Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Shiga Castle -Tragic fall for exemplary punishment-

Shiga Castle

-Tragic fall for exemplary punishment-



Name: Shiga castle (Shiga-jo)
Place: Shiga Saku city, Nagano
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 15th century?
Remaining remnants: Stone walls, clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Shiga castle (志賀城) spreads over narrow ridge of east and westward at the north of Shiga town. Shiga area is a composite of valleys such as Sehaya-gawa, Shiga-gawa or Kosaka-gawa, and castle site exist at the center of these three rivers and is a suitable location to manage the whole part of the valley.

In Saku city, at the east of Chikuma-gawa river, rivers flow from Kanto-Santi mountain run westward and form valley, toward the river terrace of Chikuma-gawa river. Just at 2 kilometer south from Shiga castle there is the valley of Nametsu-gawa river where Uchiyama castle (Nagano prefecture) exist, and further 5 meter south there is a valley of Ame-kawa river has Tatsuoka castle (Nagano prefecture).

Not only these valleys were used as a space of living and agriculture, these valleys were also mountain roads toward Kozuke province (Gunma prefecture). Today the traffic between Nagano prefecture and Gunma prefecture mainly uses Usui-Toge pass, but in the past without high speed transportation people crossed directly from each place. Both of Shiga area and Uchiyama area were connected to the south part of Kozuke province via Shimonita area.

Origin of Shiga castle and Kasahara clan

Precise year is unknown but Shiga castle might be built by local lord Kasahara clan. The origin of Kasahara clan is also unknown but it is said as a descendant of Suwa clan, the lord of Suwa area of Shinano province (Nagano prefecture) and a house of priest of Suwa Shrine.

Originally Kasahara clan was a local lord of current Nakano city in the north part of Shinano province, but once attacked by Yoshinaka Minamoto (1154-1184) and escaped to Echigo province (Niigata prefecture). Later Kasahara clan belonged to Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of Muromachi Shogunate, and later moved to Saku area.

During Muromachi era, Saku region was mainly seized by Oi clan, the local lord of Oi castle (Nagano prefecture) at Iwamurada area of Saku city. But Oi clan declined due to the failure of the attack to Takeda clan, the governor of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture), and the main family of Oi clan was ruined by Murakami clan, a major local lord of Kazurao castle (Nagano prefecture) in 1483.

Struggle of external powers

Kasahara clan well followed the change of situation and there is no record at this period. 30 years after Nobutora Takeda (1494-1574) who settled internal conflict of Takeda clan started expansion toward Shinano province, then Nobutora Takeda and Yoshikiyo Murakami (1501-1573), the leader of Murakami clan, fought for Saku region.

In 1541, Nobutora Takeda and who expelled Nobutora then became the leader of Takeda clan, Yoshikiyo Murakami and Yorishige Suwa (1516-1542) attacked Unno clan which spread around Ueda area and Saku area. Unno clan was broken at the battle of Unnodaira then Saku province was once seized by Nobutora Takeda.

However, at that year Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), son of Nobutora Takeda, expelled his father due to famine and too much military operation then became new leader of Takeda clan. Utilizing this confusion of Takeda clan, Norimasa Uesugi (1523-1579), the leader of Yamanouchi Uesugi clan which was Kanto Kanrei and the lord of Kozuke province, sent rescue army to Saku region lead by its excellent general Narimasa Nagano (1491-1561).

Invasion of Shingen Takeda to Saku providence

Uesugi army seized Saku area, and once local lords of Saku area followed to Yamanouchi Uesugi clan. But Shingen Takeda who succeeded Takeda clan aggressively started invasion toward Shinano province, breaking the ally with Yorishige Suwa. In 1542 Shingen intruded into Suwa region and ruined Suwa clan in a short battle.

Next Shingen aimed at Shiga area. In 1536 Shingen already fought at Hiraga clan at Unnokuchi castle (Nagano prefecture), the border castle of Kai province and Shinano province at Saku area, and in 1543 Shingen attacked Nagakubo castle (Nagano prefecture), the entrance of Saku region from Suwa region and captured it from Nagakubo clan.

In 1546, Shingen captured Uchiyama castle, the one close to Shiga castle held by Sadakiyo Oi (?-1575). Shingen captured most of Saku region, but Kiyoshige Kasahara (1515-1547), the leader of Kasahara clan, still resisted against Shingen under the support from Yamanouchi Uesugi clan. To face with overwhelming army, Shiga castle might be expanded at this time.

Structure of Shiga castle

Central area of Shiga castle is an oblong shaped one of about 50 meter long and 20 meter wide at the peak of the ridge, with a stone wall at its front side wall. Central area is divided into front part and rear part by dry moat, and rear part might have watching tower. Backward of central area is protected by dry moat, especially a quite deep one utilizing a crack of the rock at the end.

At the west of central area, below of layer of corridor area, two large areas which is separated by huge clay wall exist. This part might be the hilltop residence of the lord, and climbing road from hillside is connected to this part, through layers of small terraces partially equips stone wall built by small stones.

Ahead of middle part of castle, terraces are placed in line along with the ridge, being separated by dry moat. At the middle of this part there is a rectangular shaped one of about 50 meter long and 20 meter wide, which has a stone built entrance at its east side and stone wall at west edge. Western edge of the castle is separated by huge dry moat with clay wall. Total size of the castle is about 500 meter long and large one at this area.

Castle siege as exemplary punishment

In Japanese history, slaughter at castle siege including civilian people is not so frequent, as it was the battle between same race and it is better to absorb enemy army and people only changing commander, considering compensation for the damage of army and economic income of people.

But sometimes cruel treatment was adopted for non obedient enemies, especially for the first stage of invasion for particular province. Cruel image could suppress the enemy to turn to this side without resistance, to avoid the worst result already seen. But even though a matter of war, cruel behavior hurt reputation of the lord and raise a grudge of people.

Especially Shinano province is covered full of high mountains, and once the enemy is besieged at sheer cliff castle it became quite difficult to fall by physical attack. Shingen frequently used plots to turn such enemy castles, and to increase the probability of such plots both of interest and fear should be shown to the opponent.

Tragic fall of Shiga castle

In 1547, Shingen surrounded Shiga castle then captured the water source next day. Kiyoshige Kasahara requested the reinforcement army to Yamanouchi Uesugi clan, and although after the severe defeat of the night battle of Kawagoe castle before Hojo clan, Norimasa Uesugi sent their retainers as a reinforcement army to Shiga castle.

But the morale of this reinforcement army was quite low after the severe defeat, then Takeda army thoroughly broke Yamanouchi Uesugi army at the battle of Odaigahara, near Shiga castle. Takeda army showed the certification of the victory for reinforcement army to the castle, and morale of castle was lost due to loss of reinforcement army and shortage of water.

Finally after two week siege Shiga castle fell, with the death of major member of Kasahara clan including Kiyoshige Kasahara. At Shiga castle many local people besieged to avoid the battle, but they were captured and forced to buy back themselves or sent to forced labor at gold mine. Cruelty of Shingen raised antipathy of local people.

Survived wife of Kiyoshige Kasahara became the concubine of Nobunari Oyamada (1519-1552), the important retainer of Shingen. Contrary to Nobunari Oyamada who died due to wounded in the battle in youth, she lived out her life, but she experienced loss of her husband from the battle two times.

Afterward of castle

After the battle, Takeda clan used Uchiyama castle as a local military base of Saku region, probably due to tragic memory of the castle partially. But Shiga castle might be also used by Takeda army preparing for Kozuke province. Comparing east half, west half of the castle is more technically built and it might be expansion under Takeda clan. 

Finally Shingen Takeda captured middle part of Kozuke province in 1566, and the importance of Shiga castle as a border castle preparing for Kozuke province declined. Saku area was calm by the fall of Takeda clan in 1582, but .soon was involved in the conflict between Tokugawa clan and Hojo clan for former Takeda territory. Considering its location Uchiyama castle might be involve in this battle but there is no record.

Today no building remains but structure of the castle well remain on the mountain. Castle over sheer cliff of huge rock looks like a solid will of Kasahara clan to resist against Takeda clan, even though only by themselves. Traditional structure around central area reminds the tragedy of lost Kasahara clan, and progressive structure of outer area shows unchanged importance of Shiga castle for Takeda clan.


30 minutes drive from Joshinetsu-do Expressway Saku interchange. Entrance of climbing road is at backside of Unkoji Temple. 

Related Castles

Uchiyama Castle -Castle and commander well served roles-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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