Sunday, August 30, 2015

Kushima Castle -Island castle with port and wet dock-

Kushima Castle

-Island castle with port and wet dock-



Name: Kushima castle (Kushima-jo)
Alias: Omura-jo (Omura castle)
Place: Kushima Omura city, Nagasaki
Type: Flat Castle
Built: 1599
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and moats 

Brief History

Kushima castle (玖島城) is located at a small hill facing Omura bay at the center of Omura city. In the southwestern part of Nagasaki prefecture, three peninsula including Shimabara peninsula, Nagasaki peninsula and Nishisonogi peninsula spread from Isahaya area toward each direction like a three blade fan. Omura city stands near the connecting area of these three peninsula and main body of Kyushu island, and also has a good port deep inside of Omura bay. Utilizing these geographical condition and considerably wide flat area, Omura area prospered as the center of this area.

Origin of Omura clan and Kushima castle

Kushima castle was built by local lord Omura clan in 1599. Origin of Omura clan is ambiguous and said as a descendant of ancient noble Omura clan or Fujiwara clan, but anyway Omura clan lived this area from Kamakura era. Omura clan gradually grew throughout Muromachi era, but in the last of 15th century they were defeated by Arima clan at Hinoe castle and lost their territory. Later Omura clan once returned to their territory, but before the power of Arima clan, Sumitada Omura (1533-1587), an adopted son from Arima clan, became the leader of Omura clan.

On and after 1560's, at Saga plain at the north of Omura area, Takanobu Ryuzoji (1529-1584) who was praised as "Bear of Hizen" rapidly expanded their territory Takanobu seized whole part of eastern part of Hizen province (Saga prefecture), and turned his army to western part of province. As western part of province was a mountainous area with limited farming land and small population, lords of this area such as Omura clan, Arima clan or Matsura clan could not compete with Takanobu.

First Christian lord in Japan

Among such situation, Sumitada became to rely on Catholic which arrived to Japan 10 years before, for both personal relief and actual profit gained from foreign trade. Just at that time Portuguese merchants made conflict at Hirado port and was expelled, thus Sumitada invited them to Yokoseura port. In 1563, Sumitada took baptism and became the first Christian lord in Japan, and Yokoseura port prospered from foreign trade. But Takanobu violently suppressed Buddhism and Shinto and this evoked disorder in the territory.

Seeing this situation, anti-Sumitada lords gathered and attacked Omura clan. In 1570 Yokoseura port was burnt down by such opponent army, thus Takabobu opened Nagasaki port as a substitution but Nagasaki port was also attacked in 1580. Finally Sumitaga donated the port to the church. This might be done by pure intention or to protect Nagasaki port from enemy, but later it was accepted to break the unity and history of Japan and reminded risk of colonization as Catholic acted substantially as a part of their nation. 

Furthermore, in 1572, anti Sumitaga army of 1,500 soldiers attacked Sanjyojyo castle where was the residence of Sumitaga, but Sumitada besieged with only 80 soldiers and stood before the arrival of reinforcement army. Seven braves activated at this battle became the important retainer of Omura clan. In 1582, three lords including Harunobu Arima (1567-1612), Yoshishige Otomo (1530-1587) and Sumitada sent young four envoys to Spain and Rome, to show their religion to Western world.

Survival and construction of Kushima castle

In spite of the effort of Sumitada, Ryuzoji clan became stronger and stronger, and finally Sumitada subordinated to Takanobu Ryuzoji in 1581. Sumitada and his relative were constrained as hostage, and Omura army was forced to fight for Ryuzoji clan as a vanguard. But Takanobu died at the battle of Okitanawate against alliance of estranged Arima clan and Shimazu clan in 1584, and Omura clan recovered independence. 

After the fall of Ryuzoji clan Omura clan once followed to Shimazu clan, but when central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) made expedition against Shimazu clan in 1587, Sumitada followed to Hideyoshi and became the feudal lord of Hideyoshi. But at this time Sumitada died in ill, and his son Yoshiaki (1569-1619) became the next leader.

In 1598, preparing for the upheaval after the death of Hideyoshi, Sumitada newly built Kushima castle and moved from Sanjyojyo castle. Currently became of land reclamation castle site is surrounded by the land, but formerly this hill was an island shaped area only connected by narrow path to the main land, and it was a suitable place for defense. 
The hill where Kujima castle located is a 200 meter long and 50 meter wide one spreads east and west ward, and east part of the hill faces mainland is the highest point. 

Structure of Omura castle

Central area of the castle is built at this point, and a square shaped area of 50 meter long. Main tower and turret were not built, but magnificent main gate guarded this area. From east to south of central area secondary area spreads, and only one turret of this castle named Itatsuki turret was built at the corner. Originally main gate to core area was built at north side but later moved to south side of the hill. East half of the hill is generally guarded by tall stone walls.

On the other hand, western half of the hill is just shaped into several terraces but not secured by stone walls and were used as warehouse or residence of retainers. At the south of western part, there was a pier and loading slope protruding into the sea and this area was used as a port. Furthermore, at the western hillside of western part, there was a pair of wet dock separated by stone walls. The length of dock is about 20 meter, and small size domain ship used for the movement of lord and patrol to islands were stored at this location.

Afterward of Omura clan and Kushima castle

At the battle of Sekigahara between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord under Toyotomi government and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), the chief administrative staff of Toyotomi government for next hegemony, Yoshiaki Omura supported Ieyasu along with Matsura clan and continued as a feudal lord of Omura domain under Edo Shogunate. Yoshiaki was at first believed Catholic, but later left it and suppressed in their territory. Catholic believers might move to next Arima domain where the banning was still loose, and this might be one of the indirect cause of the rebellion at Hara castle. Anyway Omura clan continued as a lord of Omura castle, over 800 years from its origin at the same place.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, all building of the castle was lost but stone walls of the castle still remain well along the ruin of port and wet dock. Now the ground of central area is used as a shrine, and hillside area became a park decorated with various flowers. Near the castle former houses of retainer well remain and keep atmosphere of old castle town.

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Pictures (click to enlarge)

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