Monday, February 2, 2015

Tachibanayama Castle -Brave general regarded as incarnation of thunder-

Tachibanayama Castle

-Brave general regarded as incarnation of thunder-



Name: Tachibanayama castle (Tachibanayama-jo)
Place: Hisayama town, Fukuoka
Location: 33.679776971719505, 130.46791108549903
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: Originally in 14th century, expanded in 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and clay walls 

Brief History

Tachibanayama castle (立花山城) is located at the top of Tachibanayama mountain, one of 360 meter height in the north east part of Hukuoka city. 

Tachibanayama is a sheer mountain at the western edge of mountainous area which separated current Fukuoka area and Kitakyushu area, and road from Kitakyushu area passed a narrow area at the west of Tachibanayama surrounded by mountain and coast. Because of this geographical condition, Tachibanayama castle was regarded as an important castle to watch and protect old Hakata city, one of major trading port and city of medieval Japan.

Build of Tachibanayama castle

Tachibanayama castle was built by Sadatoshi Otomo (?-1336), who was a relative of Otomo clan which was the governor of Bungo province (Oita prefecture). Otomo clan was originally a local lord of Sagami province (Kanagawa prefecture), but the Yoshinao Otomo (1172-1223), the substantial founder of Otomo clan, was close to Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199) who was the founder of Kamakura Shogunate, and promoted under Yoritomo. 

Yoshinao was appointed as the governor of Bungo province, and later the clan moved to the province and dominated as the governor. Otomo clan also activated at Genko, an invasion of Chinese Yuan empire and Korean Koryo kingdom to Hakata city, and had relationship to Hakata area. Due to this relationship Sadatoshi built Tachibanayama castle to controll Hakata city, and named as Tachibana clan. Tachibana clan became an important branch family of Otomo clan and was called as “Nishi Otomo” (Otomo at western area).

Struggle of Ouchi clan and Otomo clan for Hakata city

Hakata city had been an important base of administration and trade to China or Korea  from ancient era. In 8th century, Dazaifu city which was the vice capital of Japan along with Tagajyo castle at Tohoku region was built, and worked as a window of envoy and official trade to Chinese Tang dynasty. After 11th century Hakata port prospered by private trade to Chinese Song dynasty, and once seriously damaged by “Genko” but recovered its prosperity as a base of certified trade “Kango Boeki” with Chinese Ming dynasty. 

In Muromachi era Hakata city was managed by Otomo clan and Shoni clan which was a distinguish lord of northwestern part of Kyushu island. But from the latter half of 15th century, Ouchi clan, the governor of Suo province (Yamaguchi prefecture) and a large power of Chugoku region, frequently attacked Shoni clan. At last Shoni clan once ruined in 1535, and interests of Shoniclan for Hakata city moved to Ouchi clan.

But the peak of Ouchi clan did not continue long. In 1551, Harukata Sue (1521-1555), important retainer and military leader of Ouchi clan, rebelled to Yoshitaka Ouchi (1507-1551) and forced him to suicide. Once Harukata suceeded the position of Ouchi clan, and placed Yoshinaga Ouchi (1532-1557), the younger brother of Yoshiaki Otomo (1502-1550, known as his Buddhist name Sorin) who was the leader of Otomo clan, as an adopted son of Ouchi clan as a puppet leader. 

But next year Harukata died at the battle of Itsukushima against Motonari Mouri (1497-1571), an intelligent lord of Aki province (Hiroshima prefecture). Motonari next ruined Yoshinaga Ouchi and remaining Sue person, and became the warlord of western part of Chugoku region.

Plot of Mouri clan and fall of Tachibanayama castle

Motonari who seized former Ouchi territory next aimed at Hakata city. As above the person from Otomo clan was killed by Motonari, Otomo clan and Mouri clan became the mortal enemy and fiercely fought for the dominance of Hakata city over 15 years, during 1550’s and former half of 1560’s. Mouri clan tried to seize Hakata city, but Otomo clan under Yoshishige at that time was the dominant power of north Kyushu island with many brilliant generals, and Mouri clan had to cross the ocean to fight with Otomo clan. 

To cope with this inferior situation, Motonari used his brilliant talent of plot. In 1567, after the long continuous battle, Motonari sent Akizuki clan who was expelled from north Kyushu region by Otomo clan and let them rebel to Otomo clan. Furthermore in 1568. Motonari let Akitoshi Tachibana (1521-1568), who was the commander of Tachibanayama castle and dissatisfied with Otomo clan, betrayed to Mouri clan. The front of Otomo clan at north Kyushu island nearly collapsed by these action.

Brave general regarded as incornation o thunder

Yoshishige Otomo who lost important castle promptly ordered attack of Tachibanayama castle to his confident general Akitsura Bekki (1513-1585, later named as Dosetsu Tachibana). Bekki clan was a branch familiy of Otomo clan, and Akitsura activated at many battles from youth. Akitsura had a paralysis for his left leg, and rode palanquin and ordered his army at the battle. Akitsura instructed soldiers who shoulder his palanquin that they can run away at any time during battle throwing out his palanquin, but every soldier eagerly fought for Akitsura.

Precise reason of this is unknown, but it is said as a legend that his leg was hit by thunder. In defiance of this handicap, Akitsura ordered many battles at the front and achieved many vistories, thus Akitsura was revered as damon and praised as an incamation of thunder. It was said that Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), a famous warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture), sent a letter he would like to meet with Akitsura.

In 1550, Yoshiaki Otomo, father of Yoshishige, planed to expel Yoshishige and place another son as the successor, thus purged supporters of Yoshishige. In response to this, supporters of Yoshishige assaulted Yoshiaki, then Yoshiaki was seriously injured and leave the leader position to Yoshishige. 

This incident was called as “Nikai Kuzure no Hen” (incident at the assault at second floor), and Akitsura strongly supported Yoshishige during this incident and contributed to the succession of Yoshishige. Yoshishige finally became the leader of Otomo clan, and treated Akitsura as one of three major retainers.

Desperate struggle against Mouri clan

Akitsura who was sent to the front promptly defeated Mouri side generals and restored the situation. Next Akitsura sieged Tachibanayama castle for several months, and once captured Tachibanayama castle and forced Akitoshi to suicide. But this time Mouri clan sent whole army lead by Motonari Mouri and his two son Motoharu Kikkawa (1530-1586) and Takakage Kobayakawa (1533-1597) to seize Hakata city. 

In 1569, both army had a hard battle at Tataragahama area, and Ouchi clan barely won to Mouri clan by a detour attack of Akitsura to the side of Mouri army. But Otomo side also suffered severe damage, and Tachibayamana castle was still kept by Mouri clan.

To settle the situation, Yoshishige Otomo made a plot to confuse Mouri clan. He sent Teruhiro Ouchi (1520-1569), relative of former Ouchi clan, to Nagato country and let him raise his army. Furthermore Yoshishige supported movement of Katsuhisa Amago (1553-1578) and Yukimori Yamanaka (1545-1578, famous as Shikanosuke), who tried to restore Amago clan which was ruined by Mouri clan. 

To cope with this situation, Motonari Mouri decided to dispose Hakata city and retreated from Kyushu island. Now Otomo clan totally seized Hakata castle after the long battle, and placed Akitsura asa commander of Tachibanayama castle. Akitsura succeeded the sir name of Tachibana, and named as Dosetsu Tachibana.

Structure of Tachibanayama castle

Tachibanayama castle spread over the ridges of Tachibanayama mountain consist of three peaks named Tachibanayama, Matsuodake and Shiradake. The main area of the castle is about 50 meter long and 30 meter wide elliptical shaped area at the top of Tachibanayama peak, and was wholly protected by stone walls along with other areas surrounded main area.

Castle area spread along with two ridges named Otsubura and Kotsubura toward eastward from the top. Several terraces are built along these ridges, and important point of these areas might be also protected by stone walls. Matsuodake peak was also a part of the castle, and main road from hillside reached to the saddle point between main peak and Matsuodake peak. Total size of the castle was over 500 meter length.

Fall of Otomo clan

But peak of Otomo clan did not last long. Yoshishige Otomo was surely a lord of progressive and strong will, but on the other hand he was also selfish and voluptuary, thus caused anthipathy of generals. Dosetu frequently remonstraged to Yoshishige, but Yoshishige ingored his advice. 

Facing this situation, one day Dosetu had a large party and made woopie. Yoshishige heard and was intersted in this matter that stubborn Dosetsu made a fuss, then visited the residence of Dosetsu. When Yoshishige visited, Dosetsu stopped his party and seriously asked his lord to behave himself, and Yoshishige once accepted it. But finally Yoshishige returned to his original behavior.

Furthermore, Yoshishige was a radical beliver of Cathoric who had the Christian name of Don Francisco, to communicated with Western priests and merchants to achieve advanced knowledge. It is said that Yoshishige dreamed to build a Cathoric country in his territory, but destruction of temples and shrines by Yoshishige evoked dissatisfaction of generals, soldiers and people.

Among such situation, Shimazu clan which was the governor of Satsuma province (Kagoshima prefecture), rapidly grew their power and suppresse Ito clan which was the governor of Hyuga province (Miyazaki prefecture) and subordinated to Otomo clan. In 1578, to prevent the expansion of Shimazu clan, Yoshishige lead a large army and marched to Hyuga province, and surrounded Takajo castle. 

But Yoshishige caught a fatal defeat at the battle of Mimikawa, being trapped by “Tsurinobuse” (ambush tactics) of the reinforcement of Shimazu clan. Otomo clan lost many generals and soldiers, then lost the hegemony in Kyushu island.

Alone fight of Dosetsu and death

At the north part of Kyushu island, looking at the weakened Otomo clan, Takanobu Ryuzoji (1529-1584) who was the lord of Saga castle (Saga prefecture) left Otomo clan. Takanobu was a brave lord called as "Bear of Hizen", and quickly beat surrounding small lords belonged to Otomo clan then seized Hizen province (Saga and Nagasaki prefecture) in short period. Ryuzoji clan next started to intruded Chikugo province (south part of Fukuoka prefecture), and dominance of Otomo clan at north part of Kyushu island became in crisis.

Among tough situation, Dosetsu did not shake and keep fighting against Ryuzoji clan or Shimazu clan to keep the power of Otomo clan. At this time Dosetsu cooperatively worked with Jyoun Takahashi (1548-1586), another brave general of Otomo clan and who was the son of Akimasa Yoshihiro (1519-1571), an important retainer of Otomo clan. As Dosetsu did not had a son, Dosetsu asked Jyoun to adopt his son, who named later Muneshige Tachibana (1567-1643) and was also known as a brilliant general.

In 1584, Takanobu Ryuzoji who seized northwest part of Kyushu island fought against Shimazu clan at the battle of Okitanawate, and died in the battle in spite of dominant army. Looking at this opportunity, Dosetsu advanced to Chikugo province and recovered many castles. 

But finally Dosetsu died in ill when he siege Nekoo castle in 1585. Respecting Dosetsu, Shimazu army came to rescue the castle did not chase Tachibana army retreated with the body of Dosetsu. Otomo clan which lost important pillar fell nearly into the collapse in several years.

Afterward of Tachibanayama castle

After the death of Dosetsu, Jyoun Takahashi suceeded Tachibanayama castle. But facing total attack of Shimazu clan in 1586, Jyoun Takahashi protected Iwaya castle (Dazaifu city), a front fort of Tachibanayama castle, died at the castle after a fierce battle against supreme Shimazu army. 

Shimazu army next sieged Tachibanayama castle protected by Muneshige Tachibana, but Muneshige tenaciously protected the castle and Shimazu army already damaged at Iwaya castle could not fall this castle.

In the mean time, expeditionary force of central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) against Shimazu clan landed Kyushu island, then captured northeastern Kyushu island. Shimazu army fell into interior situation retreated from Tachibanayama castle, and Tachibana clan and castle barely escaped the crisis.

Reform into first modern castle at Kyushu island

After the surrender of Shimazu clan in 1588, Muneshige Tachibana promoted to the lord of Yanagawa castle (Fukuoka prefecture) and moved there, and Takakage Kobayakawa (1533-1597), a chancellor of Mouri clan at Niitakayama castle (Hiroshima prefecture) and deeply trusted by Hideyoshi, was appointed as a lord of Tachibanayama castle to control Hakata city as a magistrate of Hideyoshi. 

Takakage reformed Tachibanayama castle into a modern one protected by stone walls, similar to his main base Niitakayama castle. Tachibayama castle became the first modern style castle, whose core areas were wholly protected by stone walls. But because of inconvenience located over sheer mountain, later Takakage newly built Najima castle (Fukuoka prefecture) near the coast and left Tachibanayama castle to his retainer Munekatsu Nomi (1527-1592). 

Afterward of castle

After the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Kuroda clan who was appointed as the lord of Chikuzen province by Edo Shogunate built their main base Fukuoka castle and abolished Tachibanayama castle.

Currently Tachibayama mountain become a hiking course, and shape of the castle and some part of stone walls remain in the mountain. To reach the main part of the castle it is necessary to climb steep sheers holding installed ropes, but from the central area beautiful view of Hakata gulf and Fukuoka city is seen before the foot. This view certifies necessity of Tachibayama castle and long history of struggle.


15 minutes walk from Tachibana Shogakko-mae bus stop of Shingu town community bus from JR Kyushu Kagoshima-Honsen line Fukukodai-mae station. 15 minutes drive from Kyushu Jidoshado Expressway Koga interchange. 45 minutes walk from hillside entrance of climbing road to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Iwaya Castle -Heroic death of brave general-
Usuki Castle -Unfulfilled dream of Catholic kingdom-
Saga Castle -Combination of decisive lord and cool staff-
Yanagawa Castle -Revival of general of braveness and honesty-
Niitakayama Castle -Intellectual pillar of Mouri clan-

Pictures (click to enlarge)


1 comment:

  1. Very nice, thankyou. I went to Tachibana yama last year. It was a nice workout.. but I didn`t go to the northern side. Next time I will.