Friday, October 10, 2014

Tobiyama Castle -Modern shape castle of traditional clan-

Tobiyama Castle

-Modern shape castle of traditional clan-



Name: Tobiyama castle (Tobiyama-jo)
Place: Takeshitacho Utsunomiya city, Tochigi
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 13th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Tobiyama castle (飛山城) is located at the river terrace of Kinugawa river, a tributary of Tonegawa river that runs through from north to south of Shimotsuke province (Tochigi prefecture). The site of this castle is five kilometer east from central Utsunomiya city, and surrounded its west and north side by cliff of the terrace.

Loyal supporter of Utsunomiya clan

Tobiyama castle was built by Haga clan as its residence in 13th century. Haga clan is a traditional clan stem from Kiyohara clan, a descendant of Emperor Tenmu (631-686). In 11th century, Haga clan became to serve to Utsunomiya clan, a powerful lord of Shimotsuke province at Utsunomiya castle that stem from Souen Fujiwara (?-1111). 

Utsunomiya clan made achievement for the establishment of Kamakura Shogunate by Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), and Haga clan participated in many battles under Utsunomiya clan. In 1589 Yoritomo attacked Oshu Fujiwara clan, an independent power located at current Tohoku region, and Haga clan contributed to the break the defense line of Oshu Fujiwara clan. Utsunomiya clan was praised as the bravest samurai in eastern Japan, and Haga clan supported Utsunomiya clan along with Mashiko clan.

After the downfall of Kamakura Shogunate Utsunomiya clan supported Muromachi Shogunate, but due to the conflict with Kamakura Kubo, the representative of Muromachi Shogunate in Kanto region, or Oyama clan, a neighbor powerful warlord, Utsunomiya clan became significantly weakened. 

Under such situation Haga clan continued support to Utsunomiya clan, and at the extinction of main stream of Utsunomiya clan, the leader of Haga clan who descended from Utsunomiya clan finally became the leader of Utsuyomiya clan. After that Haga clan became the core of Utsunomiya clan, and significantly expanded their power in the Utsunomiya clan.

Turbulent period of Utsunomiya and Haga clan

At the beginning of 16th century, Shigetsuna Utsunomiya (1468-1516), restored the power of Utsunomiya clan and fought with neighbor powers such as Satake clan or Ashina clan. Shigetsuna was at first supported by his origin Haga clan, but later hated dominance of Haga clan and finally killed the leader of Haga clan. Haga clan revolted to Utsunomiya clan but finally surrendered, and still kept influence to Utsunomiya clan.

At the middle of 16th century, after internal conflict Utsunomiya clan became weak, and once deprived Utsunomiya castle by its another strong retainer Mibu clan. But Takasada Haga (1521-1588), the leader of Haga clan, assisted Hirotsuna Utsunomiya (1545-1576) and seek recapture of Utsunomiya castle. In 1557, Takasada attacked Utsunomiya castle with Hirotsuna, and their ally Satake clan entered Tobiyama castle with 5,000 soldier as reinforcement.

In the latter half of 16th century, the fate of Utsunomiya clan depended on strong warlord such as Hojo clan, a warlord of Sagami province (Kanagawa prefecture), or Uesugi clan, the one of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture). As a traditional clan of Kanto region, Utsunomiya clan resisted to emerging Hojyo clan in cooperation with Satake clan, the warlord of Hitachi country (Ibaraki prefecture). 

But in 1580's Hojyo clan suppressed Utsunomiya clan and extend their power to north Kanto region, and Utsunomiya clan was at the corner of downfall. Under such situation, Utsunomiya clan and Haga clan built secure castle to protect them. Especially Utsunomiya clan allied with Satake clan, and as a connecting line to Satake clan Tobiyama castle was thoroughly strengthened by Utsunomiya clan and Haga clan.

Structure of Tobiyama castle

Current shape of Tobiyama castle was completed in this period. The total size of the castle is 500 meter long and 300 meter wide, and consist of three layer of clay wall and dry moat built at concentric circle structure. The inner area and middle area might be built in older era and surrounded by low clay wall and narrow dry moat. On the other hand, Outer area was quite huge and guarded by tall clay wall and deep moats. 

Each wall had straight shape with projection which enables side attack to enemy and east front directly connected to the outside was guarded by huge wall. Although Tobiyama castle continued from medieval era, but its structure is quite modern one might be totally reformed, and resembles of the castle of their enemy Hojo clan.   

Afterward of castle 

As a result Hojyo clan was extinguished by central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) by Odawara campaign, and Utsunomiya clan once survived. But in 1590 Hideyoshi ordered Utsunomiya clan to break unnecessary castles, and Tobiyama castle was abolished then. Further in 1597 Utsunomiya clan was deprived its territory and expelled, and Haga clan also shared the fate with Utsunomiya clan.

Now the structure of castle well remain on the terrace, and the site of the castle was improved as a historical site. From the castle central area of Utsunomiya city is seen, and the importance of Haga clan at Utsunomiya clan is easily imagined.


30 minutes drive from Tohoku Jidoshado Expressway Utsunomiya interchange or Kitakanto Jidoshado Expressway Mooka interchange.

Related Castles

Utsunomiya Castle -Castle with long history of disturbance-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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