Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kanazawa Castle (2) -Residence of largest feudal lord in Japan-

Kanazawa Castle (2)

-Residence of largest feudal lord in Japan-


Brief History

Continued from Part 1

Struggle of Maeda clan for survival

In 1598, Hideyoshi Toyotomi died in ill leaving his child successor Hideyori Toyotomi (1593-1615). Hideyoshi made a will that Toshiie became the guardian of Hideyori and manage Osaka castle, the residence of Hideyori. At that time there was a substantial conflict between front generals such as Kiyomasa Kato (1562-1611) or Masanori Fukushima (1561-1624), and administrative staff of Toyotomi government such as Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600). Among five grand ministers of Toyotomi government, Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) was a potential usurper and remaining three lords other than Toshiie were former independent warlord which had limited relationship with Toyotomi clan. 

Toshiie tried to settle the conflict between generals and administrative staffs of Hideyoshi, and obstruct arbitrary decision of Ieyasu for one year. In spite of dissatisfaction of lords occurred from meaningless political conflict and foreign expedition of Toyotomi government, if Toshiie could survive longer it could continue until the grow up of Hideyori. 

But just after one year after the death of Hideyoshi, Toshiie also died in ill. His son Toshinaga Maeda (1562-1614) was still inexperienced, and being suppressed by Ieyasu, Toshinaga left Osaka castle and returned to his territory. At that moment no one could tie the lords of Toyotomi government, and Ieyasu stirred up the conflict between them and took over Toyotomi government by supporting front generals.

However, Ieyasu was formally still a grand minister of Toyotomi government, and he needed justification to move the army under him. For this purpose, Ieyasu fabricated an assassination plan against him by Maeda clan, and planned to subjugate the clan. In response to that, Toshimasa Maeda (1578-1633), the younger brother of Toshinaga, strongly insisted to fight against Ieyasu. But Toshinaga considered the situation carefully and decided to subordinate to Ieyasu. Toshinaga sent his mother Matsu to Ieyasu as a hostage, and also let his son marry with the relative of Ieyasu. Maeda clan barely survived this crisis, and Ieyasu’s next target moved to Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623), the lord of Aizu area (Fukushima prefecture).

Maeda clan at the battle of Sekigahara and Osaka castle

In 1600, the battle of Sekigahara between Ieyasu and Mitsuhari occurred. Maeda clan did not acompany Ieyasu’s expedition againtst Kagekatsu Uesugi, and instead they attacked castles of small Ishida side lords located at south half of Kaga country or Echizen country, such as Daisyoji castle or Komatsu castle. But Yoshitsugu Otani (1559-1600), the friend of Mitsunari and commander of Tsuruga castle (Fukui prefecture), spread the rumor to obstruct the movement of Maeda army, and Toshinaga once returned to Kanazawa castle. Later Toshinaga started to move toward south ward, but they could not arrive at the decicive battle of Sekigahara. 

15 years after the battle of Sekigahara, the winter and summer battle of Osaka castle arose between Ieyasu and Hideyori Toyotomi. In spite of the closeness of Hideyoshi and Toshiie, Toshitsune Maeda (1594-1658), the leader of Maeda clan rejected the invitaton from Hideyori and belonged to Ieyasu, considering continuation of the clan. At the winter battle the troop of Maeda army attacked Sandamaru, a forefront fort built at the southeast edge of outer barrier by Nobushige Sanada (1567-1615, famous as Yukimura) and suffered severe damage. In the summer battle of next year Maeda army took position in front of headquarter of second Shogun Hidetada Tokugawa (1579-1632), and facing desperate fierce attack of Hideyori side but finally defeated them.

As a result of these action, Maeda clan could retain the fief of Kaga country, Noto country and Ecchu country,which yields one million koku (rice unit per straw ricebag) of rice, and Kaga domain became the largest feudal domain in Japan under Edo Shogunate. Kanazawa city and Kanazawa castle prospered as a capital of largest feudal domain. Very rare in this time, Maeda clan of could continue only by direct descendants of Toshiie in 14 generations until the end of Edo era, not adopting from other houses.  

Prosperity of Kaga domain and Kanazawa city

Maeda clan was the largest but new coming feudal lord for Edo shogunate, and considering the crisis just after the death of Hideyoshi, Maeda domain behaved very considerably. It is said that Toshitsune Maeda intentionally grew the hair of nostrils, to pretend as a fool and loose caution of Edo government. Maeda clan also did not rebuild main tower of Kanazawa castle which was burnt down in 1602, not to evoke the suspicion of Edo shogunate. In addition to these efforts, as Hokuriku region was apart from vital area of Edo Shogunate such Edo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka, Kaga domain could continue until the end of Edo era, without any punishment. 

Under the pressure and monitoring, there had been no bad lord throughout Edo era, and the administration of Kaga domain was comparablly fair and smooth. Maeda clan did not spend funds much in military affairs, but not to be seen as accumulating wealth, Maeda clan expense at cultural affairs. As Maeda clan also had marital connection with Imperial household in Kyoto, the culture of Kyoto flew to Kanazawa and flourished, such as Kaga Yuzen, a lugxuary brand of Japanese Kimono, or Kanazawa lacquer works decorated with gold and silver powders. Maeda clan also focused on culture and education, thus Kanazawa city became famous as a town of culture and education.

Kanazawa castle and Kenrokuen garden

Even though Maeda clan did not strengthen Kanazawa castle, but due to the weather condition of the city Kanazawa castle faced severe fire repeatedly and major buildings were rebuilt again. The distinguished feature of the building of Kanazawa castle is Namako (sea cucumber) style wall, a wall covered with square tiles jointed with raised plaster, and lead plate roofing tiles. By putting ceramic tiles with plaster on walls, it had the function of fireproof and waterproof. Lead made roofing plate was more lighter than ceramic roofing plate more appropriate for snowfall, and could kept shine compared with copper plate.

In 1676, a garden was built at the connecting height from castle at the opponent of eastern moat. This garden was gradually expanded over 150 years, and became a huge gardens with multiple ponds. The primary purpose of this garden is a garden party of the lord, but this garden might be built also for the purpose of defense by controlling connecting height of the castle, and fire prevention water in case. This garden is named as Kenrokuen, and regarded as one of three beautiful feudal lord’s gardens along with Kairakuen at Mito castle (Mito city) and Korakuen at Okayama castle (Okayama city).

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, Kanazawa castle became a military base of Japanese army but lost many buildings by fire other than several buildings such as Ishikawamon complex gate or Gojyukken Nagaya (90 meter long barrack). After WW2, the site turned to the place of Kanazawa university, but later moved to another place. Now the castle site becomes the historical park, and reconstruction of major gates, turrets and connecting barracks around secondary area is proceeding, then Kanazawa castle is recovering old beautiful shape with mixture of black and white.


25 minutes walk from JR West Hokuriku-Honsen line / JR East Hokuriku Shinkansen-line Kanazawa station. It might be better to move to Korinbo, the downtown of Kanazawa city just beside of Castle, by bus or taxi. 20 minutes drive (varies by traffic condition) from Hokuriku-Jidoshado Expressway Kanazawa-Nishi interchange. 

Related Castles

Nanao Castle -"Frost fills encampment and autumn air is purified"-
Toyama Castle -Man of pride and honor resisted to ruler-
Takaoka Castle -Retirement place only used for 6 years-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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