Thursday, November 16, 2017

Takanabe Castle -Change for survival-

Takanabe Castle

-Change for survival-



Name: Takanabe castle (Tanakabe-jo)
Place: Uwae Takanabe town, Miyazaki
Location: 32.12388740409015, 131.50159079650646
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 11th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls and clay walls 

Brief History

Takanabe castle (高鍋城) is built over Shiroyama hill, the one of about 60 meter height from hillside at the center of Takanabe town in the middle part of current Miyazaki prefecture. Takanabe town face the mouth of Omagu-gawa river, which separates the north part and middle part of prefecture and famous for the battle of Mimikawa occurred in 1578 along with Takajo castle only 10 kilometer from Takanabe castle,

Takanabe castle is built over a peninsular like hill which is formed by Shirasu plateau dug by Omagu-gawa river, Miyata-gawa river and its tributary, and it is an appropriate place to build a castle. Besides, strategically castle site protects the edge of Totobaru plateau and also manages the crossing point of Hyuga Kaido road for Omagu-gawa river. From this reason, Takanabe castle has long history from medieval era.

Origin of Takanabe castle

The origin of Takanabe castle is unknown but it might be built by local lord Tsuchimochi clan in 11th century as Takarabe castle. Tsuchimochi clan was originally a magistrate of the manner held by Usa Hachimangu shrine (Oita prefecture), and moved to Hyuga province (Miyazaki prefecture) in 10th century along with the expansion of the manner. 

In 12th century, Tsuchimochi clan was the largest landlord in Hyuga province held vast lands around the nation by branch families, and Takanabe area was held by Takarabe Tsuchimochi clan, a major branch family of the clan.

But after the establishment of Kamakura Shogunate by Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), close retainers of Yoritomo were sent to Kyushu to control local lords. South part of Hyuga province with governor position was given to Shimazu clan along with Satsuma province and Osumi province (Kagoshima prefecture), and Ito clan also appointed as a lord of Miyazaki plain. 

Transition of holders

At first Tsuchimochi clan and Ito clan kept friendship, but in 15th century, Ito clan which held middle part of Hyuga province united their family and started to expand their territories. Tsuchimochi clan resisted against Ito clan, but suffered severe defeat in 1457, thus middle part of the province including Takanabe area became the territory of Ito clan. 

In the middle of 16th century, Ito clan became its peak period and held most part of the province except for Nobeoka area still belonged to Tsuchimochi clan. At this time Ito clan held 47 castles including their main base Tonokori castle and Sadowara castle (Miyazaki prefecture), and Takarabe castle might be a major castle among them.

However, after the defeat at the battle of Kizakibaru in 1572 before Shimazu clan which was the governor of Satsuma province (Kagoshima prefecture) which rapidly recovered their power, Ito clan easily collapsed and finally lost their territory in 1577. 

Next year Shimazu army completely defeated the army of Otomo clan which was the governor of Bungo province (Oita prefecture) proceeded to restore Ito clan at the battle of Mimikawa, and Hyuga province became the territory of Shimazu clan. However, in 1586, Shimazu clan surrendered to central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) and lost Hyuga province.

Forced transfer of Akizuki clan

After the campaign, Hideyoshi appointed Tanezane Akizuki (1548-1596) as a lord of Takarabe castle. Akizuki clan was originally a local lord of Koshosan castle in the middle part of Chikuzen province (western part of Fukuoka prefecture), and long suffered between the conflict of strong governors such as Ouchi clan or Otomo clan.

But utilizing the decline of Otomo clan after the battle of Mimikawa, Tanezane Akizuki rapidly expanded his territory toward the northeastern edge of Kyushu island and became the fourth lord of the island. But at the Kyushu campaign of Hideyoshi, Tanezane faced one day fall of Ganjaku castle and one day rebuild of Masutomi castle, then lost the will to resist and surrendered.

Hideyoshi forgave Tanezane but moved Akizuki clan from original place and decreased his territory from 360,000 koku (unit of rice cultivation) to 30,000 koku. At this time Akizuki clan held both of current Takanabe town and Kushima city, at first Tanezane lived at Kushima castle. Tanezane died in despair and his son had to bear the burden of foreign expedition with limited territory. 

Change for survival

Furthermore, after the death of Hideyoshi, at the conflict between Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the largest lord under Toyotomi government, and Mitsunari Ishida (1560-1600), the chief magistrate of the government, Akizuki clan belonged to Mitsunari and protected their main base Ogaki castle (Gifu prefecture) but Mitsunari was defeated by Ieyasu at the decisive battle of Sekigahara.

Akizuki clan was forced to the corner but quickly changed for survival. Hearing the news of the defeat of Mitsunari, Akizuki clan quickly turned to Tokugawa side then killed colleagues and opened Ogaki castle. Being evaluated this, Akizuki clan barely could survive as a feudal lord of Takanabe domain.

In 1604, Akizuki clan changed their main base from Kushima castle to Takarabe castle. Takanabe area might have better economic condition facing Hyuga Kaido road compared with Kushima area at the south edge of the province, and it also might be a method of centralization. Considering limited territory, centralization and decrease of the territory of upper retainers should be necessary for the fiscal stability of the domain.

During this process a severe internal conflict occurred in the domain, but after 50 years conflict Akizuki clan could finally settle this problem and restart as a normal domain in 1670's. At this time hillside area of Takarabe castle was renovated into modern castle with stone walls and water moats, and changed its name to Takanabe castle.

Structure of Takanabe castle

Takanabe castle roughly consist of hilltop part and hillside part. Hilltop part consists of several terrace and basically keeps the medieval style of clay castle built by Ito clan, except for tall stone wall built at the south part of the peak. Above the stone wall there was a three story main tower but was later destructed. 

Hillside part has three large flat spaces including central area at the halfway of the hill, secondary area and third area. Central area is a flat space of about 100 meter long and 20 meter wide, which was used as a ground of the residence of the lord. 

Secondary area is a narrow space of 150 meter long and 20 meter wide, which is used as  ground of shrine and museum now. Outer line of this area is formed by beautiful line of stone wall, which prolongs over 150 meter and have several gates, The third area outside of secondary area might be used as domain office and warehouses.

Domain of study and afterward

Being suffered from limited income, Akizuki domain kept stable by the effort of each lords. Each lord encouraged study, and Taneshige Akizuki (1744-1819), the seventh lord of the domain, established domain school Meirindo which was opened to common people other than samurais then Akizuki domain was known as the domain of study. 

His elder brother was Yozan Uesugi (1751-1822) adopted by Uesugi clan of Yonezawa domain, who restored nearly bankrupted domain and also encouraged study then was known as a good leader. Being supported by talented people studied at domain school, Takanabe domain kept its territory by the end of Edo era. 

Now all building was lost but castle site becomes Maizuru park and covered with flowers. Combination of medieval hilltop castle and modern hillside castle resembles to Nihonmatsu castle (Fukushima prefecture), even though smaller than it. This combination shows hard struggle of Akizuki clan and Takarabe castle for change, but was finally rewarded by their continuation.


30 minutes walk from JR Kyushu Nippo-Honsen line Takanabe station. 15 minutes drive from Higashi-Kyushu Jidoshado Expressway Takanabe interchange to parking of Maizuru park.

Related Castles

Ganjaku Castle -One day siege and one day build (1)-
Masutomi Castle -One day siege and one day build (2)-
Koshosan Castle -One day siege and one day build (3)-
Ogaki Castle -Castle served important role at battle of Sekigahara-
Nihonmatsu Castle -Castle held by famous lords and generals-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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