Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Kaminoyama Castle -Another campaign in Eastern Japan (2) miscalculation-

Kaminoyama Castle

-Another campaign in Eastern Japan (2) miscalculation-



Name: Kaminoyama castle (Kaminoyama-jo)
Alias: Tsukioka-jo (Tsukioka-castle)
Place: Motohoriuchi Kaminoyama city, Yamagata
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 1535
Remaining remnants: Stone wall, clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Kaminoyama castle (上山城) is located at a Tsukioka hill at the merging point of Maekawa river and Aramachigawa river in the center of Kaminoyama city. Kaminoyama area is a narrow valley of 2 kilometer wide and 5 kilometer long formed by Sugawa river and Maekawa river both are tributaries of Mogamigawa river, in the south edge of Yamagata plain. 

Origin of Kaminoyama castle

Kaminoyama area exists at the middle of Yonezawa plain which was the entrance of middle part and western part of Tohoku region from Aizu area of Fukushima area, and Yamagata plain which prolongs northward. There are two routes connect these two plains, the one runs along with Mogamigawa river passes current Sagae town and another goes with Maekawa river through Kaminoyama town. As former route have to pass long and narrow valley, the latter has been used as a main corridor of the area. Even now, many roads, highways and Shinkansen train passes Kaminoyama city.

Kaminoyama castle was built by local lord Yoshitada Kaminoyama in 1535. Kaminoyama clan was a descendent of Shiba clan, a close relative and high class of retainer, and relative of Tendo clan which was the lord of Tendo area at the north of current Yamagata city. At first Kaminoyama clan built Takadate castle on Kokuzosan mountain at the backside of Kaminoyama castle, but this castle was attacked by Date clan which became strong at Yonezawa basin and fell in 1508. Yoshifusa Kaminoyama (?-1520), the leader of Kaminoyama clan, escaped to Tendo clan and seek the chance of recovery.

In 1535, under the support of Tendo clan, Yoshisada Kaminoyama, (?-?), son of Yoshifusa, recovered Kaminoyama castle from Date clan. At that time Kaminoyama clan builtcurrent Kaminoyama castle of Tsukioka hill, and grew as a strong local lord along with Tendo clan. But at the internal conflict of Mogami clan which became the ruler of Yamagata basin both clan supported Yoshimori Mogami (1521-1590) and fought with Yoshiaki Mogami (1546-1614). Yoshiaki Mogami finally won at this conflict, and tried to ruin Tendo clan and other load belonged to Yoshimori Mogami.

Capture and expansion by Yoshiaki Mogami

As Yoshiaki Mogami did not have plenty army, Yoshiaki frequently used plot to beat his enemy. In 1578, Mitsukane Kaminoyama (?-1580), grandson of Yoshisada Kaminoyama, invaded into Mogami territory under the support of Date clan. Yoshiaki stroke back this attack, then approached Minbu Satomi (?-1616), an important retainer of Yoshisada, to assassinate Yoshisada and change to Mogami clan in exchange for Kaminoyama territory. Minbu Satomi agreed and performed this plot, thus Kaminoyama clan was extinguished and Minbu Satomi became the lord of Kaminoyama castle under Mogami clan.

Later Yoshiaki ruined Tendo clan and captured whole Yamagata basin. At this time, Masamune Date (1567-1636), the lord of Yonezawa castle, aggressively fought with surrounding lords and rapidly expanded his territory. Although Masamune was a nephew of Yoshiaki, Mogami clan and Date clan sometimes fought. Once Yoshiaki pushed Masamune to the corner, but princess Yoshihime (1548-1623), the younger sister of Yoshiaki and mother of Masamune, came to battlefield and stayed between both army thus Yoshiaki could not attack Masamune. Anyway because of such situation, Kaminoyama castle was improved by Yoshiaki as a front fort against Date clan.

Structure of Kaminoyama castle

Kaminoyama castle is built utilizing a small hill toward east and west at the edge of river terrace. Its western and southern line face rivers are protected by steep cliff consist of the height of river terrace and hill, and its east line is separated by deep dry moat. Its north line connects with the terrace is the weak point of the castle, thus a wide water moat like a pond was dig at this direction.

Central area of Kaminoyama castle is a rectangular shaped area of 100 meter long and 50 meter wide at the center of the castle. Outer areas surrounds this central area such as secondary area at the south of central area, third area at east, and retainer’s residence area at the west. Total size of the castle was about 300 meter long and 150 meter wide thus it was not so huge one, but was a well-built functional castle.  

In 1590, Yoshiaki Mogami and Masamune Date (1567-1636), the leader of Date clan, both subordinated to central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598). Under Toyotomi government Mogami clan could remain as a feudal lord, and Date clan was moved to current Sendai area, for the suspect of instigation of the rebellion of local people who lost their territory. 

Arrival of disturbance

But in 1598, on the death of Ujisato Gamo (1556-1595) who was the lord of Aizu Wakamatsu castle at Yonezawa basin after Date clan, Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623) moved to the large lord of Aizu basin and Yonezawa basin from Echigo province (Niigata prefecture). Kagekatsu placed his magistrate Kanetsugu Naoe (1560-1619) as the lord of Yonezawa castle (Yamagata prefecture), and even Kanetsugu himself had large territory than Mogami clan. Uesugi clan and Mogami clan had a substantial conflict for Shonai area in the west part of Yamagata prefecture, thus Kaminoyama castle became the front line again.

After the death of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Ieyasu Tokugawa (1534-1582), the largest lord under Toyotomi government, and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), a chief magistrate of Hideyoshi, fought for next hegemony. Yoshiaki Mogami and Date Masamune belonged to Ieyasu, but Uesugi clan was close to Mitsunari based on the friendship of Kanetsugu Naoe and Mitsunari Ishida. 

Outbreak of battle

In 1600, Uesugi clan refused disarmament and appearance order from Ieyasu, and Ieyasu started his campaign to Uesugi clan then marched toward Aizu region. Uesugi clan secured their border, and both Mogami clan and Date clan were ready to attack Uesugi clan from backside.

But utilizing absence of Ieyasu, Mitsunari raised his army against Ieyasu in cooperation with other large lords. Hearing this news, Ieyasu returned his army to west to confront with Mitsunari, leaving Uesugi clan. Looking at this situation Masamune Date quickly agreed with Uesugi clan, thus whole Uesugi army started invasion into Mogami territory lead by Kanetsugu Naoe in September.

Kanetsugu planned to intrude into Mogami territory from three directions. The first was his main troop proceeds along with Mogamigawa river, across the hill and enter Yamagata plain from west side. The second troop goes the road to Kaminoyama area, the closest road to Yamagata area. Final one was a detached force from Shonai area, a distant territory of Uesugi clan. Main troop of Kanetsugu assaulted Hataya castle (Yamagata prefecture) and fell it in one day, and smoothly entered into Yamagata basin.

Brave fight of small castle

At the same time, second troop of Uesugi army attacked Kaminoyama castle. Uesugi army had 4,000 soldiers, and Minbu Satomi who still was the commander of Kaminoyama castle had only 500. But Mogami army hided a small troop in advance, and made a pincer attack to Uesugi army which faced Kaminoyama castle. This unexpected counter attack gave certain damage to Uesugi army, and Kaminoyama castle could stand until the end of this campaign.

In addition to this, Kanetsugu himself also could not fall Hasedo castle (Yamagata prefecture), as Uesugi army could not open direct supply line from Yonezawa castle through Kaminoyama area and use the troop still surrounded Kaminoyama castle. In the meantime Ieyasu broke Mitsunari at the decisive battle of Sekigahara, and then Kanetsugu had to give up this invasion and return to the territory. This was a miscalculation of Kanetsugu and brave fight of Kaminoyama castle significantly contributed to the victory of Mogami clan.

Afterward of Kaminoyama castle

After the battle Mogami clan kept Yamagata area including Kaminoyama castle by 1622, but at that year Mogami clan was expelled and lost their territory because of internal conflict. After Mogami clan, hereditary retainers of Edo Shogunate were appointed as the lord and changed soon. In 1629, high class priest Takuan Soho (1573-1646), who was also known as a origin of the name of pickles of Japanese radish "Takuan", was exiled to Kaminoyama town.

Kaminoyama castle was once renovated as a modern castle equipped a three story main tower and stone walls, and then was praised as a beautiful castle of Tohoku region. But in 1691, when Toki clan which was the lord of the castle was transferred, Kaminoyama castle was once abolished then its structure was lost except for small part of stone wall beside inner water moat. Later the castle became to be used again but only simple residence was built. 

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, the castle was abolished again then castle site became a ground of shrine and park. In 1982, a main tower like building was built at former secondary area and is used as a local museum. Kaminoyama city is a traditional town known for its spa and old style building, and even though this tower itself is a fake one,splendid shape of the castle covered by seasonal flowers and looks down on the town is unchanged symbol of this small but unique town.

Continue to Part 3


15 minutes walk from JR East Yamagata-Shinkansen line Kaminoyama-Onsen station. 15 minutes drive from Tohoku-Chuo Jidoshado Expressway Yamagata-Kaminoyama interchange.

Related Castles

Yonezawa Castle -Castle filled with statues and monuments-Hataya Castle -Another campaign in Eastern Japan (1) swift attack-
Hasedo Castle -Another campaign in Eastern Japan (3) time's up-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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