Monday, June 22, 2015

Akana Castle -Castle connected main base of fatal rivals-

Akana Castle

-Castle connected main base of fatal rivals-


Name: Akana castle (Akana-jo)
Alias: Akana Setoyama-jo (Akana Setoyama castle)
Place: Akana Iinan town, Shimane
Location: 34.99443240916337, 132.72025513922364
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 15th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Akana castle (赤穴城) is located at Koromokake-yama mountain, one of over 600 meter above sea level and front peak of Bunagadaira mountain. As Akana area is a highland area of about 400 meter sea level, height from hillside is about 200 meter and normal height mountain castle. Akana area places at the south edge of middle part of Shimane prefecture, and just 10 kilometer away from Akana-toge pass which divides Izumo province (east part of Shimane prefecture) and Aki province (western half of Hiroshima prefecture).

Road connected two fatal rivals

Currently Route 54, one of the major road connects Hiroshima city and Matsue city, passes through Aki Takada city, Miyoshi city, Akana area, Mitoya town. This route had been used from ancient era as Izumo Kaido, as this route almost linearly connected both area, without tough road other than several paths. In 7th century, it is said that famous poet Hitomaro Kakinomoto (660?-720?) traveled to his post Iwami province (western part of Shimane prefecture) through this area.

In 1550's, after the fall of Ouchi clan which was the warlord of Suo province (Yamaguchi prefecture), Chugoku region was divided by two super powers. One was Amago clan, which located at Gassan Toda castle (Yasugi city), which rose up from vice governor to the strong warlord and seized north and east part of Chugoku region. Another was Mouri clan, which resided at Aki Koriyama castle (Aki Takada city) and also grew from small local lord into the large one which seized south and west part of Chugoku region. 

In the middle of 16th century these two power struggled for the hegemony of Chugoku region, and coincidently, main base of these two power both located along route 54. Aki Koriyama castle of Mouri clan directly reside aside the road, and Gassan Toda castle was near Matsue city, the end of this road. 

Distance of Aki Koriyama castle and Gassan Toda castle by this road is about 100 kilometer, and in today we can make one day return trip between both castles by car. In medieval era armies could march 20 kilometer per day thus it took 5 days, but still close. Because of this geographical condition, both Mouri clan and Amago clan built or expand many castles along this road, to prevent direct attack toward their main base.

Origin of Akana castle

Akana castle was originally built by Akana clan in 15th century. Akana clan was originally a branch family of Saba clan, which was the local lord of Iwami province. Later Saba clan expanded their territory into inland part of Izumo province, and people who resided Akana area named Akana clan.

Since the beginning of 16th century, Tsunehisa Amago (1458-1541) who was originally deputy governor of Izumo province under Kyogoku clan, expelled their master and became an independent warlord. Amago clan organized major local lords as their retainer, and they were called as "Amago Jyukki" (Amago ten flags). Akana clan was included this group, and Akana castle became one of major branch castles of Amago clan. As an important retainer of Amago clan, Akana clan expanded their castle.

Structure of Akana castle

Akana castle is built at T shaped hilltop area of the mountain, consist of main ridge spread north and south ward and connecting ridge toward east. The central area of the castle is a small area of 20 meter long and 10 meter width, and located at the peak. At the time of Horio period, there might be a small main tower. 

From central area, large terraces such as secondary area, third area and Nanseikuruwa connect along the ridge toward south, and for northward small terraces such as fourth area and fifth area guarded the backside of the central area. Main route from hillside connects to the saddle point at the east of central area, and a folding style main gate is built at this point. 

Even though broken at the time of abolish, formerly these core areas were guarded by stone walls. Remaining part of these stone walls consist of large stones, and might be built later period. Narrow shape of this core area with small squared shape, large front terraces and small backside terraces makes an impression as if this is a warship. . 

Ahead of saddle point toward east, east area terraces spreads along the ridge. This area consist of narrow path on the saddle point and small round shaped area at the next peak. This area keeps original terrain of the shape, and might be kept as an original style of Akana period. Total length of hilltop area exceeds 200 meter, and deserves as a residence of one of the ten main retainers of Amago clan. Hillside residence might exist at current place of elementary school.

Loyalty and death at first attack

After 1540's, this castle became included into the disturbances. Motonari Mouri (1497-1571), who was the leader of Mouri clan, once belonged to Amago clan but left it and attacked neighbor Amago side lords in 1530's. In response to this, in 1540, Amago clan sent a large army to Aki Koriyama castle, the main base of Mouri clan. But before firm besiege of Motonari, Anago army could not fall Aki Koriyama castle, and was defeated as a reinforcement army sent from Ouchi clan and finally retreated in next year. The authority of Amago clan was lost and local retainers left apart from Amago clan.

In March 1542, seeing this opportunity, Ouchi clan which was the master of Mouri clan and Motonari Mouri sent a large army to Izumo province to defeat Amago clan. As Akana castle was the first castle from Aki province, Ouchi army surrounded Akana castle with 40,000 soldier. In response to this, Mitsukiyo Akana (1493-1542), the leader of the clan, besieged at the castle and dammed Kanbe river to flood the hillside area. 

Mitsukiyo stood for two months, but finally was outnumbered and died in the battle then Akana castle opened to Mouri clan. But this brave fight delayed Ouchi army's operation. Ouchi army once surrounded Gassan Toda castle but could not capture it, and because of the lack of supply and betrayal of local lords hated long campaign this time Ouchi army suffered severe damage and run away. Amago clan recovered Akana castle gave a reward to Morikiyo Akana (1529-1595), survived son of Mitsukiyo.

Switch and survival

20 years later, in 1562, Motonari Mouri who seized former Ouchi territory after its fall attacked Amago clan again. This time Motonari persuaded retainers of Amago clan including Akana clan to switch to Mouri clan, and unlike his father, Morikiyo easily changed to Mouri clan. Amago clan which lost supporters was encircled at Gassan Toda castle, and after two year siege, because of lack of supply Amago clan surrendered to Motonari. Now the battle two fatal rival has ended.

Akana clan has kept Akana castle by 1600, but as a result of the battle of Sekigahara, Mouri clan lost Izumo province and Akana clan moved along with Mouri clan toward Nagato province (Yamaguchi prefecture). Replacing Mouri clan, Yoshiharu Horio (1542-1611), originally hereditary retainer of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) but supported Ieyasu at the battle of Sekigahara, was appointed as a lord of Izumo province by Edo Shogunate. 

Akana castle at Horio period and afterward

Yoshiharu built Matsue castle as his residence, and reformed Akana castle with stone walls as an important branch castle to guard his territory. Yoshiharu placed his important retainer Yoshihisa Matsuda at Akana castle, and Yoshihisa built castle town as a posting place of Izumo Kaido road 

But Akana castle was abolished by Ikkoku Ichijyo Rei (one domain one castle rule) published in 1616, and stone walls of the castle was broken at that time. Even though losing castle, route from Ota Silver mine toward Hiroshima area to convey mined silver was newly developed, and Akana town prospered as an important posting town between Matsue city and Hiroshima city. 

Now all building of the castle was lost, but shape of the castle with partial stone walls still remains over the mountain. In Akana town many old houses still remain and keeps the atmosphere of posting town. Akana castle still looks down on many people coning and going on an important communication route same as before.


60 minutes bus ride of Bihoku Bus from JR West Geibisen line Miyoshi station to Akana bus stop (limited number of service). 40 minutes drive via Route 54 from Chugoku Jidoshado Expressway Miyoshi interchange. 40 minutes walk from hillside to hilltop castle.

Related Castles

Aki Koriyama Castle -Proverb of three arrows-
Gassan Toda Castle -Rapid rise and fall of Amago clan-
Matsue Castle -Old style main tower looking at water city-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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