Friday, August 29, 2014

Fukuyama Castle -Majestic castle built by wandering brave-

Fukuyama Castle

-Majestic castle built by wandering brave-



Name: Fukuyama castle (Fukuyama-jo)
Place: Marunouchi Fukuyama city, Hiroshima
Location: 34.49078564569755, 133.36080999037188
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 16th century
Remaining remnants: Gates, stone walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Fukuyama castle (福山城) is located at a hill in the center of Fukuyama city, in front of Fukuyama station. Fukuyama city is a center of Bingo country (eastern half of Hiroshima prefecture), but it was relatively new city developed in 17th century. 

Originally current Fukuyama area was a large tidal flat, and the Sanyodo road, the main artery connected Kinki region and Hakata city, runs through the northern inland area of Fukuyama city, along with Ashida-gawa river. At the south of Fukuyama city there is a Tomonoura port which as long history from 10th century.

Bingo province before Fukuyama castle

Before the build of Fukuyama castle, the center of Bingo country was placed at Kannabe castle, a castle located at northeast from Fukuyama castle. After the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Masanori Fukushima (1561-1624), a general who activated at the battle was appointed as a governer of Aki province (western part of Hiroshima prefecture) and Bingo province.

Masanori used Hiroshima castle (Hiroshima prefecture) as his residence, but as a defense line of east border he significantly expanded Kannabe castle and Tomo castle at Tomonoura port into modern ones equipped stone walls.

But in 1619 Masanori was confiscated his territory by Edo Shogunate, and Fukuyama area was given to Katsunari Mizuno (1564-1651), a hereditary retainer of Tokugawa clan. Katsunari at first located at Kannabe castle, but this castle was located at steep mountain in the narrow valley, and inconvenient to manage the castle town. 

In addition to this, to protect the attack from Asano clan transferred to Aki country, and Mouri clan ,which was former master of whole Chugoku region and seek the chance of revenge to Edo Shogunate, it was necessary to build a secure castle in this area. Due to above reasons, as an exception of limitation of building castles by Ikkoku Ichijyo Rei (one domain one castle rule) published in 1616, Edo Shogunate approved Katsunari to build a new castle at Fukuyama.

Status of Mizuno clan

Katsunari was born in Mizuno clan, which was the house of princess Odai (1528-1602), the mother of Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the first Shogun of Edo shogunate. Katsunari was a cousin of Ieyasu and might be able to promote easily only if he is obedient. But in spite of his status, due to his defiant attitude he spent a varied career.

Mizuno clan was originally a local lord located at the middle of Owari province (western half of Aichi prefecture) and Mikawa province. Surrounded by Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) and Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), Mizuno clan could not grow their power but kept semi independent status between both clans. But in 1576, Nobumoto Mizuno (?-1576) was purged for a suspect of betrayal by Nobunaga, and his younger brother Tadashige Mizuno (1541-1600), father of Katsunari, became the leader under Nobunaga.

Wandering brave cousin of Ieyasu

After the death of Nobunaga by the incident of Honnoji in 1582, Mizuno clan served Ieyasu and contributed to the growth of Tokugawa clan. But in 1584, after the quarrel with his father, Katsunari suddenly left the clan and became the wanderer. At the same time Toyotomi government seek expansion into western Japan and made campaign against Shikoku island and Kyushu island, thus Katsunari participated in Toyotomi army and fought around western Japan.

At first Katsunari was hired by Hidehisa Sengoku (1552-1614), and next directly belonged to Hideyoshi himself but denied his appointment and ran away. Later he moved to Kyushu island, and was hired by famous commanders such as Narimasa Sasa (1536-1588), Yukinaga Konishi (1558-1600), Muneshige Tachibana (1567-1643) and Yoshitaka Kuroda (1546-1604, famous as Kanbe).

In 1586, Katsunari was told to follow Nagamasa Kuroda (1568-1623), son of Yoshitaka, to meeto to Hideyoshi, but Katsunari hated to see Hideyoshi and escaped again. Since then Katsunari wandered Chugoku region about 10 years, and left many tales. Finally Katsunari stayed at Chikanari Mimura (?-1609), a local lord of Bicchu country under Mouri clan, and married with local woman.

Return and brilliant achievement at Sekigahara and Osaka

After the death of Hideyoshi in 1598, Katsunari reconciled with his father and returned to Ieyasu. But in 1600, before the battle of Sekigahara against Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), his fater was assassinated by Ishida supporter and Katsunari succeeded Mizuno clan and his residence Kariya castle.

During the battle of Sekigahara, Katsunari was told to stay the encirclement of Ogaki castle, the headquarter of Ishida army. Hearing the defeat of Mitsunari, Katsunari urged betrayal of commander of the castle, and made the castle open. 15 years after, at the summer battle of Osaka castle against Hideyori Toyotomi (1593-1615), at the battle of Domyoji, Katsunari fought with Mototsugu Goto (1569-1615, known as Matabe), the brave general of Toyotomi army, and annihilated his troop. 

Further at the decisive battle of next day Katsunari made counerattack to Nobushige Sanada (1567-1615, famous as Yukimura), who made brave fight and once frightened Ieyasu, and also made fatal attack to Nobushige. Due to such work, Katsunari was praised as “Demon Hyuga (name of his official rank”.

Build of Fukuyama castle

Due to such contribution and his position as relative of Ieyasu, Katsunari was thought important from Edo Shogunate. After the battle of Osaka castle, in 1615, at first Katsunari was appointed as a commander of Koriyama castle (Nara prefecture), an important place of Kinki region. 

Further in 1619, along with the fall of Masanori Fukushima, the lord of Bingo country became vacant. Edo Shogunate expect Katsunari to reinforce large but new coming feudal lords surrounded by them, as Katsunari was familiar with this area due to his wandering.

Katsunari was appointed as a lord of Fukuyama with large territory. As above, Katsunari abolished existing Kannabe castle and newly built a huge castle at Fukuyama city. Edo Shogunate supplied materials and funds for building, and the construction was substantially the official project of Edo Shogunate. Katsunari also invited Chikanari Mimura as a vassal of the domain to repay to his assistance during wondering period.

Structure of Fukuyama castle

The main areas of Fukuyama castle spread over the hill of 400 meter length and 200 meter width, and consist of two layer. The central area at upper layer occupies the south half of the hill, and at the north edge of the central area there stood a five story five floor white main tower. The main tower is a straight tower style one with small decorate roofs, and a small tower is attached.

At the south half of the central area there were two large turrets named Fushimi turret and Tsukimi turret. Fushimi turret was a white refined three story turret transferred from former abolished Fushimi castle (Kyoto prefecture) remains as original. On the other hand, Tsukumi turret is a elegant one with red handrail balcony and both were the symbol of the castle along with main tower. Between these two turrets there is a secure main gate, also transferred from Fushimi castle.

The secondary area locates at the north half of the hill, and outer area surrounded south half of the hill. Fukuyama castle was a secure fortress in which Main tower,  seven three story turrets and 15 other turrets stand together, and guarded by tall stone walls. The castle and castle town were surrounded by outer barrier and water moats, and the canal to Setonaikai sea was connected to outer canal. Fukuyama castle was the last castle built under Edo Shogunate, and said as the complete style of Japanese castle.

Afterward of the castle

Mizuno clan was extinguished in 1698 due to no successor, and Abe clan mainly governed Fukuyama castle until the end of Edo era. Masahiro Abe (1819-1857), the leader of Abe clan at 19th century, is known as a minister who agreed US - Japan friendship treaty and opened the nation. Masataka also promoted efficient staffs irrespective to background, and these staff supported last time of Edo Shogunate and Meiji government.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, most buildings except for main tower and several turrets were broken. The main tower was kept but burned down during WW2, and outer area disappeared due to the construction of railway and development. After WW2 an imitation of main tower and several turrets were built, and its majestic style of the main tower stands independently still tell the story of brave builder of the castle.


Five minutes walk from JR West Sanyo Shinkansen line / Sanyo Honsen line Fukuyama station. 20 minutes drive from Sanyo Jidoshado Expressway Fukuyama-Higashi interchange.

Related Castles

Kannabe Castle -Abolished center of Bingo province-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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