Monday, May 5, 2014

Takatenjin Castle -To solve lifetime regret-

Takatenjin Castle

-To solve lifetime regret-



Name: Takatenjin castle (Takatenjin-jo)
Place: Kami-Hijikata Kakegawa city, Shizuoka
Location: 34.69877884679836, 138.0335514535788
Type: Mountain castle
Built: Originally 15th century, expanded in 16th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats
Title: 100 more famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Takatenjin castle (高天神城) is placed on the Kakuoh-zan mountain continued southward from Ogasayama mountain in south east part of Kakegawa city. It is located along with the road from Kakegawa city to Kikugawa plain, and also centered on the eastern seaside area of Totomi province (weastern part of Shizuoka prefecture). 

Takatenjin castle itself was a secure castle surrounded by sheer cliff and connected to backside mountain only by narrow path, thus historically it is said that who keeps Takatenjin castle also seizes Totomi province.

Mysterious builder of castle

Takatenjin castle might be built in the 15th century by Kushima clan, a local lord of this area and retainer of Imagawa clan, the warlord of Suruga province (middle part of Shizuoka prefecture). Kushima clan was one of important retainers of Imagawa clan, and mainly took charge of foreign diplomacy with Takeda clan, the warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture). 

In 1521, Masashige Kushima (1492-1521), the leader of Kushima clan, intruded into Kai province and fought with Nobutora Takeda (1494-1574, the leader of Takeda clan. Kushima army with larger army approached to Kofu city, the capital of Kai province, but faced desperate counterattack of Nobutora then Imagawa army suffered defeat.

Kushima clan continued after that but at the time of the incident of Hanagura, an internal conflict of Imagawa clan in 1536, Kushima clan supported their relative Genko Etan (1517-1536) as a next leader but was ruined by Yoshimoto Imagawa (1520-1560). It is said that the son of Masashige ran to Hojo clan and became Tsunashige Hojo (1515-1587), a brave general of Hojo army, but it is not clear the trustworthy of this story.

Fall of Imagawa clan and capture by Tokugawa clan

Yoshimoto Imagawa placed Ogasawara clan as a general of Takatenjin castle. After the death of Yoshimoto at the battle of Okehazama, Ujizane Imagawa (1538-1614), the son of Yoshimoto, succeeded Imagawa clan but could not well manage retainers then Imagawa clan gradually declined.

In 1568, Imagawa clan ended its history by the attack of Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), son of Nobutora Takeda and former ally of Yoshimoto Imagawa, and Motoyasu Matsudaira (1543-1616, later Ieyasu Tokugawa) who left Imagawa clan and became the warlord of Mikawa province (eastern part of Aichi prefecture). Shingen and Ieyasu shared former Imagawa territory, and Takatenjin castle was held by Tokugawa clan.

Nagatada Ogasawara (?-?), former commander of Takatenjin castle, belonged to Ieyasu and continuously served as the commander. Nagatada participated in the battle of Anegawa fought between Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), the central ruler and an ally of Ieyasu. and Azai clan occurred in 1570, as one of the reinforcement from Ieyasu to Nobunaga.

First attack by Shingen Takeda

However in 1571, Shingen aimed at further expansion broke with Ieyasu then intruded into Totomi province with large force. At that year Shingen siege Takatenjin castle with 20,000 soldiers, but due to secure defense Shingen could not fall the castle. 

Next year Shingen started large campaign against Tokugawa clan and captured border castles of Totomi province such as Futamata castle, Inui castle or Koyama castle. Ieyasu barely held Kakegawa castle, the center of the area, but his dominance at this area became significantly declined. 

In the winter of 1572, Shingen made a great victory to Ieyasu at the battle of Mikatagahara, but died in ill at the beginning of next year on the way of his march toward Kyoto city. Takeda army once retreated to their territory Kai province, and Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), the fourth son of Shingen, succeeded Takeda clan.

Second attack and capture by Katsuyori Takeda

Katsuyori was a son of the princess of former enemy Suwa clan and became the successor due to the purge of his elder brother Yoshinobu Takeda (1538-1567), thus his authority was weak. Katsuyori intended to improve his authority by winning at the battle, then started fierce attack toward Oda clan and Tokugawa clan. In 1574, Katsuyori made expedition to eastern area of Mino province (Gifu prefecture) and seized 16 castles of Oda territory.

Further in this year, Katsuyori siege Takatenjin castle with 25,000 soldiers. Ieyasu could not resist only by himself and asked reinforcement to Nobunaga, and Nobunaga send his army in one month. But in the meantime all foods in the castle was consumed, thus Nagatada decided to open the castle and surrender to Katsuyori. 

By capturing castle his father could not fall, Katsuyori could improve his fame of brave and was at height. But some old retainers criticized Katsuyori that he was too strong and acted arbitrarily. Katsuyori reformed Takatenjin castle as a basis of this area and changed Nagatada Ogasawara to Motonobu Okabe (?-1581) for the commander of the castle.

Structure of the castle

Structure of Takatenjin castle is roughly "Z" letter, consist of eastern peak, western peak and saddle point. Eastern peak is an original area of the castle and consist of terraces such as central area, secondary area and third area. This part consist of just flat terraces, without clay walls or moats similar to other castles built by Imagawa clan.

Contrary to this, western peak was added under Takeda clan after their capture. Narrow ridge spreads westward from the center of this part used as a ground of shrine is well formed into straight line, and protected by dry moats. Usage of horizontal dry moat, clay wall and Masugata style gate was the latest technology of Takeda clan, and show the importance of this castle.

Saddle point is a narrow and long flat area of about 50 meter long and 10 meter wide, equips a well. Front gate existed just at the below of eastern peak, and backside gate existed at the below of this saddle point. Total size of the castle is about 400 meter long and 200 meter wide, and its size and sheer cliff enabled long time besiege.

Life time regret of brave general

Motonobu Okabe was originally a brave general of Imagawa clan from youth. It is said that Motomobu activated at the second battle of Azukizaka in 1548, on which Imagawa army broke Nobuhide Oda (1511-1552), the father of Nobunaga Oda and who proceeded to Mikawa province at that time. Because of this victory, Imagawa clan could seize Mikawa province.

Next Yoshimoto Imagawa who advanced to the border area of Owari province (western part of Aichi prefecture) seized Narumi castle (Aichi prefecture). Yoshimoto placed Motonobu Okabe at this forefront castle, and Motonobu well kept Narumi castle under severe siege by Nobunaga Oda for several years.

However, in 1560, Yoshimoto Imagawa marched to Owari province to release Narumi castle died at the battle of Okehazama by sudden attack of Nobunaga. At this time Nobunaga passed just the side of Narumi castle, but Motonobu could not chase Nobunaga because of heavy rain and high tide. 

After the battle Motonobu still protected Narumi castle and finally opened it in exchange of the body of Yoshimoto, and furthermore fell Kariya castle on the way of return. Among Imagawa generals only Motonobu Okabe showed his braveness, but this might be a lifetime regret of Motonobu.

To solve lifetime regret

However, the fate of Takatenjin castle significantly changed next year. In 1575 Katsuyori suffered severe defeat before Oda and Tokugawa army by their numerous matchrock guns, and Takeda clan lost many generals and soldiers began to fall. 

In the same year Tokugawa clan captured Suwahara castle, which controlled Tokaido road and an important supply base to Takatenjin castle. Takeda clan still kept seaside area but this area was inconvenient marsh, thus it became difficult to keep supply line to Takatenjin castle.

To solve his lifetime regret, Motonobu Okabe bravely fought at Takatenjin castle and broke Tokugawa army several times. Ieyasu Tokugawa who resided at Odaka castle at the battle of Okehazama, just two kilometer away from Narumi castle as the vanguard of Imagawa army, now allied with Nobunaga Oda and became opponent of Motonobu. At that time Motonobu might felt the irony of the life and tide of time. 

Fall of Takatenjin castle

Ieyasu gave up direct attack to the castle and built six bases such as Yokosuka castle around Takatenjin by 1580, and securely encircled the castle. Now Takeda clan was surrounded by strong enemies such as Oda clan, Tokugawa clan and Hojo clan and could not send reinforcement or supply any more. Katsuyori approved Motonobu to open the castle, but Nobunaga did not accept to collapse the authority of Katsuyori. 

Finally in March 1581,due to the lack of supply, Motonobu Okabe and 700 soldiers charged to Tokugawa army and all died in the battle. After 20 years struggle, Motonobu could not solve his lifetime regret. Nagatada Ogasawara escaped to Takeda territory, but was also killed at the fall of Takeda clan in 1582.

At the first fall of the castle in 1574, one Tokugawa retainer named Okouchi refused to surrender and was imprisoned in the stone jail of the castle. He stayed there in seven years, and finally released by Tokugawa army. Ieyasu rewarded to his loyalty, but he died in the battle of Komaki Nagakute in 1584.

Afterward of Takeda clan and castle

As a result of fall, as expected by Nobunaga, Katsuyori significantly lost his authority. Next year when Nobunaga and Ieyasu attacked Takeda territory, many generals and soldiers escaped without fighting and Takeda clan easily collapsed. In this meaning, Takatenjin castle was a Stalingrad for Takeda clan.

Now the ruin of the castle became a historical site, and shapes of medieval mountain castle consist of many terraces well remain. We can still imagine hard fight of guarders under lack of supply and siege of overwhelming enemies.


30 minutes drive from Tomei Expressway Kakegawa interchange to hillside parking.

Related Castles

Yokosuka Castle -From military base to administrative base-
Suwahara Castle -Huge moats divide the height-
Castles relate battle of Okehazama (1) -Before the clash of two warlords-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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