Saturday, August 30, 2014

Shimotsui Castle -Castle looking down straight and bridge-

Shimotsui Castle

-Castle looking down straight and bridge-



Name: Shimotsui castle (Shimotsui-jo)
Place: Shimotsui Kurashiki city, Okayama
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 1590's
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and clay walls

Brief History

Shimotsui castle (下津井城) is located at a long and narrow hill at the edge of Kojima peninsula, in the southwest part of current Okayama prefecture. Just below the castle there is the Shimotsui port, an important crossing and wind waiting port of Setonaikai sea from medieval era.

Importance of Shimotsui area

Prior to Edo era, Kojima peninsular had been an island separated from main land. This island was a long island spread along the coast, and the straight between north shore of  this island and main land had been used as a major sea route of this area. But after the latter half of medieval era, due to the accumulation of sand and land reclamation, this island was connected to the main land and the north route was disappeared.

Contrary to this, the south coast of this area became the main route of marine transportation. Shimotsui port was already used throughout medieval era, but along with the disappearance of north route Shimotsui port became the anchorage and loading port of this area. In addition to this, Shimotsui area became one of the three crossing point from main land to Shikoku island along with Awaji island and Onomichi Imabari area, and as the swift was not current compared with other two points, Shimotsui area became the major crossing point to Shikoku island.

Build and reform of Shimotsui castle

Considering importance of Shimotsui area, Hideie Ukita (1572-1655), the warlord of Bizen province (Okayama prefecture) at Okayama Castle, built Shimotsui castle. Partially stone walls consist of small round stones is seen, and these walls might be built by Ukita clan. But Ukita clan beloged Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600) at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, and due to the defeat at the battle Naoie lost his territory and was expelled to Hachijojima island.

After Ukita clan, Hideaki Kobayakawa (1582-1602) who betrayed Mitsunari at battlefield of Sekigahara and decided the victory of Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) was appointed as the lord of Bizen province, Bicchu province and Mimasaka province. Hideaki placed his important general Yorikatsu Hiraoka (1560-1607) as a lord of Shimotsui castle. But Hideaki worried about bad reputation of betrayal and died only two years after without successor, thus Kobayakawa clan was extinguished.

After Kobayakawa clan, Ikeda clan which was the lord of Bizen province (south part of Hyogo prefecture) at Himeji castle moved to Bizen province by Edo Shogunate. In 1603, Ikeda clan totally reformed Shimotsui castle into a modern castle wholly surrounded by stone walls. After eight year construction Shimotsui castle was completed, and Yoshiyuki Ikeda (1577-1618), a relative of Ikeda clan, moved from Rikan Castle (Hyogo prefecture) in 1609.

Structure of Shimotsui castle

Main areas of the castle spread narrow ridge of the hill. The central area which is a square shaped area of 50 meter long is located at the peak of the hill, and there is a small basement of main tower which is about 10 meter long at northwest corner. Considering its size, there might be two story or three story main tower at this basement.

Secondary area exists below of the central area, encircles east, south to west wall of central area. Third area and Nishinomaru area is built ahead of central area, like a wing of bird. As both area are entrance to the castle, these areas have secure Masugata style gate and only connected to central area and secondary area by narrow path. These area core area of the castle.

At the east of third area, ahead of dry moat connecting to climbing road there is another small peak used as Nakademaru fort. Furthermore, ahead of rocks, there was a Higashidemaru port at the eastern edge of the mountain. Total size of the castle is about 250 meter long for core area and another 250 meter long for eastern front forts. Considering its huge size as a branch castle and stone wall construction, it is clear that Ikeda clan thought important of this area to manage marine transportation at Setonaikai sea.

Afterward of castle

Shimotsui castle had existed as a branch castle of Okayama domain for 30 years, but it was abolished in 1639 based on Ikkoku Ichijyo Rei (one domain one castle rule). Stone walls were partially destructed but general shape was still kept.

Now the hill on which Shimotsui castle locates is used as a park named Setoohashi Kakyo Kinen Koen (Memorial park of great Seto bridge). According to the name of the park, a great view of Seto Ohashi bridge across main land to Shikoku island is seen from the castle, and this shows unchanged importance of this area. Shimotsui castle is not so large one and also not so famous being not involved in historical evant, but magnificent stone walls and clear planning of this castle is worth for visiting along with great scenery.


15 minutes walk from Shimotsui Chugakko-mae bus stop of Shimoden bus from JR West Seto Ohashi-sen line Kojima station. 15 minutes drive from Seto-Chuo Jidoshado Expressway Kojima interchange.

Related Castles

Okayama Castle -Turbulent life of holders of crow life-
Rikan Castle -Abandoned fortress in the sky-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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