Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tsuwano Castle -Broken promises-

Tsuwano Castle

-Broken promises-



Name: Tsuwano castle (Tsuwano-jo)
Alias: Ipponmatsu-jo, Sanbonmatsu-jo
Place: Ushiroda Tsuwano town, Shimane
Location: 34.46044677299878, 131.76245054047686
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: Originally in 14th century, reformed in 17th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls, moats, two turrets and gate (moved) 
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Tsuwano castle (津和野城) is located over Shiroyama mountain which is about 200 meter tall from hillside in Tsuwano town. Tsuwano town places on the valley at southwestern border of former Iwami province (western half of Shimane prefecture), and at the middle of major route connected Yamaghchi city and Hamada city. Originally Tsuwano town is a small mountainous town, but along with the prosperity of Yamaguchi city, Tsuwano town grew as a eastern gate into Yamaguchi prefecture. 

Later new road which connected Tsuwano town and Aki province (Hiroshima prefecture) was built, and Tsuwano town additionally worked as a connecting point of Sanyo area and Sanin area in Edo era. Tsuwano town still keeps atmosphere of Edo era, and said as “Little Kyoto” in Sanin region.

Origin of Tsuwano castle

Tsuwano castle was originally built by Yoshimi clan in 14th century. Yoshimi clan is a tradirinal family stem from Noriyori Minamoto (1156-1193), a younger brother of Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199) who established Kamakura Shogunate in 1192. Noriyori was later purged but his survived descendant became a retainer of Shogunate, and was appointed as a local governor of Tsuwano area. Throughout Muromachi era, Yoshimi clan gradually expanded their territory competing with Masuda clan which resided coast area. Along with the growth of Yoshimi clan, Tsuwano castle was expanded over the ridge of Shiroyama mountain over 2 kilometer.

In Muromachi era, Ouchi clan which was the governor of Suo province and Nagato province (Yamaguchi prefecture) prospered based on its economic power gained from private trade with Chinise Ming dynasty, and was regarded as one of the strongest governor. Yoshimi clan belonged to Ouchi clan, and Masayori Yoshimi (1513-1588) married with a daughter of Yoshioki Ouchi (1477-1529), the leader of Ouchi clan. As a relative, Masayori participated in military actions of Ouchi clan and supported them.

Siege by Harukata Sue

But at the time of Yoshitaka Ouchi (1507-1551), successor of Yoshioki Ouchi, as a result of concurring military operation and defeat at the siege of Gassan Toda castle (Shimane prefecture) held by Amago clan, an internal conflict occurred between front gererals such as Harukata Sue (1521-1555) and administrative staffs in Ouchi clan. As Yoshitaka supported administrative staffs, in 1551 Sue Harukara made coup d’etat against Yoshitaka and forced him to suicide. Furthermore, Harukata who seized the authority of Ouchi clan was close to Masuda clan, rival of Yoshimi clan.

Facing death of his brother in law, Masayori openly accused Harukata as a usurper and resisted to Harukata. In response to this, Harukata lead large army and intruded into Iwami province, and encircled Tsuwano castle. Siege continued over four months but Tsuwano castle rejected Sue army, and utilizing absence of Harukata, Motonari Mouri (1497-1571) who was originally a small lord of Aki province (Hiroshima prefecture) rapidly expanded their power. 

Seeing this situation, Harukata made peace with Masayori Yoshimi and changed his army to Mouri clan, but suffered severe defeat at the battle of Itsukushima in 1552 and died there. Finally Mouri clan succeeded former Ouchi territory, and Yoshimi clan became a retainer of Mouri clan.

Change of lord and renovation

In 1600, after the death of former ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi, aiming at the next hegemonym the battle of Sekigahara arouse between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord under Toyotomi government, and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), the chief administratie staff of Toyotomi government. 

Mouri clan at first supported Ishida side, and attacked surrounding lords which belonged to Tokugawa side, but Hiroie Kikkawa (1561-1625), an important retainer of Mouri clan, connected to Ieyasu and prevented participation of Mouri army into main battle at Sekigahara. After the victory of Ieyasu, Mouri clan was approved to continue but its territory was decreased only to Suo province and Nagato province. Because of this punishment, Yoshimi clan lost Tsuwano castle and moved.

After Mouri clan, Edo Shogunate appointed Naomori Sakazaki (1563-1616) as a lord of Tsuwano castle. Naomori was originally the son of Tadaie Ukita (1533-1609), who was the younger brother of Naoie Ukita (1529-1582), the warlord of Bizen province (Okayama prefecture). After the death of Naoie, Naomori served to his cousin Hideie Ukita (1572-1655), but could not get along with Naoie. In 1599, when internal dispute occurred in Ukita clan, Naomori left Ukita clan and served to Ieyasu Tokugawa. Naomori activated at the battle of Sekigahara for Ieyasu, and was given Tsuwano castle as a reward, althouh Ukita clan which hostiled to Ieyasu was extinguished..

Naomori who became the lord of Tsuwano castle reformed this castle into a modern one equipped with stone walls. Originally Tsuwano castle in medieval era spread over two kilometer along the ridge continues north and south ward, but Naomori only used about 300 meter long area surrounding the peak where another small peak projected into westward like vertical “T” letter. 

Structure of Tsuwano castle

Main area of the castle is a rectangular shaped flat area of 50 meter width and 20 meter long. Second level area consist of Taikomaru area and secondary area connected northward to westward of main area, and probably three story main tower was built on the 20 meter square shaped basement at the west side of central area. This place is the center of communication from three direction. For westward third level area spread over the ridge, and used for stable and kitchen. Main route of the castle from hillside connected to the route of this area, and protected by layer of stone walls and gates. 

For southward, narrow ridge was shaped into two level terraces. Upper terrace is a small area called as "Hitojichi Kuruwa" (space for hostage) projected like a beak, and surrounded by over 15 meter tall stone walls. Lower terrace is a larger area and had a gate of another route from southward and guarding turret at the edge. As Tsuwano castle locates at narrow and sheer peak, each area of the castle is protected by almost vertical stone walls. Scenery of main area consist of different levels of sheer stone walls is very beautiful, but also feel scary when looking at downside. 

At the north of main peak, there is another small peak used as a front fort which was also guarded by stone walls. Residence of the lord was built at eastern hillside of the mountain. As front slope of the mountain is sheer, shape of Tsuwano town is well seen from hilltop castle area, and stone wall of hilltop area is also clearly seen upward from castle town. Naomori also developed castle town and improved Tsuwano town as a communication place of transportation.

Broken promises

15 year after the battle of Sekigahara, Naomori made an another achievement at the battle of Osaka castle between Ieyasu and Hideyori Toyotomi (1593-1615), son of Hideyoshi Toyotoomi. Based on the will of Hideyoshi, Ieyasu let his granddaughter Princess Senhime (1597-1666) with Hideyori, but Ieyasu became the ruler finally attacked Hideyori to extinguish Toyotomi clan. But Ieyasu hoped to save his granddaughter (it is not clear which of affection or avoiding bad reputation the reason was), and was said to promise let her marry with the person who saved her.

Af the fall of Osaka castle, Hideyori released Princess Senhime to negotiate Tokugawa side, and Naomori who rushed into burning Osaka castle encountered escaping her. In confusing situation Naomori guarded Princess Senhime to the headquarter of Ieyasu, and Princess Senhime could survive.

Naomori expected to marry with her, but as Naomori was a new commer and relative of former enemy, Ieyasu was reluctant to keep his promise. At the time of warfare, master was required to keep promise to retain the royalty of retainers, but now Ieyasu became the absolute ruler and did not have to do so any more. At last, it was decided that Princess Senhime would marry with Tadatoki Honda (1596-1626), a grandson of Tadakatsu Honda (1548-1610) who was the bravest general of Tokugawa army and lord of Himeji castle (Hyogo prefecture).

Naomori who heard this fact became ragious. Naomori was an straightforward and impulsive person, and he decided to take action by force. Naomori planned to snatch Senhime who attends wedding celemony, and but this plan was found by Edo Shogunate and Shogunate army surrounded residence of Naomori. Shogunate ordered Naomori to kill himself but Naomori refused, then forced Naomori’s retainer to kill Naomori under condition of continuation of Sakazaki clan by his descendent. Naomori was finally killed, but above condition was not fulfilled again and Sakazaki clan was extinguished. There might be a room of compromise, but character of Naomori did not allow it.

Afterward of Tsuwano castle

After Sakazaki clan, Kamei clan moved from Shikano castle (Tottori prefecture) and became the lord of Tsuwano domain. Main tower was lost by fire in 1686, but Tsuwano castle had been used as a residence of Kamei clan by the end of Edo era.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, most buildings were broken but two turret at hillside area still remain near the castle. In addition to this, a former gate of the castle used as a gate of local government was moved to Hamada castle (Shimane prefecture) and remain there. Now visitors can visit castle by lift on the slope, and sheer stone walls on sheer mountain shows well shows stubborn and straightforward character of the builder for better or worse. As above this castle had a residence at higher place then main tower, and Naomori might imagined his princess to this residence at highest place.


20 minutes walk to hillside lift station from JR West Yamaguchisen line Tsuwano station. 60 minutes drive from Chugoku Jidoshado Expressway Muikaichi interchange.

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Pictures (click to enlarge)

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