Friday, March 28, 2014

Yonago Castle -Person who decided win and lose at Sekigahara-

Yonago Castle

-Person who determined win and lose at Sekigahara-



Name: Yonago castle (Yonago-jo)
Alias: Minatoyama-jo (Port side hill castle)
Place: Kume Yonago city, Tottori
Location: 35.42528371579562, 133.32373567032164
Type: Hill castle
Built: Originally in 15th century, expanded in 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and dry moats
Title: 100 more famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Yonago castle (米子城) is located on the hill in Yonago city, facing the Sea of Japan. Originally a small castle was built in 15th century on the next hill located in the south of current castle. 

Formerly western Houki province (western part of Tottori prefecture) was governed at Odaka Castle, about 10 kilometer south of Yonago city. In 1591, Hiroie Kikkawa (1561-1625) was appointed as a lord of this area. Hiroie was a son of Motoharu Kikkawa, a son of Motonari Mouri (1530-1586) and famous as a brave general. Motoharu held Sanin region after the fall of Amago clan, and Hiroie succeeded his territory. In 1591 he started to build a large castle at the hill as his residence, considering convenience of controlling commercial of this area.

Relationship between Kikkawa clan and Toyotomi clan

At the time of the accident of Honnoji in 1582, Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) who faced with Mouri clan at Takamatsu castle (Okayama prefecture), concealed the death of Nobunaga to Mouri clan and promptly made peace with them, then rapidly returend to Kyoto and seized the hegemony. 

Due to this reason, Hideyoshi favoured Mouri clan and its relatives under his government, thinking as a rival against Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord. Takakage Kobayakawa (1533-1597), younger brother of Motoharu, supported reconciliation with Hideyoshi, and was treated as one of the chief vassal of his government. After Takakage’s death in 1597, Hideyoshi assigned Terumoto Mouri (1553-1625), the current leader of Mouri clan, as one of the five vassals which was the highest position in his government.

On the other hand, Motoharu was thought to oppose to Hideyoshi, and was treated coldly. Hiroie was given an independent territory from Hideyoshi, but he also had a disquiet feeling with Hideyoshi and Toyotomi clan.

Hiroie and Mouri clan at the battle of Sekigahara

After the death of Hideyoshi in 1598, Ieyasu Tokugawa started his movement to seize the next hegemony. In response to this, Mitsuhari Ishida (1560-1600), former chief administrative staff of Hideyoshi, attempted to stop Ieyasu’s take over and raised an army with supporting lords, when Ieyasu was absent from Kinki region marching to Uesugi clan in Aizu region (Fukushima prefecture) in 1600. As Mouri clan was the second largest lord next to Ieyasu, Mitsunari, in cooperation with Ekei Ankokuji (1539-1600), a diplomat priest of Mouri clan, calojed Terumoto as a leader of former Toyotomi side groups.

On the other hand, Hiroie, who was the most influenced general in Mouri clan because Takakage did not have their own son, secretly connected with Ieyasu individually and agreed to support him, based on the antipathy against Toyotomi clan and its administrative staff Mitsunari.

Ieyasu and Mitsunari finally held a difinite battle at Sekigahara in Mino country (Gifu prefecture). Mitsunari side had 100,000 soldiers larger than Tokugawa side of 80,000 soldiers and surrounded Tokugawa troops. Mouri troops with 20,000 soldiers  was the largest troops of Mitsunari side, and located at Nanguusan hill, obliquely behind the encampment of Ieyasu where was a good point to assault from backside. It is said that in Meiji era, Captain Meckel, a German general and teacher of Japanese Imperial army, visited the site of Sekigahara and saw the location map, then said that Mitsunari side should have won against Ieyasu.

But Mitsunari side was mixed up army, and only a part of their army seriously fought. Mitsunari urged Mouri army through Ekei to assault Ieyasu from behind, but Mouri army was led by Hidemoto Mouri (1579-1650), a younger brother of Terumoto, bot by Terumoto himself, and Hiroie was the substantive commander. Hiroie continued to refuse this request under the pretext of eating lunch. This anecdote was said as “Long lunch of Mouri clan” later.

In the meantime, Hideaki Kobayakawa (1577-1602), a relative of Hideyoshi and an adopted son of Takakage, betrayed Mitsunari and attacked his side army with large number of soldiers. It was a deathblow to Mitsunari side, and finally Mitsunari and other lords were routed from battlefield.

As a result, a neutral attitude of Mouri clan was important for the success of Ieyasu. But after the battle, Ieyasu decreased the territory of Mouri clan to only Nagato country and Suo country (both Yamaguchi prefecture), one third of former territory. At first Ieyasu planned to forfeit all of Mouri territory and give these country to Hiroie, but Hiroie refused this plan and entreated Ieyasu to keep territory for his master. 

Hiroie is often accused that if Mouri clan attacked Ieyasu they might have gotten larger territory, but on the other hand, under Terumoto who was a leader of incapacity, it was not clear to keep the house during the unforeseeable situation in such case. Anyway Mouri clan kept the grudge on this matter throughout Edo period, and became the leader of anti Edo shogunate activity at Meiji revolution.

Afterward of the castle

Losing his territory, Hiroie had to leave this castle before completion. After Hiroie, Kazutada Nakamura (1590-1616), a son of Kazuuji Nakamura (?-1600) who was an old retainer of Hideyoshi and supported Ieyasu, was appointed as a governor and transferred from Sunpu castle. Kazutada completed this castle which had large and small two main towers, but due to having no successor Nakamura clan was confiscated its territory and extinguished. Afterward, Yonago area was governed by Ikeda clan at Tottori castle, and Yonago castle remained as a branch castle of Tottori domain.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution all buildings were broken. Now the site of the castle is used as a park with good view at the hill, and splendid stonewalls still remain well.


20 minutes walk from JR West Sanin-Honsen line Yonago station. 10 minutes drive from Sanindo Expressway Yonago-Naka interchange or Yonago-Minami interchange. 20 minutes walk from hillside entrance to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Sunpu Castle -Place of memory for first Shogun-
Tottori Castle -As secure as guarding general's will-
Odaka Castle -Brave general devoted his life to restration of master's house-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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