Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Karasawayama Castle -Castle attacked by god of war 10 times-

Karasawayama Castle

-Castle attacked by god of war 10 times-



Name: Karasawayama Castle (Karasawayama-jo)
Place: Fujimachi Sano city, Tochigi
Location: 36.35392747759289, 139.6009666053857
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: Originally mid 15th century, expanded in 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and dry moats
Title: 100 more famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Karasawayama castle (唐沢山城) is located on Kararasayama mountain at the northward of Sano city. The place of castle is at the border of Kanto plain and northern mountain areas, and Karasawayama castle was built on a ridge protruding into the plain. It is a large castle built on steep mountain, and praised as one of seven excellent castles of Kanto region along with Maebashi castle, Kanayama castle, Kawagoe castle, Oshi castle, Utsunomiya castle and Tage castle.

Build and structure of castle

This castle was built by Sano clan in medieval era. Sano clan was a traditional clan insisted as a descendant of Hidesato Fujiwara (?-?), famous samurai of 11th century. They became of the lord of this area in medieval era, and Karasawayama castle had been  gradually expanded into a large castle in long time.

Central area of the castle is build at the top of the mountain, and walls of main areas are covered by tall stone walls rarely seen in Kanto region. In front of main hill there is another small hill, and there is a complex gate at the edge of hilltop area utilizing huge rock. Terraces spread surrounding ridges, and total size of castle exceeded 500 meter long.

Castle attacked by god of war 10 times

After old power of Kanto region fell at the battle of Kawagoe castle in 1546, long conflict for the hegemony of Kanto region between Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578) who was the lord of Kasugayama castle (Niigata prefecture) and Hojyo clan which had Odawara castle (Kanagawa prefecture) began. Small lords in Kanto region such as Sano clan, Yura clan at Kanayama castle had suffered from this conflict, because Kenshin Uesugi was a genius of tactics praised as god of war and once attacked by Kenshin they had to surrender.

But Kenshin made long expedition from Echigo province (Niigata prefecture) every time and had  another front against Takeda clan, thus he had to return to his country soon. Once Kenshin returned to his terrotpru Hojo clan started to make pressure to remaining lords, but if they changed to Hojo side under the pressure, next year Kenshin came to Kanto region and attack them again. Under such situation, many small lords lost their territory and disappeared.

Sano clan stood in the same situation, and as Kenshin seeked alliance with lords of eastern Kanto region such as Satake clan or Satomi clan, Karasawayama castle was vital area to Kenshin as a connecting point to them. At first Sano clan resisted to Kenshin, and Kenshin attacked this castle three times but could not capture it. At fourth attack in 1563, Sano clan stand for attack, but Masatsuna Sano (1529-1574), leader of Sano clan at that time, finally surrendered to Kenshin under coordination of neighbor lords.

Later Masatsuna left Kenshin three times and surrendered same time, but Kenshin forgave him. Finally Masatsuna revolted Kenshin in 1570 and attacked by Kenshin twice more, but Kenshin who gradually lost his base in Kanto plain could not fall the castle any more, and Masatsuna finally won the conflict against Kenshin.

It is vary rare that same party fought concerning same castle 10 times. Probably Masatsuna considered Kenshin could not stay long in Kanto region, and if situation was unfavor he quickly surrendered to Kenshin to reserve power. Kenshin who knew security of castle had to be satisfied by surrender, considering damage and time to attack castle. As above Sano clan kept their house based on secure castle, and Kanasawayama castle was praised as an excellent castle in Kanto region.

Afterward of castle

After Masatsuna, next leader Munetsuna Sano (1560-1585) died in the battle against neighbor lord. Under the pressure from Hojo clan, Sano clan had to subordinate to Hojo clan. But Fusatsuna Sano (1558-1601), relative of clan and who opposed this decision, supported central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1534-1598) during Odawara campaign against Hojo clan. Due to this choice, Sano clan could survive under Toyotomi government.

After the death of Hideyoshi, Sano clan supported Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, and was once approved as a feudal lord under Edo shogunate. But in 1602, as Sano clan was ordered by Shogunate to abolish Karasawarayama castle, thus they left this castle and newly built Sano castle at plain area. Some people said that when Sano clan found the fire of Edo town from the castle and reported it to Edo Shogunate, shogunate became cautious about the castle looking down whole Kanto plain. 

Leaving that it was true or false, the Shogunate disliked that secure castle was held by non hereditary retainers in Kanto region. Further soon after that, Sano clan was involved in the political conflict of Shogunate and expelled, same as other non hereditary lords in Kanto region such as Satomi clan or Minagawa clan.

Now the place of castle is used as a nature park, and a shrine commemorating Hidesato Fujiwara located at the central area. Rough and tall stone walls of the castle remind us desperate effort of small lord who had to face strong enemy. 


45 minutes walk from Tobu Sano line Tanuma station. 15 minutes drive from Kitakanto Jidoshado Expressway Sano-Tanuma interchange.

Related Castles

Kasugayama Castle -Residence of "Dragon of Echigo"-
Odawara Castle -Castle rejected attack of two famous warlords-
Kanayama Castle -Impregnable castle with mystic atmosphere-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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