Saturday, May 23, 2020

Mikumo Castle -History of warlord next to capital (3) end with arrival of new authority-

Mikumo Castle

-History of warlord next to capital (3) end with arrival of new authority-



Name: Mikumo castle (Mikumo-jo)
Place: Yoshinaga Konan city, Shiga
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 16th century
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Continued from Part 2

Mikumo castle (三雲城) is located over Mikumo-yama mountain, one of about 200 meter height from hillside at the north edge of Shigaraki-Kogen height, which spreads over south edge of current Shiga prefecture and Kyoto prefecture. Around this area Yasu-gawa river runs narrow valley between Shigaraki-Kogen height and line of hills from Kagami-yama mountain to Junibo mountain.

Castle site is an important of communication where Tokaido Road, which connects Kyoto city and Kanto region runs along with Yasu-gawa river from northwest to southeast, and intersecting road from Omi Hachiman area to Shigaraki area. Even now Route 1 and Kusatsu-sen line pass the narrow valley in front of castle site.

Origin of Mikumo clan and Mikumo castle

Precise year is unknown but Mikumo castle might be built by local lord Mikumo clan in 15th century. The origin of Mikumo clan is not clear but already lived in Koka area in 14th century. Mikumo clan gradually grew and became one of the largest of 53 small local lords of Koka area along with Yamanaka clan.

In the latter half of 15th century, these small local lords of Koka area formed alliance and kept half autonomy. To keep this situation, utilizing its geographical condition along Tokaido Road and production of herbs, they engaged in peddling of pharmacy and gathered information from wide area. 

This nature turns into intelligent and plotting activities in the wartime, and it is known as the school of Koka Ninja. Different from another famous Iga Ninga closely gathered to save their territory and kept secret Koka Ninja were widely hired by warlords. Especially Rokkaku clan which was the governor of Omi province (Shiga prefecture) kept relationship with local lords of Koka area, including Mikumo clan.

Rise and peak of Rokkaku clan

In 1487, Rokkaku clan which rose as warlord was attacked by the army of Yoshihisa Ashikaga (1465-1489), the ninth Shogun of Muromachi Shogunate. Before overwhelming enemy, Takayori Rokkaku (?-1520), the leader of Rokkaku clan, left their main base Kannonji castle (Shiga prefecture) and escaped into Mikumo clan.

Mikumo clan accepted Takayori Rokkaku at Mikumo castle, and Koka army executed guerilla attack to Shogunate army at the downstream of Yasugawa river. Among the long and stressful war camp Yoshitane fell into ill and died, then the operation toward Rokkaku clan was ceased. Rokkaku clan rejected the intervention from Shogunate and became an independent warlord.

Under Sadayori Rokkaku (1495-1552), Rokkaku clan became its peak period. Sadayori introduced “Rakichi Rakuza”, a free trade policy rejecting guilds to Ishidera town, the castle town of Kannonji castle thus Ishidera town economically prospered and built the foundation of commerce of the province later brought many merchants at Edo era and Meiji era.

Sign of decline

Politically Sadayori gathered major local lords to Kannonji castle and strengthened control to them. Being supported by the army of these local lords, at the split of Muromachi Shogunate, Rokkaku clan supported the line of Yoshizumi Ashikaga (1481-1511) and his son Yoshiharu Ashikaga (1511-1550) then fought against Hosokawa clan or Miyoshi clan which controlled another line of Ashikaga clan.

But intervention into central politics of Rokkaku clan was not rewarded. Miyoshi clan which was the main enemy of Rokkaku clan had a secure main territory at Awa province (Tokushima prefecture) ahead of the sea and held large army, then once defeated but could easily recover.

Rokkaku clan allied with Hatakeyama clan and resisted against Miyoshi clan, but finally in 1562 Miyoshi clan totally defeated Hatakeyama clan in the battle of Kyokoji and built their hegemony in Kinki region. Rokkaku clan did not participate in this battle but could not oppose to Miyoshi clan only by themselves, then Yoshikata Rokkaku (1521-1598), the successor of Sadayori Rokkaku, had to follow to Miyoshi clan.

Confusion of Rokkaku clan

At the same time, in 1560, Azai clan which was the lord of Odani castle (Shiga prefecture) and once followed to Rokkaku clan raised their army under their new leader Nagamasa Azai (1545-1573). Nagamasa only held small army but broke Rokkaku clan at the battle of Norada, and became an independent warlord. Contrary to this, continuous bad results hurt the authority of Rokkaku clan.

Among such situation, in 1563, Yoshiharu Rokkaku (1545-1612), son and successor of Yoshikata Rokkaku, purged his highest retainer Suketoyo Goto (?-1563) at Kannonji castle. This might arise from the process of succession from Yoshikata to Yoshiharu, but brought severe dissatisfaction to the local lords under Rokkaku clan.

Just after the purge, major retainers of Rokkaku clan such as Shindo clan or Hirai clan which held their residence in the Kannonji castle raised their army against their master. Yoshikata and Yoshiharu left Kannonji castle and ran to Mikumo castle. Rokkaku clan assisted Mikumo clan to reform Mikumo castle, in case of necessity for evacuation.

Structure of Mikumo castle

Mikumo castle spreads over the peak and slope spreads toward northeast. Central area of the castle is a small square shaped area of 20 meter long, which has stone wall at its northeast corner which might have a watch tower. From the entrance of central area, two areas spread toward eastward and southward which have old style.

Just below the central area, there is a large size square shaped area of 50 meter long. This area have a line of clay wall as wind shield, line of stone wall at north slope and has Masugata shaped complex gate. This area is core part of Mikumo castle and might be used for the residence of the lord or Rokkaku clan.

Below of this area, large flat space which was a gathering space of soldiers is built at the halfway. At the tip of the ridge prolongs toward east, there is a large rock on which the clan symbol of Rokkaku clan decorated, and another huge rock on the tip. This point has a spectacular view of Yasu-gawa valley and might be used as a watching place.

Decline of Rokkaku clan

Under the coordination of Mikumo clan and Gamo clan, escaped Yoshikata Rokkaku and Yoshiharu Rokkaku agreed with retainers and returned to Kannonji castle. However, as a condition of return, they were forced to sign their house rule “Rokkaku-shi Shikimoku” which significantly limit the exercise of the power.

Try of Rokkaku clan to strengthening the power of leader resulted in totally reverse result. As their enemy Miyoshi clan also entered severe internal conflict after the loss of its leader Nagayoshi Miyoshi (1522-1564), Rokkaku clan could survive for a while but gradually lost its eastern border before Azai clan.

In 1568, Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), the warlord of Owari province (west half of Aichi prefecture) also seized Mino province (Gifu prefecture) previous year, marched to Kyoto city with Yoshiaki Ashikaga (1537-1597), the younger brother of assassinated 13th Shogun Yoshiteru Ashikaga (1536-1565).

Assault of Nobunaga Oda and retreat tactics

Nobunaga already allied with Nagamasa Azai, and asked Rokkaku clan to follow. But Rokkaku clan rejected this request, then Nobunaga decided to attack Rokkaku clan. Nobunaga lined 50,000 soldiers at Echi-gawa river, then Rokkaku clan placed their army at Kannonji castle and Wadayama castle (Shiga prefecture), the forefront castle at Echi-gawa river.

However, Oda army detoured Wadayama castle and directly attacked Mitsukuri-yama castle, a branch castle of Kannonji castle only 2 kilometer from Kannonji castle. Before sudden attack of Oda army, Mitsukuri-yama castle fell only in one day. Looking at the fall of Mitsukuri-yama castle, Rokkaku clan gave up the besiege at Kannonji castle and retreated to Mikumo castle as before. Nobunaga fell Kannonji castle marched to Kyoto city and built his own government with Yoshiaki Ashikaga.

But different from past escape, Rokkaku clan could not return to Kannonji castle any more. Contrary to the Shogunate army which was just the pile up of many governors and no serious reason to ruin Rokkaku clan except for the authority of Shogun, the army of Nobunaga was totally controlled by their master. 

Fail of retreat tactics

Nobunaga also had to keep the east coast of Lake Biwako for survival, to connect his main base Gifu castle (Gifu prefecture ) and Kyoto city. Furthermore, this time major retainers such as Shindo clan or Gamo clan turned to Nobunaga and did not help the resistance of Rokkaku clan.

Under such situation Sadamochi Mikumo (?-1574), the leader of Mikumo clan, belonged to Rokkaku clan and continued resistance against Oda army. Rokkaku clan now allied with Asakura clan or Azai clan which left Nobunaga and attacked Chokoji castle protected by Katsuie Shibata (1521-1583), an important general of Nobunaga.

But Rokkaku army was broken by desperate army of Katsuie, and Sadamochi Mikumo died in the battle. Rokkaku clan still kept resistance and distressed Nobunaga under anti Nobunaga encirclement, but their ally Asakura clan and Azai clan were ruined by Nobunaga in 1573. 

Afterward of Rokkaku clan and castle

Next year Ishibe castle which was the last base of Rokkaku clan fell, and Rokkaku clan ended its history as the warlord of Omi province. Later Yoshikata Rokkaku and Yoshiharu Rokkaku became the advisors of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), and Rokkaku clan continued as a small retainer of Edo Shogunate.

Along with the fall of Rokkaku clan, Mikumo clan also lost Mikumo castle and its territory. Mikumo clan temporally became unemployed but later became the retainer of Edo Shogunate and once became small lord of former territory. But finally ended its history losing their leader and successor in 1635. Mikumo castle might be abolished at that time.

Currently no building remains but structure of the castle generally remain on the mountain. Stone walls formed by large stones partially remains but it is not clear if this is an original style or result of destruction. Spectacular northward scenery from the castle is also the view of Rokkaku clan escaped to this castle and waited for the chance of recovery.


90 minutes walk from JR West Kusatsu-sen line Mikumo station. 40 minutes drive from Meishin Expressway Ryuo interchange or Shin-Meishin Expressway Shigaraki interchange to parking space at the entrance into hilltop area through seminar house of Konan city.

Related Castles

Kozutsumi Shiroyama Castle -History of warlord next to capital (1) independence from authority-
Kannonji Castle -History of warlord next to capital (2) economic strength and military weakness-
Odani Castle (1) -History of three generation of Azai clan-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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