Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sumoto Castle -Magnificent castle guarded Awaji island and Osaka bay-

Sumoto Castle

-Magnificent castle guarded Awaji island and Osaka bay-



Name: Sumoto castle (Sumoto-jo)
Place: Ojiya Sumoto city, Hyogo
Location: 34.338214443787436, 134.90127001878355
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: Originally in 1526, expanded in 1590's
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and moats
Title: 100 more famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Sumoto castle (洲本城) is located at Mikumayama mountain, a long and narrow mountain of 130 meter height places at southeast coast of Awajishima island. Awajisima island is a triangle shaped large island of 40 kilometer long and 20 kilometer wide, existed at the center of Osaka bay. 

Awaji-shima island covers Osaka bay like a lid. Its three edge conforms three straights, it mean Akashi straight toward Akashi and Kobe area, Naruto straight toward Shikoku island and Kitan straight toward Wakayama area. Because of its geographical condition, this island had a critical role to control marine transportation around Kinki region. In addition to this, Awaji island had been a convenient crossing route between Honshu main land and Shikoku island historically, even though there was no bridge across the island and mainland like now. In Awaji island, Sumoto area was a mouth of Sumotogawa river thus had a good port and flat place to build a port town.

Build and expansion of Sumoto castle

At the beginning of Sengoku era, Awaji-shima island was governed by Miyoshi clan, a warlord held Awa province (Tokushima prefecture), Sanuki province (Kagawa prefecture) and Kawachi province (Osaka prefecture). Sumoto castle was built by Ataki clan, an important retainer of Miyoshi clan in 1526.

After the fall of Miyoshi clan, Awaji-shima island was governed by local lords. In 1581, Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) who was a regional commander of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), seized Awaji island to protect backside of his army at Chugoku region, and sent his general Hidehisa Sengoku (1552-1614) to the island. 

Hidehisa kept Awaji island and well restrained Chosokabe clan, a growing warlord of Tosa province (Kochi prefecture) by small troop, in spite of continuous dereat. After the capture of hegemony by Hideyoshi in 1583, Hideyoshi officially gave Awaji province to Hidehisa. Hidehisa improved Sumoto castle and used as his residence. Old type stone walls consist of similar size rough stones around central area might be built at this time.

Significant expansion by Toyotomi government

In 1586, Hideyoshi ordered Hidehisa to support Yoshishige Otomo (1530-1587, famous as Sorin), a warlord of Bungo province (Oita prefecture) who was in the severe situation by attack of Shimazu clan, a warlord of Satsuma province (Kagoshima prefecture). Hidehisa lead Sogo clan, a branch house of former Miyoshi clan and Chosokabe clan which surrendered to Hideyoshi after Shikoku campaign in 1585, then faced Shimazu army at Hetsugigawa river. 

Hidehisa strongly insisted forced attack to Shimazu army, but was caught in the ambush tactics Shimazu army named "Tsurinobuse" and suffered fatal defeat. Masayasu Sogo (1554-1587) the leader of Sogo clan died in the battle, and Chosokabe clan lost their successor Nobuchika Chosokabe (1565-1587). But Hidehisa ran away from battlefield only by himself leaving other army and survived. Due to this failure, Hidehisa was expelled and Yasuharu Wakizaka (1554-1626) became the commander.

Awaji island is just 30 kilometer apart from Osaka area, where was the economic center of Toyotomi government and the place of their main base Osaka castle. To keep the mastery of Osaka bay was vital to Hideyoshi, for both economic and military affairs. Probably under the support from Hideyoshi, Yasuharu significantly expanded Sumoto castle as a fortress to guard the Osaka bay. 

Structure of Sumoto castle

Sumoto castle spread over a long hill of Mikumayama mountain nearly 1 kilometer long. The castle roughly consist of three part, it means eastern part such as Higashinomaru area or Mushadamari, middle part including central area, secondary area and Minaminomaru area, and western part consist of Nishinomaru area. Each area has nearly 200 meter or 300 meter length, and their size and constructions equivalent to ordinary single castles.

Central area of the castle is a square shaped one of over 100 meter long, which is protected by tall stone walls. At its northwestern side there is a 15 meter long square shaped basement of main tower basement, which is connected to barrack turret basement and northeastern corner turret basement. At the middle of south line there is a masugata style composite main gate of area, with a large size magnificent stone steps from lower area. 

Around central area, there area several large flat areas which might be used as a residence of the lord and important retainers. At southeast of central area, there is a pond which might be used as a water source of the castle. This pond is also a border of eastern part and central part of the castle, and  this small valley also works as an entrance of core area to the castle, similar to Kanayama castle (Gunma prefecture).

One of the greatest castle built by Toyotomi government

Its eastern part consists of Higashinomaru area which includes several layer of stone built terraces at small peak, and Mushadamari area at the tip of the hill which is a huge flat area over 200 meter long. Between Higashinomaru area and Mushadamari  there is a huge masugata style complex gate named "Higashi Nino-mon" (eastern secondary gate), and at the tip of Mushadamari there was outer gate named "Higashi Ichino-mon" (eastern first gate).

On the other hand, at the west of central area, there is a gentle peak higher than central area which might be a weak point of the castle. To prevent occupation of this small hill as a foothold to core areas, this area peak is wholly protected by line of stone walls which has over 2 meter tall at its tip. At the root of this area, there is a large stone named "Zannen-ishi" (regrettable stone) which is marked to divide by wedge but left as it is. 

On the north slope of the hill, two line of vertical stone walls built along the slope. This type stone wall is called as "Nobori Ishigaki" (climbing stone wall), and is built to prevent horizontal movement of enemy and detour to backside. Total size of the castle might be 1,000 meter long and 200 meter width, which was a gigantic one compared with small Awaji island.

To protect their main land Kinki region, Toyotomi government built large and secure mountain castle at each direction. At north there is Takeda castle (Hyogo prefecture) famous as "castle in the sky", and at southward Takatori castle (Nara prefecture), a huge mountain fortress, was built. Sumoto castle protected westward, and in the east Sawayama castle (Shiga prefecture) might be same style stone built secure fortress but it was thoroughly destructed and lost former shape. Complexly curved stone walls utilized original terrain and combination of masugata style complex gate seen at Sumoto castle is the most advanced technology of Toyotomi clan, which is poured into important castles. 

Afterward of castle 

After the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Awaji island was temporally managed by Ikeda clan at Himeji castle. Ikeda clan once abolished Sumoto castle and newly built Yura castle at the north part of the Awaji island, where was closer to their main base Himeji castle. But after the battle of Osaka castle in 1614 and 1615, Awaji island was given to Hachisuka clan, a feudal lord of Awa province at Tokushima castle. Hachisuka clan appointed Inada clan, an important retainer, as a governor of Awaji island.

In 1630's Inada clan moved their base to Sumoto castle again because it was closer to their main base Tokushima castle. But as a governor under feudal lord, Inada clan did not use the mountain castle and newly built their government office at hillside area, which has magnificent stone wall. Sumoto castle had been kept by Inada clan by the end of Edo era.

Even though no building was left, but structure of hilltop castle and hillside residence are well remained. In addition to the magnificent and complex shaped stone walls, beautiful scenery of Sumoto port and Osaka bay is seen from hilltop castle area. It is strange this castle is not included in 100 famous Japanese castle (probably Hyogo prefecture has too many excellent castle), but it is undoubtedly one of the most excellent mountain castles in Japan. It is a bit troublesome to visit this castle as it locates at an island, but along with tourist spots such as spa or Naruto whirlpools, it is worth for visiting.


15 minutes drive from Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway Sumoto interchange. 40 minutes walk from Sumoto bus terminal (80 minutes bus ride from Sannomiya bus terminal of Kobe city to Sumoto bus terminal). 

Related Castles

Takeda Castle -Castle guarded vital area of Toyotomi government-
Takatori Castle -Gigantic stone fortress at mountain-
Sawayama Castle -Castle undeserved for Mitsunari-
Kanayama Castle -Impregnable castle with mystic atmosphere-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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