Sunday, May 3, 2020

Komaki Castle (Mutsu) -Unrewarded resistance of mountain lord-

Komaki Castle (Mutsu)

-Unrewarded resistance of mountain lord-



Name: Komaki castle (Komaki-jo)
Place: Furumachi Minami-Aizu town, Fukushima
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: Unknown
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Komaki castle (駒寄城) is located over Yogaiyama mountain, one of about 300 meter height from hillside, behind the elementary school at the south of current Ina area of Minami-Aizu town. Ina area is a narrow and long valley of over 10 kilometer formed by Ina-gawa river, a tributary of Tadami-gawa river which is also an important tributary of Agano-gawa river.

Ina area is at the middle of Echigo mountains which separates Pacific Ocean side and Sea of Japan side. It is about 30 kilometer apart from Aizu basin and currently one hour ride, but in ancient era it is a tough trip across sheer passes. It is also accessible along with Ina-gawa river but it is about two time longer road. In addition to geographical difficulty, this area is a deep snow area and this brought further obstacle of communication.

Origin of Kawarada clan and Komaki castle

Precise year is unknown but Komaki castle was built as a main base of local lord Kawarada clan. The origin of Kawarada clan is also not clear but is said as a branch family of Oyama clan, which is a descendant of Hidesato Fujiwara (?-?), a military noble of 10th century and became the lord of Oyama castle (Tochigi prefecture) of Shimotsuke province.

Oyama clan activated at the battle of Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of Kamakura Shogunate, against Oshu Fujiwara clan which spreads most part of current Tohoku region in 1189. After the fall of Oshu Fujiwara clan Yoritomo gave new territory to his retainers as manors, and this time Kawarada clan might have obtained the place of Ina area.

In the medieval era, around current Aizu basin there were four major local lords, and Kawarada clan was regarded one of this four clans, along with Ashina clan which was the lord of Kurokawa castle (Fukushima prefecture) at Aizu basin, Yamauchi clan at the downstream of Ina-gawa river, and Naganuma clan of Shigiyama castle (Fukushima prefecture) governed upstream of Agano-gawa river. 

Since then Kawarada clan might grow as a local lord steadily, not being included in severe battle because of geographical separation. There is no clear record of Kawarada clan in 14th and 15th century but this might be a record of safety of the clan. Along with the growth of Kawarada clan, Komaki castle might be expanded.

Structure of Komaki Castle

Komaki castle consists of hillside residence and hilltop fortress. Hillside residence is a combination of terraces spreads over plateau between the mountain and Ina-gawa river. It might be altered by later cultivation, but these terraces might be used as a residence of retainers. At the end of this plateau there might be the residence of Kawarada clan.

From the end of plateau, going upward a valley for several hundred meters, ahead of sheer slope mountain fortress is built at a ridge which spreads toward westward from backside mountains. As this point is the weak point of hilltop castle, combination of dry moats was built to protect enemy attack from this point.

Hilltop fortress is a relatively a large area of about 100 meter long and 50 meter wide, which is surrounded by clay wall and separated into upper part and lower part. At the backside of the terrace facing dry moat, there is a broad clay wall and might be main building of the fortress. From hilltop fortress the whole part of Ina town is well seen. 

Following to Ashina clan

In the beginning of 16th century, four clans nominally belonged to Date clan, the warlord which held current Fukushima basin and Yamagata basin and the strongest one in Tohoku region,. But in the middle of 16th century, Date clan significantly decreased its power from continuous internal conflicts.

Looking at this opportunity, Ashina clan which resided at fertile Aizu basin and already grew its power ruining surrounding small lords since the end of 15th century, left Date clan and became an independent power under its leader Moriuji Ashina (1521-1580). Moriuji who united Aizu basin next suppressed remaining three clans of major four local lords.

In 1543, Moriuji Ashina who already subdued Yamauchi clan at the middle of Aizu basin and Ina area, attacked Kawarada clan. Kawarada clan resisted against Ashina clan but finally subordinated to Ashina clan. Kawarada clan was not regarded as a four major retainers of Ashina clan but kept its status as a major local lord.

Fall of Ashina clan

Moriuji aggressively fought against surrounding major warlords such as Date clan, Satake clan and Uesugi clan, and brought its peak period to Ashina clan. But the result of continuous military operation was limited and it became a burden to residents. Furthermore, the only son of Moriuji was lost in young, and succession of Moriuji became a issue of the clan.

Amid the recovery of Date clan after internal conflicts, Moritaka Ashina (1561-1584), an adopted son of Moriuji from Nikaido clan, died in accident in youth. Retainers of Ashina clan were divided to two groups close to Date clan or Satake clan, and the power of Ashina clan suddenly and significantly was lost.

Finally in 1589, Masamune Date (1567-1636), the young leader of Date clan, attacked weakened Ashina clan and broke it at the battle of Suriagegahara. The leader of Ashina clan ran to Satake clan, and Ashina clan was ruined as the local lord of Aizu basin. Masamune seized Aizu basin forced Yamauchi clan and Kawarada clan to follow, but both clans kept resistance against Date clan in alliance.

Resistance to Masamune Date

Masamune let Naganuma clan already followed to Date clan attack Kawarada clan from eastward. In response to this, considering the limited size and risk of separation between hilltop fortress and hillside residence, Moritsugu Kawarada (?-1591), the last leader of Kawarada clan, newly built Hisagawa castle (Fukushima prefecture) at the opposite side of Ina-gawa river and moved to there.

In addition to this, Moritsugu requested assistance to central ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598) who already ordered Masamune to cease battle. Hideyoshi thought it was necessary to stop further expansion of Masamune, supported the resistance of Kawarada clan and Yamauchi clan through Uesugi clan, which was the lord of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture).

Kawarada clan fought against Naganuma clan but lost many retainers and fell into severe situation. But in 1590, Hideyoshi who ruined Hojo clan which was the lord of Odawara castle (Kanagawa prefecture) seized Kanto region by Odawara campaign, and Masamune Date visited military camp of Hideyoshi to subordinate.

Unrewarded resistance and afterward

Moritsugu Kawarada barely survived also visited Hideyoshi, but could not meet then his territory was confiscated. Hideyoshi deprived Aizu basin from Masamune and placed his confident general Ujisato Gamo (1556-1595) as a defense wall against Date clan. To remove trouble and bring simple structure to the territory of Ujisato, Toyotomi government did not allow the continuation of small native local lords.

Ujikatsu Kawarada moved to the territory of Uesugi clan but died next year in disappointment, and the history of Kawarada clan as the lord of Ina area for 400 years had ended. At this time Komaki castle might be totally abolished, but Hisakawa castle was renovated by Ujisato Gamo and was used for a while.

Now no building remains but structure of the castle is well remain. The climbing road to hilltop castle is difficult to trance and quite sheer, directly climbing the valley and slope of the mountain. The shape of hilltop castle quietly remains over sheer slope of the mountain resembles to the situation of its owner, which is not large but kept strong resistance and ended in empty.


60 minutes drive from Banetsu Jidoshado Expressway Aizu-Wakamatsu interchange.

Related Castles

Aizu Wakamatsu Castle -White five-story main tower endured harsh battle-
Shigiyama Castle -Fortress spreads from hilltop to hillside like "A" letter-
Hisagawa Castle -Clay built battleship like castle at deep inland-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

No comments:

Post a Comment