance and death of Hatano clan-
Omizo Castle -Time to treason (11) deputy minister of Kinki region-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

Hieizan Enryakuji Temple

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