Sunday, May 29, 2016

Daishoji Castle -Castle with long history of siege and fall-

Daishoji Castle

-Castle with long history of siege and fall-



Name: Daishoji castle (Daishoji-jo / Daisyoji-jo)
Place: Daishoji-jikatacho Kaga city, Ishikawa
Location: 36.30807609085146, 136.30415582979973
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 14th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Daishoji Castle is located at the east half of Kinjosan mountain, one of 70 meter height from sea level at the curving point of Daishojigawa river, near the central area of current Kaga city. Daishoji area places in the south part of Kaga province (Ishikawa prefecture), and just 5 kilometer apart from the border to Echizen province (Fukui prefecture). 

Although being at the middle of large Ishikawa plain and Fukui plain, this border area is a natural border separated by hill area stretched from Hakusan mountain, lakes and rivers. Daishojigawa river is only one natural corridor to pass through this hilly area, and Daishoji castle defends Kaga plain side of this natural path. Because of this geographical condition, in spite of its limited size, Daishoji castle had been an important base as a forefront fort from Kaga plain toward south or a bridgehead toward Kaga plain from Echizen province.

Siege at medieval era

The origin of Daishoji castle (大聖寺城) is unknown but originally Kinjosan mountain was used as a ground of Daishoji temple, one of five temples built to worship Hakusan mountain and the source of the name of Daishoji. As terraces of the temple covered hill is usable as army post, then Kinjosan mountain became to be used as a castle by local lord Kano clan in 13th century.

After the fall of Kamakura Shogunate, Hokuriku region became the territory of anti-central government force thus Daishoji castle was involved in fierce battles. In 1335, Tokikane Hojo (?-1335), a relative of Hojo clan which had been the house of general minister of ruined Kamakura Shogunate, raised his army at Echigo province (Niigata prefecture) against new government of Emperor Godaido (1288-1339). Tokikane lead large force and tried to march to Kyoto city, but the army of Kano clan  supported by neighbor lords made a counterattack to Tokiie and broke them.

After the collapse of the government of Emperor Godaigo and establishment of Muromachi Shogunate in 1336, Yoshisada Nitta (1300-1338), one of the major general of Godaigo government, entered into Echizen province and tried to restore his army. In 1337, generals of Yoshisada attacked Daishoji castle and once captured that. But next year Yoshisada died at the battle against Muromachi Shogunate army, thus Daishoji castle was also seized by Muromachi Shogunate army.

Base of raised people

Under Muromachi Shogunate, Kaga province was governed by Togashi clan, bat its basis was relatively weak. In addition to this, Ikkoshu which is an active denomination of Japanese Buddhism rapidly spread among the people of Hokuriku region, as their leader Priest Rennyo (1415-1499) had his own temple Yoshizaki Gobo at the border of Echizen province and Kaga province, near from Daishoji castle. 

In 1467, under the internal conflict of Togashi clan, Masachika Togashi (1455-1488) allied with Ikkoshu army and became the governor of Kaga province. But Masachika feared the power of Ikkoshu and turned to suppress it, and also levied heavy tax to send army to central area. As a result, a huge rising of Ikkoshu army occurred in 1488, and being surrounded by 200,000 people of Ikkoshu raising, Masachika killed himself at his residence Takao castle. Now Kaga province was held by the people of Ikkoshu people, and Daishoji castle became an important point of Ikkoshu army along with other castles such as Torigoe castle (Ishikawa prefecture).

Conflict with next province

Next Ikkoshu people of Kaga province tried to expand into Echizen province. But different from Kaga province, there was a strong warlord Asakura clan. Both power continued fierce battle for several decades, and Daishoji castle became a military base or target for both side. 

In 1506, thousands people of Ikkoshu army intruded into Echizen province and faced Asakura army at the both side of Kuzuryugawa river. But outnumbered Asakura army lead by great general Norikate Asakura (1477-1555, famous as his Buddhist name Soteki Asakura) dared night attack to Ikkoshu army, and non experienced Ikkoshu army became flustered and collapsed. 

Nearly 50 years after, in 1555, Soteki conversely crossed the border and intruded into Kaga province, then attacked Daishoji castle and captured it. But Soteki became ill in the expedition and died, then this became the last achievement of this great general. About 10 years after that, Daishoji castle was once abolished at the agreement between Asakura clan and Ikkoshu army.

Front fort of central ruler

About another 10 years after that, central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) ruined Asakura clan in 1573. Echizen province was once captured by Ikkoshu army, but Nobunaga recaptured the province in 1575. Nobunaga appointed his important general Katsuie Shibata (1521-1583) at Kitanosho castle (Fukui prefecture, current Fukui castle) as a commander of Hokuriku region army, and started campaign against Kaga province. Katsuie placed his brave general Morimasa Sakuma (1553-1583) at Daishoji castle as a vanguard.

Katsuie continued hard fight against Ikkoshu army, especially after the alliance of Ikkoshu army and Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), the warlord of Echigo province praised as the dragon of Echigo or god of war. In 1577, Katsuie fought with Kenshin at the battle of Tedorigawa but suffered severe defeat, thus local lord of Kaga province once left Katsuie and belonged to Kenshin. But Katsuie and Morimasa securely guarded south part of Kaga province from Daishoji castle.

After the sudden death of Kenshin in 1578, Katsuie restarted his campaign and gradually pushed up the front toward north. In 1580, Oda army fell Oyama Gobo, the origin of current Kanazawa castle (Ishikawa prefecture) and main base of Ikkoshu army, then Morimasa moved to Kanazawa castle and Daishoji castle was protected by his colleague Ietaka Haigo (1549-1583). 

Reform into modern castle

Katsuie continuously fought with Uesugi clan and captured most part of Hokuriku region. But after the death of Nobunaga Oda in 1582, Katsuie Shibata fought with his former colleague Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) for next ruler but lost at the battle of Shizugatake in 1583. At this battle, Ietaka bravely fought at rear guard of retreating Shibata army but finally died in the battle. Soon Katsuie returned to his main base Kitanosho castle also killed himself.

After the battle, Hideyoshi placed Hidekatsu Mizoguchi (1548-1610) as a lord of Daishoji castle as a supporting lord of Nagahide Niwa (1535-1585) who became the lord of Kitanosho castle. After the death of Nagahide, Hidemasa Hori (1553-1590) became the lord of Kitanosho castle and Hidekatsu belonged to Hidemasa. Hidekatsu reformed Daishoji castle into a modern one.

Structure of Daishoji castle

The rough shape of Daishoji castle is like E letter, consist of three ridges and two valleys spread toward east. The central area of the castle is at the center of vertical line of E letter, which is a rectangular one of 100 meter long and 30 meter wide. At the northwestern corner of central area there is a clay basement of 15 meter long square which might be formerly covered with stone walls, and there could exist a two or three story main tower. Along with masugata style composite gate at the both side, central area is a most modernized area.

At the north part horizontal line, large terraces such as Nishinomaru area, secondary are, third area or Hetsugimaru area are built in line toward east. On the other hand, at the south part, Kanegamaru area or Higashinomaru area were also placed along with the ridge. Especially Kanegamaru area is the largest area of the castle which shape is about 80 meter long square, and securely protected by tall clay wall as this part directly connects with western half of Kinjosan mountain only separated by narrow and shallow valley. Several ponds were built at different place, as water source or water moat.

Total size of the castle is about 400 meter long square and not too bad as a main basement of south half of Kaga province. But gentle slope of the mountain, combination of too narrow areas and closeness to next peak might be too outdate against advanced castle siege. From retrospective view, it might be necessary to reform this castle including whole part of Kinjosan mountain.

Fall after short but fierce battle

In 1598, Hidekatsu Mizoguchi changed to the lord of Shibata castle (Niigata prefecture), and Munenaga Yamaguchi (1545-1600) who was the chief retainer of Hideaki Kobayakawa (1582-1602), a nephew of Hideyoshi but was transferred from Najima castle (Fukuoka prefecture) to Kitanosho castle with less territory. Next year Hideaki returned to Najima castle but Munenaga remained as the lord of Daishoji castle.

At that year, Hideyoshi died in ill then the conflict between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord of Toyotomi government, and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), the chief magistrate of the government, for next hegemony had begun. Toshinaga Maeda (1562-1614), the large size lord of Kanazawa castle belonged to Ieyasu, but small lords of Echizen province and Kaga province supported Mitsunari under persuasion of Yoshitsugu Otani (1559-1600), a close friend of Mitsunari and lord of Tsuruga castle (Fukui prefecture).

In July 1600, Toshinaga Maeda lead a large army and attacked Komatsu castle (Kanazawa prefecture) protected by Nagashige Niwa (1571-1637). But Komatsu castle was an impregnable castle protected by wide march, thus Toshinaga gave up the siege of Komatsu castle next attacked Daishoji castle in the beginning of August. Munenaga had only 1,200 soldiers and totally outnumbered by 25,000 Maeda army, but bravely fought against overwhelming enemy.

But finally the occupation of Kanenomaru area from next peak was a decisive cause and Daishoji castle fell then Munenaga and his son shared their fate with the castle. It was one of the preliminary skirmishes of the decisive battle of Sekigahara, and many castles of both side fell but commander were not killed and saved, as it might give a bad image if enemy side win the decisive battle. But Maeda clan once doubted by Ieyasu and had to their loyalty to Ieyasu, thus Daishoji castle and Munenaga became a suitable sacrifice.

Afterward of castle

After the decisive battle of Sekigahara, whole part of Kaga province including Daishoji castle became the territory of Maeda clan at Kanazawa castle. Maeda clan established branch domain at Daishoji area and used Daishoji castle as its base. But after the announcement of Ikkoku Ichijo Rei (One domain one castle rule), Maeda clan abolished Daishoji castle and built an administrative office at the side of the hill. But castle hill became off limit and was kept. intended to use in case of emergency.

Now all building was lost but shape of the clay wall and moats well remain over the hill. Slope of the road gradually climbs up between terraces at both side has an atmosphere but also seems not so secure, especially compared with long history of fierce battles. Now the castle ceased its long history of siege and fall, and used as a peaceful park of local residents. Tea room of Daishoji domain built over 300 years ago keeps it simple and quiet shape at the backside of the mountain.


15 minutes walk from JR West Hokuriku-Honsen line Daishoji station. 10 minutes drive from Hokuriku-Jidoshado Expressway Kaga interchange.

Related Castles

Kitanosho Castle -Calm end of proud veteran general and princess-
Kanazawa Castle -Elegant castle of close friend of ruler-
Torigoe Catsle -Resistance base in deep mountain-
Shibata Castle -Place of war and peace-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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