Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Kamo Castle -Irreconciable conflict after god of war (13) mopping-up operations-

Kamo Castle

-Irreconciable conflict after god of war (13) mopping-up operations-



Name: Kano castle (Kamo-jo)
Alias: Kamoyama Yogai-jo (Kamoyama Yogai castle)
Place: Gobancho Kamo city, Niigata
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 1570
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Continued from Part 12

Kamo castle (加茂城) is located over Yogaisan mountain, one of about 100 meter height from hillside at the backside of Kamo city central. Kamo city is the one faces Kamo-gawa river and Niitsu Kyuryo hills at the middle of Niigata city and Nagaoka city, and is said as small Kyoto city due to well ordered rectangular shape district of town spreads along Kamo-gawa river.

On the half way of Kamo-yama mountain which is next to Yogaisan mountain, there is a traditional Aomi Shrine which was established in 8th century as the protector of Aomi manor existed at Kamo city area. Later Aomi manor became the territory of Kamo Shrine of Kyoto city, then the god of Kamogawa Shrine was divided and brought to Kamo area.

Before land reclamation and river improvement in pre-modern era, current Niigata basin was a huge inner sea except for Yahiko mountain area. Kamo area worked as a connecting route of coast area of inner sea and inland flat area spreads at the east of Niitsu Kyuryo hills from current Gosen city to Nagaoka city.

Origin of Kamo castle

The origin of Kamo castle is not clear but there might be a fort at the top of Kamo-yama mountain in the early period of Muromachi era. Kamo-yama mountain has wide scenery of Niigata basin compared with Yogaisan mountain at the backside of Kamo-yama mountain, and has plenty space to build castle. Probably Aomi Shrine itself had armed priests and held a castle on Kamo-yama mountain.

It is said that Kamo castle itself was built in 1570 by Hayabe clan, the retainer of Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578) who was the governor of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture). But there was no tension around Kamo area in 1570 and it is not clear if Kamo castle was built at that time. If possible, Kenshin intended to separate the army from Aomi Shrine and built new castle for direct command.

Structure of Kamo castle

Kamo castle spreads over cross shaped ridges of Yogaisan mountain prolong four directions. The ridge spreads from the peak of the mountain toward east is a core part of the castle, which consist of the central area which is an oblong shaped terrace of 50 meter long and 15 meter wide, secondary area that is a triangle shaped one of 40 meter long, and third area which is about 70 meter long and 30 meter wide.

From the edge of third area, line of small terraces continues to the inside of the valley between Yogaisan mountain and Kamo-yama mountain, where might be used as a residence of retainer. Northward ridge is also used as another entrance from hillside residence but it was a second route not used usually.

Westward ridge and southward ridges are connected to backside mountains then securely protected by combination of deep dry moats and small terraces. At the south of central area the road from westward ridge and southward ridge meets, and this point was the most important point of defense for Kamo castle.

At this point, guardians could attack enemy from upper terraces. As the wall of terrace is sheer, enemy soldier could not climb to upper area thus had to proceed narrow path rounding anti-clockwise to secondary area. Furthermore, westward ridge connected to higher Kamo-yama mountain was an expected attack point of enemy thus has a combination of three layers.

At the top of Kamo-yama mountain there are terraces which might be used by Aomi Shrine, and these areas might be used as a front fort and watching place of the castle. Size of the castle is about 400 meter long and 300 meter wide and medium one at the area, but set up of clear defense line and movement lane shows the castle was built at once in the latter half of Sengoku era.

End of internal conflict

In 1578, after the death of Kenshin Uesugi, internal conflict between two adopted son Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623) and Kagetora Uesugi (1554-1579) arouse. As local lords of middle part supported Kagetora Uesugi, Kamo castle belonged to Kagetora Uesugi along with neighbor castle such as Gomado castle, Sanjo castle, Tochio castle or Suyoshi castle (Niigata prefecture).

In March 1579, Kagetora Uesugi died at Samegao castle (Niigata prefecture) and Kagekatsu Uesugi once won the conflict. But losing many generals and soldiers in the conflict, castles of middle part were still kept by former supporters of Kagetora Uesugi. The army of Kagekatsu Uesugi was also exhausted, but to prevent intervention from external powers such as Hojo clan or Oda clan, Kagekatsu Uesugi had to recover such castles.

Especially Hidetsuna Honjo (?-?), the son of Saneyoshi Honjo (1511-1575) who was the lord of Tochio castle and assisted Kenshin from youth, still resisted against Kagekatsu along with Chikatsuna Kanamari (1526-1580) who was the lord of Sanjo castle. It took one year for Kagekatsu Uesugi to divide the territories of ruined supporters of Kagetora Uesugi and reorganization of army.

Mopping-up operation

In April 1580, Kagekatsu Uesugi started the attack to Tochio castle, Sanjo castle and Kamo castle. Hidetsuna Honjo desperately fought at Tochio castle for two weeks but finally left castle and escaped to Ashina clan which was the lord of Aizu basin and formerly supported Kagetora Uesugi. 

At the same time, Sugana clan who was the retainer of Kagekatsu Uesugi attacked Kamo castle. During the siege Sugana clan was reported from Kagekatsu Uesugi that Tochio castle would fall soon, then Kamo castle might fall along with Tochio castle. Except for Kanamari clan still besieged at Sanjo castle, Nagaoka area and Sanjo area mostly seized by Kagekatsu Uesugi.

During this siege, Kagekatsu Uesugi made peace with Ashina clan which formerly supported Kagetora Uesugi. Beside, at the front of Ecchu province (Toyama prefecture) Uesugi army was once defeated by the army of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) at the battle of Tsukiokano in previous year and lost Toyama castle (Toyama prefecture), but Oda army retreated due to the revolt of their retainer Murashige Araki (1535-1586).

Stabilize of situation

Of course Kagekatsu Uesugi still conflicted with Hojo clan, the home of Kagetora Uesugi, but in the summer of 1580 Takeda clan which allied with Kagekatsu Uesugi seized Numata castle (Gunma prefecture), an important castle at the north edge of Kozuke province (Gunma prefecture) then Hojo army could not intrude into Echigo province. Finally the situation of Kagekatsu Uesugi as the lord of Echigo province seemed stabilized.

After the cease of internal conflict, Kamo castle became the military base of Uesugi army. In 1591 Akinaga Honjo (1564-?), the eldest son of Shigenaga Honjo (1540-1614) who was the lord of Murakami castle (Niigata prefecture), became the small lord of Kamo castle. But Akinaga Honjo was expelled in 1597 and lost Kamo castle.

Next year in 1598 Uesugi clan was moved to Aizu basin by Toyotomi government, and Kamo castle was abolished. Later in 1600 when Hori clan which was the next lord of Echigo province conflicted with Uesugi clan, former retainers of Uesugi clan raised at the ruin of Kamo castle, Gomado castle and Ikazuchi castle around Kamo area but were broken by Hori army.

Afterward of castle

Now no building remains but structure of the castle well remain over the mountain. Owing to moderate height and well prepared walking road, it is good place to see the structure of medieval mountain castle such as dry moats and cliff walls without hard walking. 

From south edge of Niigata city to east part of Nagaoka city large size mountain castles belonged to Kagetora Uesugi exist in line. This shows major local lords of this area resisted against Kagekatsu Uesugi under geographical relationship, and also the power and authority of such lords feared and ruined by Kagekatsu Uesugi who proceeded centralization of Uesugi clan.

Continue to Part 14


30 minutes walk from JR East Shinetsu Honsen line Kamo station. 30 minutes drive from Kanetsu Jidoshado Expressway Sanjo-Tsubame interchange to parking of Kamoyama Koen Park. Climb top of Kamo-yama mountain and enter to Yogaisan mountain.

Related Castles

Samegao Castle -Irreconciable conflict after god of war (12) tragic end of internal conflict-
Tochio Castle -Huge vertical dry moat connects hilltop and hillside-
Gomado Castle -Castle of brave general who protected forefronts of Uesugi clan-
Suyoshi Castle -Irreconciable conflict after god of war (3) supporters of Kagetora Uesugi-


Pictures (click to enlarge)

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