Friday, March 7, 2014

Tanaka Castle -Round roulette of bullish general-

Tanaka Castle (Suruga province)

-Round roulette of bullish general-



Name: Tanaka Castle (Tanaka-jo)
Alias: Kame jo (Turtle castle), Toku-no-Isshiki jo (Toku-no-Isshiki castle)
Place: Tanaka, Fujieda city, Shizuoka
Type: Plain castle
Built: Originally 1537, expanded in 15th century
Remaining remnants: One turret, clay walls and moats

Brief History

Tanaka castle (田中城) is located at Tanaka town in the east part of current Fujieda city. Fujieda city is a center of Shida plain, which spreads about 10 kilometer long and 5 kilometer wide between Oigawa-river and Takakusa-yama mountains. East part of the plain is river basin of Seto-gawa river, which is a short one but having many tributaries.

Castle site exists this river area and a natural fortress protected by flows of Seto-gawa rivers and many small brooks. Tokaido road which had been a main artery of Japan between Kyoto city and Kanto region runs through micro elevation at the north of castle toward Utsunoya pass and Shizuoka area, and castle site is a suitable place to control Tokaido road.

Origin of Tanaka castle

Precise year is unknown but Tanaka castle was built by Isshiki clan, the retainer of Imagawa clan which was the governor of Suruga province (middle part of Shizuoka prefecture) in the former half of 16th century. At first Tanaka castle was Toku-Isshiki castle, using the name of its builder.

In the middle of 16th century, it is recorded that Masanobu Yui (?-1560), a retainer of Yoshimoto Imagawa (1519-1560), served as a commander of Toku-Isshiki castle with large territory. But in 1560, Masanobu died in the battle of Okehazama along with his master Yoshimoto Imagawa, before sudden attack of Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), the warlord of Owari province (western half of Aichi prefecture).

Imagawa clan which lost its excellent leader significantly declined, and eight year later Suruga province was assaulted by Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), the warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) and former ally of Imagawa clan in 1568. After one year struggle with Hojo clan which was the warlord of Sagami province (Kanagawa prefecture) which supported Imagawa clan, Takeda clan captured whole part of Suruga province.

Expansion by Takeda clan

Even though oriented from mountainous Kai province, Takeda clan built flat castle at the important area of occupied territory, such as Fukashi castle (Nagano prefecture, later Matsumoto castle) or Kaizu castle (Nagano prefecture). These castles are built for multiple purposes such as administration, supply and commanding front line castles.

These castles have oblong shape and being surrounded by layers of water moat, and its gates were guarded by Umadashi gates, half round shaped gate areas with crescent dry moat, which is the clearest character of the castle of Takeda clan.

Shingen ruined Imagawa clan in cooperation with Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the warlord of Mikawa province (east half of Aichi prefecture) then Ieyasu captured Totomi province (west part of Shizuoka prefecture), ahead of Oigawa river. But Shingen who hoped further expansion soon broke with Ieyasu and aimed at Totomi province.

Preparing for the conflict with Tokugawa clan, Shingen ordered his important general Nobuharu Baba (1515-1575), who was praised as an excellent castle builder, to strengthen Tanaka castle. Originally Toku-Isshiki castle was a small castle of only one area, but by this reform Tanaka castle turned into secure fortress of the area. At this time the name might be changed to Tanaka castle.

Structure of Tanaka castle

Tanaka castle has totally circular shape like a wheel or roulette. Circular shape has a merit of no dead angle, but also inconvenient for the use of ground especially for placing building. Central area of the castle is about 100 meter long square shaped one, having main residence inside and two story turret at its southeastern corner.

Central area is wholly surrounded by narrow corridor area, which originally might be the part of central area but later was separated by water moat and clay wall. This area has four gate at each line connected to outer part. Outer part is a hexagon shaped area which is separated into secondary area at west half and third area at east half, has four gates at each direction.

Each gate was protected by Umadashi area with crescent shaped water moat. Outside of these areas, outer area was built which is round shape of about 500 meter diameter. Each layer was protected by thick and tall clay wall and over 10 meter wide water moats, which remains quite limited part but still seen as undulation of terrain. At south east corner there was an additional area of outer residence.

Change to front line castle

At first Takeda clan was offensive to Tokugawa clan and Tanaka castle worked as supply base for invasion. But in 1575, Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), the successor of Shingen Takeda, suffered fatal defeat before Nobunaga Oda and Ieyasu Tokugawa at the battle of Nagashino. 

Before counter attack of Tokugawa army, Suwahara castle at the opposite of Oigawa river was captured at that year. Tokugawa army not only encircled Taketenjin castle, an important base of Takeda clan remained at Totomi province, but also crossed Oigawa river and attacked Shida area. Tanaka castle suddenly changed to forefront castle.

At first Katsuyori placed Masamitsu Yamagata (??-1582), the son of Masakage Yamagata (1529-1575) who was one of four brilliant generals of Takeda clan but died in the battle of Nagashino. But considering inexperience of Masamitsu to protect Tanaka castle by small army, the commander was changed to Nobushige Yoda (1548-1583).

Brave commander of Futamata castle

Nobushige Yoda was originally a local lord of Saku providence of Shinano province (Nagano prefecture). Nobushige and his father Nobumori Ashida (?-1575) served as vanguard of Shingen, and were placed as the commander of Futamata Castle (Shizuoka prefecture), which was captured at the operation of Shingen in 1573.

As Futamata castle was an important castle at just 15 kilometer north of Hamamatsu castle (Shizuoka prefecture), the main base of Ieyasu Tokugawa, Ieyasu tried to recover but Nobumori and Nobushige well protected the castle. But in 1575 Takeda clan suffered severe damage at the battle of Nagashino, and could not help Futamata castle any more.

In the meantime Nobumori Yoda died in the ill under the siege of Tokugawa clan, but Nobushige firmly protected the castle over half year. But supply line was lost and shortage of food occurred, thus finally Nobushige opened Futamata castle under the approval of Katsuyori. Nobushige chose find day and left the castle in a dignified manner then impressed Tokugawa army well.

Another brave fight and hiding

At this time Nobumori could follow to Ieyasu but did not so and moved to Suruga province. Again Nobumori had to face with superior Tokugawa army, especially after the fall of Takatenjin castle in 1581. Mochimume castle at the backside of Tanaka castle was also attacked by Tokugawa army and once fell, but Nobushige firmly protected Tanaka castle.

In 1582, Nobunaga and Ieyasu started their operation to ruin Takeda clan. Ieyasu attacked Tanaka castle again but Nobushige still protected the castle. But at this time Nobutada Anayama (1541-1582, known for his Buddhist name Baisetsu), the commander of Suruga province, already agreed with Ieyasu and turned to Tokugawa army. 

Soon after that Katsuyori Takeda killed himself at Tenmokusan mountain and Takeda clan was ruined. Hearing that news Nobushige opened Tanaka castle and thought to surrender to Nobunaga, but heard from Ieyasu that he was the first position of purge. Ieyasu evaluated the braveness of Nobushige kept him thus Nobushige survived and waited for opportunity.

Vanguard to capture Shinano province

That opportunity realized with unexpected rapidity, by the death of Nobunaga in the incident of Honnoji, a coup d’?tat by his general Mitsuhide Akechi (1521-1582). Ieyasu barely returned from Kyoto city tried to raise his army against Mitsuhide, but at that time Mitsuhide was also broken at the battle of Yamazaki by Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) quickly returned from western front.

Ieyasu changed his target to the capture of Shinano province and Kai province, former territories of Takeda clan. Different from Nobunaga who slaughtered former retainers of Takeda clan, Ieyasu helped them including Nobushige Yoda. As retainers of Nobunaga were expelled or killed by the raise of local people, Shinano province and Kai province became vacant area.

Ieyasu who seized Kai province sent Nobushige to his former territory Shinano province. Nobushige helped Kazumasu Takigawa (1528-1586) who held Kozuke province (Gumma prefecture) and east part of Shinano province but was broken by Hojo army and under retreat to his original territory, and received Komoro castle (Nagano prefecture). Under his achievement Tokugawa clan seemed to capture Shinano province.

Crisis and breakthrough

However, Hojo clan which seized Kozuke province intruded into Shinano province with overwhelming army. Nobushige had to dispose Komoro castle and retreated to his territory then kept guerilla tactics against Hojo clan, but suffered from small army and loss of supply. At that time Ieyasu also had to face with overwhelming main army of Hojo clan at Shinpu castle (Yamanashi prefecture), the last main base of Takeda clan.

But Nobushige could turn Masayuki Sanada (1547-1611), the lord of Ueda area and former colleague at Takeda clan, to Tokugawa side. After the collapse of Oda clan Masayuki once followed to Hojo clan, but had potential conflict with Hojo clan regarding Numata castle (Gunma prefecture).  

Under the support of Tokugawa army and Sanada clan, Nobushige shut the supply line of Hojo clan. At the same time Hojo clan was broken at the battle of Kurokoma in the east part of Kai province, then having overwhelming army this time Hojo clan suffered shortage of supply. Furthermore, vacancy of main army might arise invasion of surrounding lords.

Sudden death before reward

At last Hojo clan agreed with Ieyasu Tokugawa, leaving Kai province and Shinano province to Tokugawa clan. It was great victory to Tokugawa clan, and the achievement of Nobushige was significant at this campaign. Nobushige becomes the lord of Komoro castle, and it seemed Nobushige might receive great reward for his activity.

However, at the last battle against complaint local lord, Nobushige and his younger brother were fired by matchlock guns and died. Ieyasu deeply regretted the loss of Nobushige, then gave his son Yasukuni Yoda (1570-1590) his former surname Matsudaira and large territory. But Yasukuni also died in the battle against Hojo clan in 1590.

Two year later Ieyasu had to face with Hideyoshi Toyotomi who became central ruler. Ieyasu barely survived this campaign by the tactical victory at the battle of Nagakute, and could follow to Hideyoshi preserving his army and fame. This fact brought final victory to Tokugawa clan after the death of Hideyoshi, but without capture of Kai province and Shinano province Ieyasu could not resist against Hideyoshi at this time.

Afterward of Yoda clan and Tanaka castle

For this fact, Yasukuni fully repaid kindness of Ieyasu and exactly brought final ruler position. Ieyasu recognized it and Yoda clan once became the feudal lord of Fujioka castle (Gunma prefecture) under Edo Shogunate established. But in 1600 Yoda clan lost its territory by trouble and ended its history as feudal lord only after 15 years. 

The achievement and fall of Yoda clan seems a bullish gambler once achieved enormous fortune by courage and luck but finally lost everything. For that mean, the round shape of Tanaka castle looks like a roulette to which Nobushige Yoda bet his life. Even though not remained as material fortune, the bet of Nobushige surely changed the history and remained in the record.

During Edo era, Tanaka castle has been used as the main base of Tanaka domain. Even though a small domain, as an important castle which managed Tokaido road and next to Sunpu city which was an important territory of Shogunate, hereditary retainers of Edo Shogunate held Tanaka castle and participated in the cabinet of Shogunate.

Now most part of the structure of the castle was lost by construction of schools and houses, and quite limited part of clay wall and water moat remain among the houses. But roads of castle area runs circular tracing former moats, and height of the terrain shows past clay wall and moat clearly.

A two story turret stood at the corner of central area once gave to former retainer at the abolish of the castle is moved to the place of outer residence. This turret is a simple barrack without decoration, but the shape of the turret well shows the image of unremarkable but well worked veteran castle and its bullish commander.


30 minutes walk from JR Central Tokaido-Honsen line Nishi-Yaizu station. 20 minutes drive from Tomei Expressway Yaizu interchange.

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Pictures (click to enlarge)

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