Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fukushima Castle -Invalid certificate of 1,000,000 Koku-

Fukushima Castle

-Invalid certificate of 1,000,000 Koku-



Name: Fukushima castle (Fukushima-jo)
Alias: Daibutsu-jo (Daibutsu-castle), Suginome-jo (Suginome-castle)
Place: Sugitsumacho Fukushima city, Fukushima
Type: Plain
Built: 13th century?
Remaining remnants: Clay wall and moat 

Brief History

Fukushima castle (福島城) is located a place where prefectural office stands, at the side of Abukuma-gawa river in the center of Fukushima city. Abukuma-gawa river is a long river which flows from south edge of Fukushima prefecture to the south of current Sendai city, and has been used as an artery between Kanto region and north part of Tohoku region.

Castle site places at the meeting point of main stream of Abukumagawa river and its tributary Arakawa river, and its southward is completely guarded by two rivers. At northward, Matsukawa river now flows at the north of Shinobu-yama mountain formerly ran at south side, just one kilometer from the castle. Being surrounded by large rivers, this place was an ideal place to build castle, and was actually done so from ancient era.

Origin of Fukushima castle

Origin of Fukushima castle is ambiguous but it is said that Suginome castle was originally built at this place by local lord Yukinobu Suginome (?-?) in latter half of 12th century. Suginome clan was a tributary of Sato clan, which reigned Fukushima basin under Oshu Fujiwara clan that prospered in the north half of Tohoku region as a semi-independent power throughout 12th century.

When Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of Kamakura Shogunate, ruined Taira clan and established his government, next Yoritomo planned to defeat Oshu Fujiwara clan and unite Japan. To cope this, Oshu Fujiwara clan hired Yoshitune Minamoto (1159-1189), a younger brother of Yoritomo and genius tactician contributed to the ruin of Taira clan but was expelled by Yoritomo.

But in 1189 Oshu Fujiwara clan killed Yoshitune to coordinate with Yoritomo. As Sato clan was close retainer of Yoshitune, there is a legend that Yukinobu Suginome died as a double of Yoshitune at burning Takadate residence, and Yoshitune escaped to Hokkaido island and survived. Anyway Suginome clan was ruined at the invasion of Yoritomo Minamoto soon after that, and Fukushima basin was given to Date clan which contributed to the victory of Yoritomo.

Growth of Date clan

Date clan was originally a branch family of Isa clan, a local Samurai which at Hitachi province (Ibaraki prefecture) which was said as a descendant of central noble Fujiwara clan. In the latter half of 12th century, Tamemune Isa (?-1221) served to Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of Kamakura Shogunate, and daughter of Tamemune became the concubine of Yoritomo. As above Date clan held Fukushima basin as a reward of their contribution to Yoritomo.

At the fall of Kamakura Shogunate in 1333, Date clan once belonged to South Court of Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339) and followed Akiie Kitabatake (1318-1338) who was sent as the general commander of Tohoku region by Emperor. Date clan followed two time long expedition of Akiie from Tohoku region to Kyoto city, and Akiie once moved his main base from Takajo castle to Ryozen castle, a mountain base at the territory of Date clan.

But looking at inferior situation of South Court, Date clan turned to Muromachi Shogunate. Once Date clan followed to Osaki clan, a relative of Muromachi Shogunate and general governor of Tohoku region, but Date clan made connection to Shogunate directly and continues expansion by their own will.

Major branch castle of Date clan

At the time of Munetoo Date (1324-1385), Date clan advanced into south part of Dewa province (Yamagata prefecture) across Oshu mountain, and captured Yonezawa basin defeating Nagai clan. Further, Date clan fought with Osaki clan and expanded their authority to local lords at south part of current Miyagi prefecture, such as Rusu clan or Kokubu clan. 

Facing repellence of surrounding lords or Shogunate, Date clan grew into the prominent local lord at Tohoku region by the end of 15th century. It is recorded that Date clan rebelled to Kamakura Kubo, a representative of Muromachi Shogunate at Kanto region, in 1413. Date clan once lost Suginome castle by the attack of Shogunate army but later recovered it.

The main base of Date clan were Kori Nishiyama castle or Yonezawa castle but Suginome castle had been an important base for Date clan. In 1570, Harumune Date (1519-1578), the former leader of Date clan but retired by conflict against his son Terumune Date (1519-1578), used Suginome castle as a retirement place.

Transition of holders

At the period of Masamune Date (1567-1637), Date clan beat surrounding warlords such as Ashina clan or Nihonmatsu clan and seized most part of south half of Tohoku region. But before the pressure of central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), Masamune subordinated to Hideyoshi in 1590. Next year Masamune was ordered to move to current Sendai area by Hideyoshi, and left Fukushima basin.

After Date clan, Ujisato Gamo (1556-1595) was appointed as a lord of Aizu Wakamatsu castle (Fukushima prefecture) also held Fukushima basin. To manage vast territory Gamo clan reformed many castles into modern castle equipped stone walls, but Fukushima castle was still a clay castle. Gamo clan renamed Suginome castle to Fukushima castle, which became the source of the name of prefecture.

After the death of Ujisato Gamo in 1595, Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623) who was the lord of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture) was moved to the lord of Aizu Wakamatsu castle and Fukushima castle. Kagekatsu placed his veteran general Shigenaga Honjo (1540-1614) who was originally the lord of Murakami castle (Niigata prefecture) as a commander of Fukushima castle. Shigenaga securely protected Fukushima castle as a center of Fukushima basin.

Structure of Fukushima castle

Fukushima castle is roughly a shape of right triangle had a vertical line at east, horizontal line at north and octagonal line from south to east faces Abukumagawa river. This triangle shape of castle faces the river at octagonal line is often seen. to achieve both space and security by minimum construction.

Central castle of Fukushima castle was a triangle area of about 200 meter long faces Abukuma-gawa river at middle of octagonal line. At the north of central area, narrow and long secondary area and third area protected front side of central area, with water moat.

At the west of central area, a rectangular ground of 150 meter long and 100 meter wide used as a residence of the lord existed. Today only garden of residence remains as Momijiyama park, at the next of prefectural office building. Place of prefectural office building is a large riding place, an outer area of the castle. Small ruin of clay wall remains at the west of prefectural office. Total size of the castle is about 800 meter long and 400 meter wide, and was becoming as the center of Fukushima basin.

Another campaign in Eastern Japan

After the death of Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 1598, Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord of Toyotomi government, and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), chief magistrate of Hideyoshi, fought for next hegemony. Uesugi clan belonged to Mitsunari because of the relationship of Mitsunari and Kanetsugu Naoe (1560-1620), the magistrate of Uesugi clan. On the other hand, Masamune Date did not like Toyotomi clan supported Ieyasu.

In 1600, Ieyasu decided to subjugate Uesugi clan and marched to Shimotsuke province (Tochigi prefecture). Ieyasu ordered Masamune to attack Uesugi territory from north side, then Masamune captured Shiroishi castle at the border. But looking at vacancy of Ieyasu at Kinki region, Mitsunari raised his army against Ieyasu. Ieyasu retreated his army to make decisive battle at central area, then Date clan and Mogami clan, the lord of Yamagata castle (Yamagata prefecture), had to face stronger Uesugi army.

After the return of Ieyasu, Uesugi army lead by Kanetsugu Naoe started to invade Mogami territory. Uesugi army quickly fell Hataya castle but spent time for the siege of Hasedo castle, and at that time Ieyasu broke Mitsunari at the decisive battle of Sekigahara. Masamune reluctantly sent reinforce army to Mogami clan, but hearing defeat of Mitsunari, Uesugi army retreated to their territory and protected border expecting invasion of Ieyasu.

Siege of Fukushima castle

Looking at this situation, Masamune sent his army to Fukushima basin to recover his old territory. At the break of battle, to win over Masamune, Ieyasu sent a certificate of Fukushima basin to Masamune. As Masamune originally had 600,000 Koku (unit of territory by rice cultivation), and this additional area was 400,000 Koku. Thus this certificate was called as "Certificate of 1,000,000 Koku" and Date clan could be one of the largest lord in Japan.

But of course Fukushima basin was still kept by Uesugi clan, Masamune had to achieve it by his effort. In October 1600, Masamune lead large army and advanced into Fukushima basin to capture Fukushima castle and Yanagawa castle, the old main base of Date clan. To settle the battle before arrival of winter season, Masamune directly attacked Fukushima castle at backside, expecting isolated Yanagawa castle will surrender then.

Masamune broke the vanguard of Uesugi army intruded into Fukushima castle. But Shigenaga Honjo who fought from the period of the battle of Kawanakajima in 1560, burnt the bridge and stubbornly resisted to Date clan at Fukushima castle. In the meantime, Uesugi army resided at Yanagawa castle assaulted supply transporters of Date clan at backside. Fearing isolation in enemy territory, finally Masamune had to retreat from Fukushima basin.

Invalid certificate of 1,000,000 Koku

After that Masamune continuously attacked Uesugi army but could not capture any territory. Next year Kagekatsu Uesugi formally surrendered to Ieyasu, then Uesugi clan lost Aizu basin but was approved to keep Fukushima basin. It became clear that Masamune supported rebellion of former retainer of Waga clan, at the border between Masamune and Nanbu clan, the lord of Morioka castle (Iwate prefecture) also belonged to Ieyasu.

In addition to this plot, as Masamune could not fall Fukushima castle, Ieyasu cancelled former certificate of Fukushima basin. Ironically Masamune was disturbed his recovery of former territory by former castles of Date clan. This certificate itself is kept by Date clan and remains until now in vain.

After the battle of Sekigahara, Uesugi clan held Fukushima castle by 1664, but Fukushima basin was confiscated by Edo Shogunate as a penalty of unusual succession. After that Honda clan which was a hereditary retainer of Shogunate temporally held Fukushima castle, and on and after 1702 Itakura clan kept Fukushima castle by the end of Edo era.

Afterward of castle

Today almost ruins were destructed by city development, and only small clay wall with dry moat and garden show former existence of castle. Disappearance of castle paradoxically proves too much suitable location of Fukushima castle. Even though lost from actual world, castle of local center with long history and many events still lives in the memory of people.  


20 minutes walk from JR East Tohoku Shinkansen line /Tohoku Honsen line Fukushima station. 15 minutes drive from Tohoku Jidoshado Expressway Fukushima-Nishi interchange.

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Pictures (click to enlarge)

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