Thursday, August 21, 2014

Marugame castle -Small main tower on sheer stone wall-

Marugame Castle

-Small main tower on sheer stone wall-



Name: Marugame castle (Marugame-jo)
Place: Ichiban-cho Marugame city, Kagawa
Location: 34.2860403462564, 133.8004858871386
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 1670
Remaining remnants: Main tower, gates, stone walls and moats
Title: 12 original main towers, 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Marugame castle (丸亀城) is located at Kameyama hill, a hill of 66 meter height at the center of Marugame city. Marugame city is the center of western Sanuki province (Kagawa prefecture) and later prospered as the entrance to Konpirasan Shrine located at inland.

First build by Ikoma clan

In Muromachi era, the western part of Sanuki country was governed by Kagawa clan, which located at Amagiri castle (Zentuji city). Based on the surrounding circumstance Kagawa clan changed their master from Hosokawa clan, Miyoshi clan to Chosokabe clan and survived, but was expelled at the time of Shikoku campaign by central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) against Motochika Chosokabe (1539-1599).

Under Toyotomi government, Chikamasa Ikoma (1526-1603) was appointed as a lord of whole Sanuki province in 1587. Chikamasa at first entered existing Hiketa castle (Kagawa prefecture), but it was located east edge of Sanuki province and was inconvenient to manage the whole area, thus Chikamasa built Takamatsu castle at first. Additionally, as a base of western part, Chikamsa further started to build a new castle at Kameyama hill. This castle was named as Marugame castle and Chikamasa lived here.

Clan in law of Nobunaga

Chikamasa had close relation to former ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582). Chikamasa was originally born as a person of Dota clan, and the grandmother and mother of Nobunaga were both from Dota clan. Later Chikamasa was adopted by Ikoma clan, and Ikoma clan was originally a major merchant and transporter of western Owari country (western part of Aichi prefecture), the origin of Nobunaga.

Ikoma clan supported Nobunaga by its fund and information, and the daughter of Ikoma clan became the concubine of Nobunaga and had their first son Nobutada Oda (1557-1582), second son Nobukatsu Oda (1558-1630) and princess Toku (1559-1636, wife of Nobuyasu Tokugawa, the eldest son of Ieyasu Tokuawa). Further, it is said that Hideyoshi served Nobunaga using the connection of Ikoma clan.

Due to above reasons Chikamasa promoted under Nobunaga and Hideyoshi, and finally became one of the three intermediate minister of Toyotomi government between five grand ministers and five magistrates, along with Yoshiharu Horio (1544-1611) and Kazuuji Nakamura (?-1600).

After the death of Hideyoshi, the battle of Sekigahara occurred in 1600 between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), former chief administrative staff of Toyotomi government. To continue the house Chikamasa supported Mitsunari but sent his son Kazumasa to Ieyasu. 

Finally Ieyasu won the battle, and Ikoma clan was approved to continue and Chikamasa moved to Takamtsu castle again. In 1615, due to Ikkoku Ichijyo Rei (one domain one castle rule) announced that year, Marugame castle was once abolished. At east hillside an old style stone wall is seen and this might be the ruin of Ikoma period.

Second build by Yamazaki and Kyogoku clan

In 1640, Ikoma clan was confiscated their territory by Edo shogunate due to the intenal conflict, and next year Ieharu Yamazaki (1594-1648) who was good at castle building and administration then made achievement at the reconstruction of Osaka castle (Osaka prefecture) and revival of Shimabara peninsula wasted by the battle of Shimabara.

Although not famous, Yamazaki clan was a house of good castle builder equivalent to famous Kiyomasa Kato (1562-1611) or Takatora Todo (1556-1630). Their works such as Wakasa Onigajo castle (Hyogo prefecture), Nariwa castle (Okayama prefecture) or Tomioka castle (Kumamoto prefecture) has excellent stone wall far above small territory of Yamazaki clan.

Becoming a large lord of whole Sanuki province, Yamazaki clan decided to build a splendid castle at the ruin of former Marugame castle, and they built most part of current castle. But in 1657 Yamazaki clan lost Sanuki province because of no successor, the moved to Nariwa castle they formerly held. Next year Kyogoku clan was transferred from Tatsuno castle (Hyogo prefecture) to Marugame castle.

Kyogoku clan was originally a governor of Wakasa province (western part of Fukui prefecture) and stayed at Obama castle, then moved to Izumo province (eastern part of Shimane prefecture) and resided at Matsue castle (Shimane prefecture) in 1634. But due to having no succeeding son the clan was moved to Tatsuno castle again with smaller territory in 1637, and finally was transferred to Marugame castle. Kyogoku clan built current remaining main tower in 1660 and completed the castle by 1670.

Structure of Marugame castle

Marugame castle roughly consist of three layers. The top layer is central area and secondary area located at hilltop area. Second layer is the third area surrounds central area and secondary area at the halfway of the hill, and corridor area at the south half of the hill, the front side at Yamazaki period. The lowest layer is outer area encircles the hill, guarded by water moats. The total size of castle is nearly 500 meter square.

The upper half of the hill is totally covered with tall stone walls. Top layer and second layer both have over 20 meter high stone walls, and the hill seems as if stone pyramid. Marugame castle is the tallest castle of cumulative height of stone walls.

At the north front of central area there stands a three story three floor main tower. It is a quite simple tower equivalent to three story turret of other castles such as Takamtsu castle or Akashi castle (Hyogo prefecture), and also has nothing special interior as main tower. But the front side exterior is decorated by wood boards and decoraton roofs. Even though having large buildings, Marugame castle was a secure castle guarded sheer stone walls and barrack turrets.

Kyogoku clan had managed Marugame castle until the end of Edo era. Subsequent to Meiji revolution due to fire and demolition most buildings were lost, but in addition to main tower, combined gate (Masugata) at front side and gate of former palace still exist. The white main tower looking up from front gate still keeps the atmosphere of old time.


15 minutes walk from JR Shikoku Yosan line Marugame station, 15 minutes drive from Takamatsu Jidoshado Expressway Sakaide interchange.

Related Castles

Obama Castles - Distinguished lord who showed backbone-
Takamatsu Castle -Beautiful water castle with original turrets-
Amagiri castle -Mountain castle looks down pilgrim road-
Wakasa Onigajo Castle -Picturesque ruin of castle on mountain-
Tomioka Castle -Abolished to save local people-
Matsue Castle -Old style main tower looking at water city-
Tatsuno Castle -Combination of medieval mountain castle and modern residence-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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