Friday, September 4, 2015

Oita Funai Castle -Fossil of beautiful water castle-

Oita Funai Castle

-Fossil of beautiful water castle-



Name: Oita Funai castle (Oita Funai-jo)
Alias: Niage-jo (unloading)
Place: Niage-cho Oita city, Oita
Location: 33.24063674596026, 131.61181542114124
Type: Flat Castle
Built: 1607
Remaining remnants: Turrets, stone walls and water moats 
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Oita Funai castle (大分府内城) is located at the center of Oita city, a prefectural capital of Oita prefecture. Oita area is a large plain at the mouth of Oita-gawa river, and had been a good port inside of Beppu-wan bay. Since ancient era Oita area had been a center of Bungo province (Oita prefecture), and end of inner marine transportation of Seto-Naikai Sea connected Kinki region and southern half of Kyushu island.

Oita city at Otomo clan period

After the establishment of Kamakura Shogunate in 1192, Yoshinao Otomo (1172-1223) was appointed as the governor of Bungo province. Since then Otomo clan gradually grew throughout Kamakura and Muromachi era, and once suffered from its internal conflict but at the time of Yoshinaga Otomo (1478-1518) and Yoshiaki Otomo (1502-1550), Otomo clan formed structure as a warlord and started expansion to surrounding provinces.

Yoshishite Otomo (1530-1587, known as his Buddhist name Sorin) brought peak period of Otomo clan. Otomo clan won the battle for Hakata city, one of the richest ports in Medieval era, against Ouchi clan and Mouri clan, and directly or indirectly controlled two third of Kyushu island. Oita city named as Funai city at that time prospered as a capital of Otomo clan and along Oita river a large town spread centered on two residences of Otomo clan. 

In 1551, Francisco de Xavier (1506-1552) who brought Christianity to Japan visited Bungo province, and Yoshishige approved missionary in his province. At first Yoshishige aimed Western technology and wealth from foreign trade, but later Yoshishige took a baptism in 1579, and named as Don Francisco then Catholic church and college were built in Funai city. But Funai area is a large flat area and weak for attack, then Yoshishige himself lived at Usuki castle at 20 kilometer south of Oita city.

Fall of Oita clan

In 1578, Yoshishite who dreamed the construction of Christian kingdom sent large army to Hyuga province (Miyazaki prefecture) to support Ito clan which was the governor of province but expelled by Shimazu clan, the governor of Satsuma province (Kagoshima prefecture). But Otomo army suffered severe defeat at the battle of Mimikawa, and Otomo clan which lost many generals and soldiers rapidly declined its power.

In 1586, Shimazu clan which seized over half of Kyushu island made total attack against Otomo clan. Funai town was invaded and burnt, but Yoshishige himself besieged at Usuki castle and barely rejected the attack of dominant Shimazu army by cannons imported from Western nation. Among that time central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) made expedition against Shimazu clan, then Shimazu clan surrendered to Hideyoshi and Otomo clan could survive at that time. But in 1593 Yoshimune Otomo (1558-1610), son of Yoshishige, was blamed for the failure in foreign campaign and lost Bungo province.

After the expel of Otomo clan, Nagataka Fukuhara (?-1600, known as former name Naotaka Fukuhara) was appointed as the lord of Funai area. Naohara was an administrative staff of Hideyoshi promoted from his page, and activated at both of combat and administration. Beside, Nagataka was a marriage relative of Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), the chief administrative staff of Toyotomi government. In 1597 Nagataka was picked up to the lord of half of Bungo province.

Construction of seaside castle by Fukuhara clan

Nagataka at first lived at former residence of Otomo clan. but it was only protected d by simple clay wall then Nagataka decided to build a secure modern castle at this place. Nagataka chose the place of Niotoshi (unload) , a sand beach at the mouth of Oitagawa river in the north of Funai town, and started construction in 1597. In 1598, core part of the castle except for main tower completed and Naotaka entered to the castle.

Same as other seaside or lakeside side castle of old generation such as Nagahama castle, Sakamoto castle (Shiga prefecture) or Takamatsu castle (Kagawa prefecture), core part of the castle consist of several small areas such as central area, eastern area, western area, Yamazato area or north area.

At that time it was difficult to build tall stone walls at weak beach ground, thus stone walls were not so high (later Takatora Todo established technique to build tall stone wall at seaside area and used at Imabari castle (Ehime prefecture). 

Beside, as land reclamation was necessary, size of each area tend to be small, but on the other hand water moats were wide. To spare small size and low stone wall, shape of each area tends to complex and had bottlenecks, to shut the intrude of enemy into central area. Usually central area was connected by only one gate to the outer area, to perfectly shut down the area in case of emergency.

Structure of Oita Funai castle

Structure of Oita Funai castle was an exact one of this style. At the center of the castle originally central area, western area and eastern area were connected with narrow bottleneck, like a triangle of a comma-shaped heraldic design (currently inner water moat was filled by sand and this shape disappeared). At the center of central area there was a four story main tower built on 15 meter square shaped basement, and small attached tower also built at the west of central tower to directly attack the enemy approaching to Yamazato area.

On the connecting point of eastern area and western area at the south of castle, there was a masugata style combined main gate of the castle. To spare the limitation of size turrets were built at every corner and at the middle of line, and at eastern area a three story turret equivalent to main tower existed. Backside of the castle faces the coast was separated by narrow sand bank from sea, to prevent direct attack from sea by ships. At east and south side of the castle third area of 300 meter long square used as a residence of retainers, and later outer barrier of 600 mere square encircling whole area of the castle was added.

Expansion by Takenaka clan

Nagataka Fukuhara who was close to Mitsunari Ishida was hated by front generals for the trouble at foreign expedition, and after the death of Hideyoshi, Oita area was confiscated by Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), who was the largest lord under Toyotomi government. In 1600, Ieyasu and Mitsunari fought at the battle of Sekigahara for next hegemony, and Nagataka guarded Ogaki castle which was the headquarter of Ishida army. But after the defeat of Mitsunari at the battle, Ogaki castle fell by betrayal of other lords and Nagataka was forced to die.

After Fukuhara clan, Shigetoshi Takenaka (1562-1615) was appointed as a lord of Oita Funai castle. Shigetoshi was a cousin of Shigenaru Takenaka (1544-1579, known as his middle name Hanbe), who was known as a talented staff of Hideyoshi admired together with Yoshitaka Kuroda (1546-1604, known as his middle name Kanbe). Takenaka clan restarted construction, and in 1602 four story main tower was built. Finally whole castle including outer areas completed by 1607.

Takenaka clan was expelled in 1634, and next lord Hinone clan also broke in 1656. Later Matsudaira clan which was the relative of Shogun became the lord and held it by the end of Edo era. In 1743 many buildings including main tower were lost by fire, and main tower was never rebuilt since then.

Afterward of castle

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, core area of the castle was used as a prefectural office, then several turrets were kept as before. But many of them were lost by bombing during WW2, and now only two turrets remain as original. Because of large scale land reclamation in the city, now caste site was left inland far from sea, and remains as a fossil of sea fish at land. 

But water moat still fully surrounds the castle, and wide water moat at the north side  still keeps former atmosphere of water castle. Complexly folded stone walls shows various shape seen from different angle. In 1965 turrets and front gate at southern line were restored, and the castle partially recovered its small but elegant shape with continuing line of white walls of turrets and fences over folded stone walls.


20 minutes walk from JR Kyushu Nippo Honsen line Oita station.  15 minutes drive from Oita Expressway Oita interchange.

Related Castles

Usuki Castle -Unfulfilled dream of Catholic kingdom-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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