Friday, January 9, 2015

Toba Castle -Naval base of sea clan-

Toba Castle

-Naval base of sea clan-



Name: Toba castle (Toba-jo)
Place: Toba Toba city, Mie
Location: 34.48100336323613, 136.84442976130484
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 1592
Remaining remnants: Stone walls 

Brief History

Toba castle (鳥羽城) is located at a hill in the center of Toba city, at the southwest part of Mie prefecture. Toba area was formerly Shima province, a small province but was famous for good fishery. Utilizing beautiful seashore by rias coastlines and warm climate, currently Shima area became a good sightseeing place. Additionally, Shima area is famous for cultivation of pearl developed after Meiji Revolution.

Origin of Kuki clan

Toba castle was at first built by Kuki clan in 1594. Kuki clan was originally a small clan at Kumano, which consisted Kumano naval force. Later Kuki clan moved to Toba area, but Yoshitaka Kuki (1542-1600), the leader of the clan, was suppressed by other clans and left Shima area. 

Yoshitaka then served to Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), an uprising warlord of Owari province (western part of Aichi prefecture). Yoshitaka was evaluated by activation at the time of battle against Ikko Ikki party at Nagashima area in 1575, then became a maritime commander of Oda army and gained Shima area. On the other hand, other clans such as Mukai clan formerly suppressed Yoshitaka left Shima country, and served to Takeda clan which seized Suruga province (middle part of Shizuoka prefecture). After the extinction of Takeda clan, Mukai clan served to Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), and later became the naval commander of Edo Shogunate.

Navy of ruler

At the latter half of 1570’s, Oda clan entered into a total war against Mouri clan, a regional ruler of Chugoku region. Mouri clan was supported by Murakami navy which resided at Setonaikai sea, then Kuki navy and Murakami navy played fierce battles around Osaka area. In 1576, Murakami navy tried to transport supplies to Ishiyama Honganji temple which was encircled by Nobunaga, and Kuki navy tried to stop it. Both nave had a fight at the mouth of Kizugawa river, but Kiki navy was defeated by Murakami navy due to the difference of number of ships and experience.

Facing this situation, Nobunaga ordered Yoshitaka to build armored ships. This ship is named as “Tekkousen” , and is said that its body was covered by steel plates and had cannons on the ship, like a modern warship. Using this ship Kuki nave mage return match to Murakami navy in 1578, and this time this armored ship rejected all throwing explosive of Murakami navy and sunk many ships by its cannon. This second battle at the mouth of Kizugawa river was a perfect win for Kuki navy. After the death of Nobunaga, Moritaka continuously supported next ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), and activated at his unification battle of Japan and foreign excursion.

Navy in Japanese history

Different from western world, historically Japanese navy was limited to the coast navy, and did not develop to a ocean navy. It was more close to armored merchants, and they lived trade or fishery at normal time. Famous sea clans such as Kuki navy, Hojyo navy, Kumano navy, Murakami navy or Matsuura navy all activated at gulfs or inner seas.

The reason ocean navy did not appear in Japan might be the following. At first, historically Japanese economy had been self sufficient, unlike Western world which assumed a large scale trade by ship. Secondary, international relationship did not require ocean navy for Japan. In ancient era Yamato dynasty built convoy and fought against Tan dynasty and Shinra dynasty at Korea coast in 8th century, but after that Japan did not make foreign excursion except for the time of Hideyoshi Toyotomi.

Medieval China also had been basically satisfied as long as surrounding countries nominally subordinated to China, and did not build large navy and made naval excursion. Chinese Yuan dynasty which stem from Mongolian Empire seeked international Empire and made excursion across the sea, but Japan rejected it at the battle of coast, and next Ming dynasty turned to isolationism.

On and after 16th century Western fleet comes to East Asia, but due to limited payload and unstable voyage affected by weather, Western people could not conquest civilized counties such as China or Japan and moved to southeast Asia. This situation has changed when steel armored and engined warship appeared in the late of 19th century.

It is said that Nobunaga Oda planned to foreign expansion after the unification of Japan, and Hideyoshi actually performed this plan as limited shape. If Nobunaga did not die at the incident of Honnoji in 1582 and unite Japan, a genuine ocean navy might realize in Japan and Kuki clan might be the commander. In that case Toba castle might be a Portsmouth of Japan, but but as a result this plan did not realize.

Build of Toba castle

Under Toyotomi government, Kuki clan became the lord of whole Shima province, and newly built his residence as a modern castle at Toba city. Toba castle spread on a hill of 400 meter long and 200 meter wide along with the ocean, and ground side was totally separated by water moat. Central area of the castle was covered by stone walls, and there was a three story main tower at the center of central era. 

Formerly the slope continued to the current seashore, but due to the development of railway and station in modern era, the slope of seaside was cut. Formerly outer area surrounded lower half of the hill, and the port was built at seaside. Main gate faced seaside, and it matched as a residence of naval lord.

Afterward of Kuki clan and Toba castle

After the death of Hideyoshi, a conflict between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord under Toyotomi goverment and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), the chief administrative staff of Hideyoshi, occurred. Moritaka Kuki (1573-1632), son of Yoshitaka and already succeeded the leader position, belonged to Ieyasu and accompanied with his excursion against Uesugi clan at Aizu Wakamatsu castle. But Yoshitaka supported Mitsunari, and captured unarmed Toba castle along with Ujiyoshi Horiuchi (1549-1615), a lord of Shingu castle (Wakayama prefecture). Moritaka returned to Toba area and confronted with his father.

But after the victory of Ieyasu at the battle of Sekigahara, Yoshitaka left Toba castle and hided himself. Moritaka got approval to spare his father’s life from Ieyasu, but before the notice Moriatka already killed himself. Moritaka served to Ieyasu and activated at the battle of Osaka castle, but once the wartime ended, Edo Shogunate did not need third party naval force any more. 

In 1632, due to an internal conflict after he death of Moritaka, Kuki clan was divided to moved to other castles, then they lost the position as a naval lord. After Kuki clan, considering its location manages the entrance of Isewan gulf, hereditary retainer of Edo Shoguante had been appointed as a lord of the castle. These lords further expanded Toba castle to current shape.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, Toba castle was abolished and all buildings were demolished. Castle site was once used as a land for local school or dockyard, but now used as a park. It is difficult to distinguish from modern improvement, stone walls surrounded the central area partially remains. Shapes of other hilltop area are also seen on the hill, and outer moat surrounded the castle and castle town remains as a creek. Beautiful scenery of blue ocean and numerous island seen from the castle hill shows this was truly a base of Kuki navy.


15 minutes walk from JR Central Sangu-sen line / Kintetsu Toba-sen line Toba station. 20 minutes drive from Ise-Jidoshado Expressway Ise interchange.

Related Castles

Imabari Castle -Water castle in town of marine transportation-
Nagahama Castle (Izu) -Naval base of Hojyo clan at Suruga bay-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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