Saturday, May 30, 2020

Masukata Castle -Result of timing of incidents (1) tension at last defense line-

Masukata Castle

-Result of timing of incidents (1) tension at last defense line-



Name: Masukata castle (Masukata-jo)
Place: Masukata Uozu city, Toyama
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 15th century?
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Masukata castle (升方城) is built over the peak of the hill between Hayatsuki-gawa river flows westward and Kado-kawa river at eastward on 5 kilometer south of current Uozu city central. At the east of Kado-kawa river, only from 2 kilometer from Masukata castle, Matsukura castle which was one of the three largest mountain castles of Ecchu province (Toyama prefecture) exists.

The hill where Masukata castle exist is a long and narrow one spreads at right side of Hayatsuki-gawa river, like a natural castle wall and water moat. This hill has a saddle point of only 50 meter height from hillside at the middle. This saddle point works as a west gate of Matsukura castle town, and Masukata castle is built at the side of this saddle point like gate tower along with Minami-Masukata castle at opposite of the saddle point.

Origin of Masukata castle

Precise year is unknown but Masukata castle might be built as a front fort of Matsukura castle by Shiina clan, a deputy governor of east part of Ecchu province and owner of Matsukura castle. Shiina clan placed their relative Obata clan as the commander of Masukata castle.

In the beginning of 15th century, along with the fall of Hatakeyama clan which was the governor of Ecchu province, Jinbo clan which was the lord of Moriyama castle (Toyama prefecture) held the west half of the province and Shiina clan hardly conflicted, but Jinbo clan which had wealthy and fertile territory gradually grew their power.

In response to this, Shiina clan connected with Nagao clan, the deputy governor of next Echigo province (Niigata prefecture) to oppose to Jinbo clan, Jinbo clan which was once ruined by the attack of Nagao clan in 1519 recovered under its leader Nagamoto Jinbo (?-1572), captured current Toyama city area and built Toyama castle (Toyama prefecture).

Capture of Ecchu province by Kenshin Uesugi

As Nagamoto Jinbo next suppressed Shiina clan, under the request of Shiina clan, Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), the leader of Nagao clan praised as the god of the war, intruded into Ecchu province and defeated Jinbo clan. After fierce two years battle, Jinbo clan surrendered and Shiina clan survived under Kenshin Uesugi.

However in 1568, under the plot of Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), the warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) and rival of Kenshin Uesugi, Shiina clan raised against Uesugi clan, and half of Jinbo clan agreed with this. In response to this situation Kenshin Uesugi marched to Ecchu province and broke both of Shiina clan and Jinbo clan then directly seized Ecchu province in 1573.

Kenshin placed his important general Nagachika Kawata (1543-1581) as the commander of Matsukura castle. Nagachika also served as the commander of Uesugi army in Ecchu province, and activated at the capture of Nanao castle (Ishikawa prefecture) of Noto province. Kenshin further marched to Kaga province (Ishikawa prefecture) broke the army of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) at the battle of Tedorigawa in 1577.

Tension between Uesugi clan and Oda clan

However, next year Kenshin Uesugi died in ill and Uesugi clan entered severe internal conflict between two successors Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623) and Kagetora Uesugi (1554-1579). Kagekatsu won and succeeded Uesugi clan, but the power of Uesugi clan significantly declined.

Looking at this opportunity, Oda army lead by its commander Katsuie Shibata (1521-1583) accelerated its attack to Ikko Ikki army which was formed by believers of Ikko Shu, a denomination of Japanese Buddhism and seized Kaga province, and also allied with Uesugi clan. Katsuie fell Oyama Gobo temple (current Kanazawa castle) in 1580 and captured Kaga province.

At the same time, in 1578, Oda army made side attack to Ecchu province from Takayama area of Mino province (Gifu prefecture). Nagachika was broken by Oda army at the battle of Tsukiokano, and local lords of the province turned to Oda clan. Oda army could not keep front at distant area and once retreated but tension of Ecchu province significantly arouse.

Nagachika Kawata desperately opposed to Oda army uniting unstable local lords of the province, and built final defense line utilizing Matsukura castle and Uozu castle (Toyama prefecture) at the cost area. Uozu area is a narrow flat area between mountains and Sea of Japan, and has several rivers thus good point to build defense line. Masukata castle might be reformed as the front side fort of this defense line.

Structure of Masukata castle

Masukata castle is built over the ridge spreads from the peak toward west. Central part of the castle is a double circle shaped two layer area of 50 meter diameter. Upper layer and lower layer are protected by clay wall, which has small line of stone wall at inside to avoid collapse of the wall. At southeast edge there is a back gate of the castle which has small buffer area.

At the west of central part, there is a third area of rectangular shape of about 100 meter long and 50 meter width, which has a low height well area at the middle. Ahead of third area, there is another rectangular area which is half broke by construction of parking and park. Same as other castles reformed by Uesugi clan, Masukata castle has line of vertical dry moats at gentle slope at southward.

About 1 kilometer south from the castle, at the part of saddle point of the hill, there is a ruin of stone wall called as “Ishi no Mon” (Stone wall gate). This stone wall is built by round shaped stones at riverside and common to the stone wall gate of Matsukura castle. These stone walls were built to show the entrance of castle town and castle itself of Matsukura castle.

Attack of Oda army to last defense line

In 1581, Nagachika Kawata struggled alone against overwhelming Oda army died in ill. Uesugi army lost its strong leader could not resist against Oda army any more, and Nobunaga Oda who forced its strongest rival Ishiyama Honganji temple, the main part of Ikko Ikki army at central area, now could focus on the expansion of the territory.

Next year in March of 1582, Nobunaga Oda ruined Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), the successor of Shingen Takeda and an ally of Kagekatsu Uesugi. At the same time, former retainers of Jinbo clan rose against Oda clan and once captured Toyama castle, but later was broken by Oda army.

Matsukura castle was already attacked by Oda army, but now Oda army totally stabilized backward and approached to the final defense line of Uesugi clan. Uesugi clan was totally encircled by Oda army from westward, from southward at former Takeda territory, and Shigeie Shibata (1547-1587), a former retainer but rebelled connecting to Oda army at Shibata castle (Niigata prefecture), and forced to the corner.

Afterward of castle

At the fall of Uozu castle in June, Uesugi clan retreated from Matsukura castle and Masukata castle. But due to the incident of Honnoji, Oda army once went back and Uesugi clan recaptured Matsukura castle and Masukata castle. However in 1583 Narimasa Sassa (1536-1588) who was the former general of Oda army seized two castles, and placed his general Shinzaemon Sassa as the commander.

In 1585, Narimasa Sassa surrendered to next ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), and nominally kept the east half of Ecchu province including Matsukura castle and Masukata castle but two castles were managed by Uesugi clan. In 1595 east half of province was given to Maeda clan which already held west half of the province, and both of Matsukura castle and Masukata castle might be abolished soon.

Currently no building remains but structure of the castle well remained on the hill except for the part of outer part. To complement its geographic condition on low hill, many defense facilities such as vertical dry moats, folded paths and buffer gates were brought to this small castle. This shows the tension of Uesugi clan to protect its final defense line at desperate situation.


30 minutes drive from Hokuriku Jidoshado Expressway Uozu interchange to hilltop parking.

Related Castles

Matsukura Castle (Ecchu) -Castle of definite defense line-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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