Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tsuchiyama Castle -Lodging castles of rulers at posting towns of major roads (1)-

Tsuchiyama Castle

-Lodging castles of rulers at posting towns of major roads (1)-



Name: Tsuchiyama castle (Tsuchiyama-jo)
Place: Tsuchiyama-cho Koka city, Shiga
Location: 34.94006280924788, 136.28747393245072
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 15th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Tsuchiyama castle (土山城) is built over small hill of about 30 meter height prolongs into the valley of Tamura-gawa river, which is used as the ground of Tokaido road and Tsuchiyama town. Tsuchiyama area is the most upstream part of Yasu-gawa river, and Tokaido road runs upstream with Yasu-gawa river from Kusatsu area depart the river here and climb to Suzuka pass toward current Mie prefecture.

Suzuka toge pass was originally developed to connect Kyoto city and its eastern outer port Tsu port or Ise Shrine, the sprit of the Imperial Household directly in ancient era. Near the castle there was a ruin of Tongu, the lodge of female royal family who was sent to serve to Ise Shrine. 

Later Suzuka toge pass turned to the route of Tokaido road, the main artery of Japan connects Kyoto area and Edo area. But Suzuka pass was a tough road passing Suzuka mountains directly, it was compared as a hard spot of the road compared with Suzuka pass. Therefore, Tsuchiyama town and Sakashita town were built at both hillside of the pass to assist tourists.

Lodging castles of rulers

Because of the importance of Tokaido road, rulers frequently traveled using the road with their army. Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1534-1598) placed his main base at Kansai region, and moved on the road for the purpose of military operation toward the enemy of eastward such as Tokugawa clan or Hojo clan.

Contrary to this, Edo Shogunate established by Tokugawa clan had its main base at Edo city. But as it was nominally appointed as Shogun by the Imperial Household at Kyoto city, it was necessary to visit to negotiate with the Imperial Household, and held appointment and its publish at Kyoto city.

Move of such rulers need security and authority. The assassin ability of Ninja agent is not certain, but there was a risk of assault. Furthermore, it was necessary to hide the lodge to keep authority, and also needed the place to meet local administrators or merchants. If there is a castle it would be used, but for the area without castle, small castle were renovated or built for the purpose of lodging.

Origin of Tsuchiyama castle

The precise year is not certain but Tsuchiyama castle was originally built by local lord Tsuchiyama clan in the latter half of 15th century. Tsuchiyama clan was one of 53 local lords of Koka area which kept the skill of Ninja and cooperatively governed the providence. 

In 1570’s Kazumasu Takigawa (1525-1586) , the general of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) attacked Tsuchiyama castle and fell it. But situation of Koka area did not significantly changed under Nobunaga, then Tsuchiyama clan followed Nobunaga and might kept Tsushiyama castle as its lord. 

After the death of Nobunaga in the incident of Honnoji, a coup d’etat by his general Mitsuhide Akechi (1528-1582) in 1582, there arouse the conflict between Hideyoshi Hashiba (1537-1598, later Hideyoshi Toyotomi) who broke Mitsuhide at the battle of Yamazaki, and Katsuie Shibata (1521-1583), a veteral general of Nobunaga.

This time Hideyoshi allied with Nobukatsu Oda (1558-1630), the second son of Nobunaga, and broke Katsuie at the battle of Shigugatake. But next Hideyoshi and Nobukatsu broke, the Nobukatsu allied with Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the former ally of Nobunaga and warlord of Mikawa province (east half of Aichi prefecture) and raised the army in 1583.

Lodging place to march to battlefield

As the ally of Nobukatsu and Ieyasu held Ise province (Mie prefecture) and Owari province (west half of Aichi prefecture) toward west, Hideyoshi took two front attack to Owari province from northward and Ise province from westward. Main army of both side faced at Komakiyama castle (Aichi prefecture) in the north part, and Hideyoshi basically stayed there.

On the other hand, front line of Ise province was second line, as Nobukatsu could not place his army to this area. But when the front line at Owari province was fixed by the defeat of Hashiba army at the battle of Komaki Nagakute before army, Hideyoshi tried to split Nobukatsu and Ieyasu by attacking the castles of Nobukatsu.

On October 1583, Hideyoshi marched from Kyoto city to the north part of Ise province by Tokaido road. It is recorded Hideyoshi stayed at Tsuchiyama town, and might use Tsuchiyama castle as his residence. At the front line of Owari province, Hideyoshi also built his lodge Gakuden castle, which is recorded to have similar element as Tsuchiyama castle.

Structure of Tsuchiyama castle

Tsuchiyama castle spreads Y letter shaped hill. Central area of the castle is a rectangular one of 40 meter long and 30 meter wide, which is wholly surrounded by clay wall and two entrance at the middle of its north line and south line. This is common to the castle of local lord in the area, and wide clay wall at north eastern corner might be the basement of watch tower.

At the south of central area, a small buffer area of 20 meter and 10 meter long, which as two gate placed not in straight line. Ahead of this buffer area there is a large area of 50 meter long and 20 meter wide uses one of two ridges, and tip of this area is protected by the combination of clay wall and dry moat with clay bridge, which might be the main gate of the castle.

Backside of central area is protected by the line of clay wall, to prevent direct climb of the enemy from backward; Several terrace are built the tip of two ridges without clear defense facilities, and these might be used for camping and storage. Total size of the castle is about 200 meter long and 100 meter wide, and many soldiers followed Hideyoshi might have stayed outside of the castle.

Afterward of castle

Attack of Hideyoshi to Ise province was effective for Nobukatsu, then Nobukatsu separately agreed with Hideyoshi without notice to Ieyasu in November. Ieyasu lost the reason of conflict with Hideyoshi, then the battle had ceased. As Hashiba clan held north part of Ise province ahead of Suzuka pass, there was no need to keep castle at this place.

In 1585, Hideyoshi intended to seize Koga area directly, and expelled local lords of Koga province blaming for the failure in the campaign in Kii province (Wakayama prefecture). Tsuchiyama clan lost Tsuchiyama castle at this time and the castle might be abolished, but Tsuchiyama clan continued as the owner of main lodge of Tsuchiyama town.

Now no building is left but structure of the castle well remain on the hill. Combination of large square central area and small entrance area is common style of the residence of high class samurais, seen at Jurakudai castle or Hiroshima castle. Fusion of this style and medieval clay castle shows this castle was exactly lodging castle at military operations.


15 minutes drive from Shin Tomei Expressway Koka Tsuchiyama interchange to parking of Tsuchiyama culture hall. 20 minutes walk from parking to the castle.

Related Castles

Minakuchi Castle -Lodging castles of rulers at posting towns of major roads (2)-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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