Sunday, August 16, 2020

Katsunuma Clan Castle -Chateau of gold and grape-

Katsunuma Clan Castle

-Chateau of gold and grape-



Name: Katsunuma clan castle
Place: Katsunuma Katsunuma-cho Koshu city, Yamanashi
Type: Flat Castle
Built: 16th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Katsunuma clan castle (勝沼氏館) is placed at the river terrace of Hikawa river, at the south of center of Katsumuma town. Castle site is at the eastern edge of Kofu basin, and where Hikawa river flows from mountain area to basin. Katsunuma area is an important point of communication between Kofu basin and Gunnai area then important roads such as Chuo Expressway and Route 20 passes this area.

East half of Kofu basin is formed by alluvial fan of Fuefuki-gawa river and its tributaries Omo-kawa river and Hikawa river. These rivers not only formed the basin but also used as roads toward east, it mean the main stream of Fuefuki-gawa river for Chichibu Oukan road, Omo-kawa river for Ome Kaido road and Hikawa river for Koshu Kaido road.

Before Katsunuma clan

Katsunuma clan castle is thought to be built in 15th century but it is not clear who built it. In the latter half of 15th century, east edge of Kofu basin was governed by branch families of Takeda clan such as Kurihara clan or Iwasaki clan, both opposed to the main stream of Takeda clan but later were ruined. Katsunuma clan castle might be built by local lord relate to surrounding lords.

Takeda clan had been the governor of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) since 13th century, but after the temporal fall of main family in 15th century branch families spread over the province and major local lords became out of control of Takeda clan. Furthermore, in the latter half of 15th century the conflict between Takeda clan and deputy governor Atobe clan, and internal conflict of Takeda clan occurred.

Place of Katsunuma clan

In the beginning of 16th century, Nobutora Takeda (1494-1574), the leader of main family, broke opponent relative and settled internal conflict of the clan at the battle of Katsuyama castle in 1508. Next Nobutora fought with Oyamada clan, a major local lord which held Gunnai area that is current Otsuki city area, and that supported his opponent.

Oyamada clan once assaulted Kofu city where was governed by Nobutora Takeda, but faced the counter attack of Nobutora Takeda Oyamada clan lost its leader and retreated. Nobutora became superior situation suppressed the successor of Oyamada clan, then finally in 1510 Nobuari Oyamada (1488-1541) subordinated to Nobutora and married with the daughter of Nobutora.

As Katsunuma castle is a connecting point of Kofu basin and Katsunuma area across Sasago-Toge pass, Nobutora placed his younger brother Nobutomo Takeda (?-1535) who changed surname to Katsunuma clan. Nobutora expected to watch both of Oyamada clan and other local lords of east part of Kofu basin surrendered to Nobutora, then expanded old castle into the base of local administration.

Structure of Katsunuma clan castle

Katsunuma clan castle exists at the corner of the river terrace its west and south line is protected by the river. Central area of the castle is a rectangular one of about 50 meter long and 30 meter wide, separated its north and east line by thick clay wall and dry moat. In this small central area over 10 buildings such as main residence, kitchen, storage, workshop, guarders place were pushed into the area.

Surrounding central area, two layer of corridor existed from northward to eastward and formed outer areas. Line of clay wall and dry moat were lost but formerly three layers of clay wall and dry moat protected the castle with the main gate having curved clay wall, preparing for the eastward where is the direction of Oyamada clan. 

The buildings of outer areas are residential buildings or workshops similar to central area but simplified thus they might be used by relative or important retainers of Katsunuma clan. Remnants of water moat were found which was used as water source of the castle. Ahead of outer barrier, residence of retainers spreads at the eastward of castle.

Workshop of gold sent from Kurokawa gold mine

In addition to the protection toward Gunnai area, Katsunuma clan castle had another important role. During the period of Nobutora Takeda, Kurokawa gold mine exists about 15 kilometer northeast from Katsunuma area was developed in earnest. As gold mine exists the side of Ome Kaido road which runs down to Katsunuma area, gold ingot produced at the mine was once brought to Katsunuma clan castle.

The peace of ceramic excavated at the central area of Katsunuma clan castle retained gold dust, which component is similar to the one found at the remnant of the gold mine. The gold ingot might be processed into coin at the central area of Katsunuma clan castle, then brought to Kofu city and kept as the asset of Takeda clan.

Kurokawa gold mine became its peak period at the time of Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), the successor of Nobutora Takeda, and supported his aggressive military operation and expansion of Takeda clan. But at the time of Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), the successor of Shingen, the production declined then it might be the cause of financial difficulty and ruin of Takeda clan at this period.

Change of commander to Imai clan

Along with the process of unite of Kai province, Nobutora Takeda faced intervention of external powers connected to his opponent. Especially Imagawa clan which was the governor of Suruga province (middle part of Shizuoka prefecture) and its ally Hojo clan, the warlord of Sagami province (Kanagawa prefecture) intruded into Kai province again and again.

In 1535, Nobutora attacked Imagawa clan at the south border of Kai province, but Hojo clan intruded into Gunnai area as the reinforcement to Imagawa clan. Nobutomo Katsunuma and Oyamada clan fought with Hojo army, but small Takeda army was totally outnumbered by Hojo army then Nobutomo Katsunuma died in the battle.

Hojo army broke Takeda army further intruded into Takeda territory but Ogigayatsu Uesugi army which allied with Takeda army attacked the backside of Hojo clan then Hojo army retreated. As Gunnai area faced pressure from both of Imagawa clan and Hojo clan, Nobutora placed his confident general Imai clan as the commander of Katsunuma clan castle.

Purge of Imai clan

In 1536, utilizing change of leader of Imagawa clan, Nobutora Takeda allied with Imagawa clan. Hojo clan was still opposed to Takeda clan, but both clans allied in 1544 then next year triangle treaty among Takeda clan, Imagawa clan and Hojo clan was established. At this point the situation of Katsunuma area was stabilized.

Since then Katsunuma castle was peaceful for 25 years, but in 1560 Nobuyoshi Imai (?-1560), the leader of Imai clan, was purged by Shingen Takeda being blamed for the connection with Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578), the fatal rival of Takeda clan and intruded into Kanto region at that year.

Katsunuma clan castle continued after the incident but it decreased military character. In 1582, at the last stage of Takeda clan Katsuyori Takeda visited Katsunuma area on the way of escape from Shinpu castle to Gunnai area, then stayed Daizenji temple at 500 meter east from castle.

Afterward of castle

Sister Rikeini (1530-1611) who was the relative of Imai clan and became sister after the incident of Imai clan at Daizenji temple, welcomed Katsuyori who was the son of her grudge. Rikeini stayed with Katsuyori, his wife and son Nobukatsu Takeda (1567-1582), and recorded the fall of Takeda clan as the story.

After the fall of Takeda clan, Katsunuma clan castle might be abolished but Katsunuma area prospered at logistic point of the area and also as a posting town of Koshu Kaido road. At the end of Edo era, Katsunuma area became the battlefield of new government army and Edo Shogunate army, the latter included members of famous swordsman group Shinsengumi.

In Edo era, utilizing well drained soil, temperature fluctuation and relatively less rain, cultivation of grape rapidly spread at Katsunuma area. Subsequent to Meiji revolution Western technology of grape cultivation is brought to the area then Katsunuma area became the top tier of grape and wine production in Japan.

Utilizing good access from Metropolitan area, Katsunuma area is full of tourist grape firms. Outer area of Katsunuma castle turned to grape field, and in the process of construction of wine research institution the remnant of Katsunuma castle was found. The construction moved to outer area then remnant of central area was preserved and nominated as national historical site.

Today no building remains but this clay wall and deep dry moat surrounding central area well preserved. From castle site Koshu Kaido road, Daibosatsu mountains which includes Kurokawa gold mine, and grape firms fully covers slope are well seen. They are raison d’?tre of Katsunuma area, highly affected the history of Katsunuma clan castle from past to present.


30 minutes walk from JR East Chuo Honsen line Katsunuma Budou-go station. 15 minutes drive from Chuo-do Expressway Katsunuma interchange to parking at the side of old Koshu Kaido road.

Related Castles

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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