Friday, June 20, 2014

Sakai Castle -Features of castles in Eastern Japan-

Sakai Castle

-Features of castles in Eastern Japan-

Sakai Castle


Name: Sakai Castle (Sakai-jo)
Alias: Iinuma-jo
Place: Sakai Bando city, Ibaraki
Type: Flat Castle
Built: Originally mid 16th century, expanded in 1580's
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats

Brief History

Sakai castle (逆井城) is located on the small height beside Nishinizure river, a branch river of Kinugara river at Bando city in western Hitachi country (Ibaraki prefecture). Nishinizure river flows at the north of the castle was formerly a long marsh, and there was also an inlet of marsh at the west of the castle. Utilizing this geographical location, Sakai castle was supposed to be a secure castle.

Built and expansion of Sakai castle

Sakai castle was originally built by Sakai clan, a local clan of this area. In 153x, Hojyo clan, a warlord of Sagami country (Kanagawa prefecture), captured Sakai castle and Sakai clan was extinguished, but the castle had not been used for a while.

About 40 years later, the conflict between Hojo clan and Yuki clan at the north of the castle or Tagaya clan at the east of the castle became intensified, thus Hojyo clan had to built their location in this area. They substantially built new castle utilizing ruin of former Sakai castle in 1577, and placed Ujishige Hojo (1536-1578), an important relative of Hojo clan who served commander of Tamanawa castle (Kanagawa prefecture) at here. It is said that troops of Ninjya lead by Kotaro Fuma also were statined here.

Central area of the castle is located at the northwestern edge of the height, and keeps atmosphere of old castle with narrow moat and low clay wall. Secondary area surrounds eastward and southward of central area was newly built by Hojyo clan, and is a wide area guarded by wide water moat and huge clay walls. There might be outer area outside of secondary area but disappeared.

Sakai castle functioned as an important base of this area, but was abandoned at the time of fall of Hojo clan in 1590. The site of the castle was improved as a historical park, with imitation of turret, gate and palaces built based on the result of investigation and an original gate of former Sekiyado castle transferred to the park. As medieval castle of Kanto region do not remain now, it is a good place to grasp the features of the castles in Eastern Japan.

Features of castles in Eastern Japan

The features of modern castle mainly built in central and western Japan under Oda clan and Toyotomi clan were said to be the following three items. 1) stone walls, 2) permanent building on foundation stone, and 3) roofs paved with roofing blocks.

Contrary to this, the features of medieval castles in Kanto region were 1) clay walls, 2) non permanent building directly built on the ground, and 3) roofs paved with wood boards. Compared with modern castles, castles of Eastern Japan looks modest and primitive.

Some castles in Kanto region such as Kanayama castle or Karasawayama castle used stone walls, but usage of stone wals did not common in Kanto region. The reason of limited use of stone walls in Kanto region might be the following; 1) Stones used for stone walls were usually cut from mountains, but there is almost no mountain in central Kanto region and they could not bring stones, 2) Many castles of Kanto region were built utilizing marsh, and weak ground did not allow to build heavy stone walls, 3) Usage of stone walls began at temples which need large terrace in mountain and dignity and then spread to castles, and there was almost no strong temple in Kanto region, and 4) Castles of Kanto region were improvement of residence of samurai, traditionally surrounded by clay wall, etc.

Considering defense ability, clay wall is inferior to stone walls. As clay wall can’t make vertical wall, to prevent enemy soliders huge clay wall is necessary. But once huge wall was built, it became a deterrence to enemy side, irrespective to stone or clay, and clay wall was much cheaper than stone walls. 

Odawara castle at the period of Hojyo clan mostly consisted of clay walls, but did not let Toyotomi army enter inside the castle at Odawara campaign in 1590. Rather, as clay wall does not reflect bullet of guns and cannons, thus it was more suitable for defending gun fire. Even though modern castles had stone walls in central area, outer barriers directly faced enemy often built by clay wall.

Regarding buildings, surely turrets of Kanto region were not permanent building, but as basic structure of building was made of wood, buildings were to be rebuilt after several decades irrespective to building style. It might be less effective for fire proof or weather proof, but not serious problem.

Sakai castle is located at distant place and it takes time to get to there, but it is worth for visiting for castle fans.


15 minutes drive from Keno-do Expressway Sakai-Koga interchange to parking of Sakai Castle park.

Related Castles

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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