Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Minakuchi Okayama Castle -Potential enemy and necessity of castle-

Minakuchi Okayama Castle

-Potential enemy and necessity of castle-

Minakuchi Okayama Castle


Name: MInakuchi Okayama Castle (Minakuchi Okayama-jo)
Alias: Minakuchi Kojo (Minakuchi old castle)
Place: Minakuchi-cho Koka city, Shiga
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 1585
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats

Brief History

Minakuchi Okayama castle (水口岡山城) is located in Daikoyama mountain, a 100 meter tall hill, at the east part of Minakuchi town, Koga city. Minakuchi area is an important place of communication as it is the place where Tokaido way, most important road of Japan sticonnecting Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, overcome Suzuka path from Ise province (Mie prefecture), enters Omi province (Shiga prefecture).

It is also a crossing point of Tokaido way and Shigaraki Kaido road, that goes through southern part of Omi province from Nara area toward Hikone area. As there is another Minakuchi castle built later, this castle is called as Minakuchi Okayama castle using the name of location.

In the medieval period, Koka area including Minakuchi town were governed by autonomy of numerous small local lords. Among the complex situation local lords grew the skill of intelligence to know the intention of surrounding lords, and later Koka people became hired by surrounding large lords for such skills. They were said as Koka Ninja, a large school of Ninja along with Iga ninja at Iga province (western part of Mie prefecture). But once the period of disturbance came to an end, necessity of such skills significantly decreased.

Build and structure of castle

When Hideyoshi Toyotomi seized his hegemony after 1583, he expelled these local small lords and placed Kazuuji Nakamura (?-1600), his old general, at Minakuchi town and ordered to build a new castle. Although Hideyoshi seized whole Kinki region, his potential enemy such as Nobukatsu Oda (1558-1630) or Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616)  remain in Chubu region and Hideyoshi had to guard his territory against attack from east using Tokaido road. Kazuuji chose Okayama hill stand as blocking Tokaido road and built a large castle on the mountain. Kazuuji also improved posting town of Minakuchi.

Main areas of the castle consist of several areas of 100 meter square size respectively and spread whole part of hilltop area. Each areas are thought to be covered by stone walls, and in central area there might be a main tower. Central areas are surrounded by outer corridor, and many terraces were built at the middle of hill. Main gate was made at the center of south slope of the hill toward the Tokaido road, and based on recent investigation main gate area equipped magnificent stone walls, to show the authority of Toyotomi government.

Successing commanders and abolish of castle

After Kazuuji, Nagamori Mashita (1545-1615) was appointed as a commander at 1590, and later Masaie Natsuka (1562-1600) became the commander in 1595. These two generals had high administrative skill and consisted five magistrate of Toyotomi government along with Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), Nagamasa Asano (1547-1611) and Geni Maeda (1539-1602). Hideyoshi placed these magistrates at important castles of Kinki region, because of both convenience of their task and royalty. Especially Masaie Natsuka was good at figures and served as a treasurer of Toyotomi government.

After the death of Hideyoshi, Ieyasu Tokugawa, who kept as a largest lord under Toyotomi government, aimed at next hegemony and started his action. In response to this, Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), chief magistrate of Toyotomi government, raised army against Ieyasu. 

As a colleague of magistrate Masaie supported Mitsunari and went to the battle of Sekigahara, but affected by Mouri troops who kept neutral at the battlefield, Masaie could not contribute to the battle. After the defeat of Mitsunari, Masaie left battlefield and ran into Minakuchi castle. But enticed away from the castle by triking save his life and territory, Masaie was finally captured and forced to suicide by Tokugawa army.

Subsequent to the battle, Minakuchi Okayama castle was abolished and totally destroyed. In addition to the fact that it was a castle of magistrate of Toyotomi government, there was no risk of attack using Tokaido road as Ieyasu placed his hereditary and confident retainer all along Tokaido way from Edo city to Kyoto city. Ieyasu only needed his accommodation along Tokaido road, and built new Minakuchi castle, a small castle, as his lodge at this area. Now the shape of the castle well remain on the hill, and stone walls formerly surrounded the edge partially exists.


15 minutes walk from Omi-Tetsudo Omi-Honsen line Minakuchi station. 15 minutes drive from Shin-Meishin expressway Shigaraki interchange to hillside parking. 20 minutes walk from hillside entrance to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Minakuchi Castle -Lodge of Shogun used only once-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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