Saturday, September 2, 2017

Taikoganaru Fort -Castle built as siege engine-

Taikoganaru Fort

-Castle built as siege engine-



Name: Taikouganaru Fort (Taikouganaru Honjin)
Place: Higashicho Tottori city, Tottori
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 1581
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Taikoganaru Fort (太閤ヶ平) is a one built at the top of Honjin-yama mountain, one of about 250 meter from hillside at 1.2 kilometer east of Tottori castle at Tottori city. Taikoganaru means the terrace of Taikou, an alias of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) using the name of his position as ex Kanpaku, the highest position of noble.

Kyushozan mountain where Tottori castle (Tottori prefecture) is built is a peninsular like projection from east side mountains into Tottori area, and Honjin-yama mountain is at the root of this projection. Even though slightly lower than Kyushozan mountain, Honjinyama mountain has a good scenery of Tottori plain including Kyushozan mountain, and an appropriate place to manage the siege of Tottori castle.

Start of campaign at Chugoku region

In 1577, Hideyoshi Toyotomi who named as Hideyoshi Hashiba was appointed as the regional commander of Chugoku region by central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), and started his activity at that area. Once faced the rebel of Bessho clan at Miki castle (Hyogo prefecture), Hideyoshi finally fell the castle and ruined Bessho clan in 1580 over nearly two year siege of Miki castle. Hideyoshi formed his tactics for castle siege this time and applied later sieges.

Hideyoshi who secured backward accelerated his activity toward east. In Sanyo region, Hideyoshi ruined the lords of Akamatsu clan spread at the western border of Harima province (Hyogo prefecture), then Naoie Ukita (1529-1582), a shrewd warlord of Bizen province (eastern part of Okayama prefecture) who overcame his former master Uragami clan, left Mouri clan and turned to Hideyoshi.

At the same time, in Sanin region, Hidenaga Hashiba (1540-1591), a trusted younger brother of Hideyoshi, marched into Tajima province (north part of Hyogo prefecture) and ruined Tajima Yamana clan then captured Arikoyama castle and Toyooka castle. Besides, Nanjo clan who was the lord of Ueshi castle at Inaba province (eastern part of Tottori prefecture) also left Mouri clan and turned.

Start of siege of Tottori castle

In 1580, Hideyoshi Hashiba once attacked Tottori castle then Toyokuni Yamana (1548-1626), the lord of Tottori castle, once surrendered to Hideyoshi. But just after that Mouri army attacked the castle, then Tottori castle surrendered to Mouri clan. Tottori castle was at the place where could attack Himeji castle (Hyogo prefecture), the main base of Hideyoshi from the side, and it was necessary to make connection with Nanjo clan ahead of Tottori castle.

In 1581, local lords of Inaba province such as Morishita clan or Nakamura clan expelled Toyokuni Yamada who tried to turn to Hideyoshi again from Tottori castle, and accepted Tsuneie Kikkawa (1547-1581), an important retainer of Mouri clan, as the commander of Tottori castle. In response to this, in the summer of 1581, Hideyoshi started to the siege of Tottori castle. As Tottori castle was a secure castle over the cliff, Hideyoshi adopted starvation tactics.

It is said that prior to the siege Hideyoshi intentionally bought the rice at high price around the castle. Castle side sold their supplies and bought the arms, but as Hideyoshi forced the soldiers of surrounding forts and residents run into Tottori castle, the supply of the castle was far below of necessary level.

Hideyoshi arrived at Tottori castle built his headquarter at the top of Honjin-yama mountain. It is only 1.2 kilometer apart from Tottori castle, and could watch the situation of the castle in detail. On the other hand, this mountain has numerous valley and slopes, and it was possible to build a secure defense line toward Tottori castle utilizing them.

Structure of Taigouganaru Fort

The central area of the fort is roughly a square of 80 meter long, which is protected by tall clay wall and deep dry moat. At the southwestern corner which faces Tottori castle there is a clay basement which might be used as a watchtower. Entrance of this area is built at the middle of southern line and eastern line, and a projection was built at southeastern corner to enable side attack both for these two gates.

At the east of central area, there is a large flat area of 100 meter long and 50 meter wide which mainly used as the ground of radio tower. It might be a storage of supplies, placed at backward from Tottori castle side. Around these core areas, there are numerous small frat terraces to build place tents of soldiers. Core area of the fort has an equivalent completeness as ordinary permanent castles.

Surrounding these core areas, utilizing peaks or edge of the hills, there were many forts built by each commander of Hashiba army. Different from main fort, these forts consist of simple flat spaces with low clay wall, such as traditional forts. A long line of clay wall and dry moat was built to connect these forts, to shut the movement of enemy perfectly.

Innovation at castle siege

Prior to the siege of Tottori castle, Mouri clan built Kyoragi fort at Kyoragi-yama mountain at the siege of Gassan Toda castle. It was also a large one equivalent to ordinary castle, but fort was built only as a headquarter and not for enclosure. Shutting of enemy supply was performed by the direct attack to the providers.

Contrary to this, Hideyoshi Hashiba built a group of forts to physically enclose the castle, for more stable siege. As it was necessary to divide the soldiers all part of line, it might be weak for sudden attack of the enemy. To prevent unexpected charge from castle, line of clay walls and dry moats. The long line of clay walls might also give a psychological pressure to the castle.

Furthermore, at the siege of Tottori castle, Mouri clan was still strong and a counter attack of Motoharu Kikkawa (1530-1586), the regional commander of Mouri clan and brave general was expected. At the attack of Mouri army, Hideyoshi had to stood using this structure, and in case of retreat it might obstruct the chase of the enemy. As above, Taikoganaru fort was built for both offense and defense purpose and became a highly complete one.

Fall of Tottori castle and afterward

The forts of Hashiba army well worked and totally shut the supply into Tottori castle. Tottori castle run out all supplies and fell into severe starve, thus after four month siege Tsuneie Kikkawa opened Tottori castle and killed himself under condition of saving their soldiers. 

Tottori castle became the regional base of Hashiba army, and the role of the forts ended. Later Hideyoshi build Ishigakiyama castle (Kanagawa prefecture) at the siege of Odawara castle in 1590, an evolution from Taikouganaru Fort and the complete style of military camp.

Now even partially destructed by the construction of radio tower, but clay walls and dry moats of core area well remain on the mountain. Besides, forts of other lords and connecting clay walls also partially remain at mountain area, even though totally disappeared at flat area. 

Currently both of Kyushozan mountain and Honjin-yama mountain are improved and used as casual hiking courses of residents. But even though the distance of 1.2 kilometer, tough mountainous road connects these two mountains surely shows there was a fierce battle over 400 years ago and these two mountains were main bases of both army.


60 minutes walk from climbing road behind of Tottori History Museum or 45 minutes walk from Tottori castle hilltop area. 30 minutes walk from JR West Sanin-Honsen Tottori station to the entrance of climbing road. 20 minutes drive from Tottori Jidoshado Expressway Tottori interchange to the museum.

Related Castles

Tottori Castle -As secure as guarding general's will-
Himeji Castle (1) -Castle of Kanbe and Hideyoshi-
Miki Castle -Die to save the people-
Ishigakiyama Castle -Master of sieging castle-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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