Thursday, September 17, 2020

Norisada Shii Castle -Brothers and son devoted themselves for recovery of Shimabara islands-

 Norisada Sii Castle

-Brothers and son devoted themselves for recovery of Shimabara islands-

Norisada Shii Castle


Name: Norisada Shii castle (Norisada Shii-jo)
Place: Norisadacho Toyota city, Aichi
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 16th century
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and dry moats 

Brief History

Norisada Shii castle (則定椎城) stands over Rakan-yama mountain, one of about 130 meter height from hillside at the backside of Norisada elementary school of Norisada town. Norisada area is a small valley where Tomoe-gawa river and its tributary Norisada-gawa meets, and three roads from Iida-Kaido road at northward, Hozumi area at southwestward, and Tomoe-gawa river at southward meet this area.

Asuke-Kaido road which connected Okazaki city and Asuke town basically runs northwestward along with Tomoe-gawa river, but from Hozumi town to Norisada town it runs a little apart from Tomoe-gawa river avoiding narrow valley of the river. Norisada area was a meeting point of this road and Tomoe-gawa river, and an intermediate river port of the river at the middle of Asuke town and Kugyudaira town.

Origin of Norisada Shii Castle

Precise year is unknown but Norisada Shii castle might be built by local lord Norisada Suzuki clan in 16th century. Suzuki clan was a families of local lords widely spread between Yahagi-gawa river and Tomoe-gawa river in the north part of Mikawa province. It is recorded that Suzuki clan was originally came from Kii province (Wakayama prefecture) and moved to Mikawa province (east half of Aichi prefecture) around 14th century.

In 15th century, Suzuki clan gradually expanded from their original territory Yanami area near Kuragaike park toward surrounding area, such as Asuke area, Terabe area or Shachinomi area. This branch family of Shachinomi area further divided into small families and one family moved northeast from Shachinomi area and resided at Norisada area then became Norisada Suzuki clan.

Different from Matsudaira clan which spreads at the south of Tomoe-gawa river, that also divided branch families to surrounding areas but was controlled by main family of the clan, Suzuki clan acted as the lord of each area independently. As the territory of Norisada Suzuki clan was at the next of the territory of Matsudaira clan, Norisada Suzuki clan might follow Matsudaira clan from early stage.

Matsudaira clan significantly grew and once united Mikawa province under Kiyoyasu Matsudaira (1511-1536), but after the assassination of Kiyoyasu the clan rapidly declined then Mikawa province became the target of Imagawa clan which was the warlord of Suruga province (middle part of Shizuoka prefecture) and Oda clan that of Owari province (west half of Aichi prefecture).

Norisada Suzuki clan at first Norisada castle or Norisada Obata castle both were built over small hills. But considering turbulent situation it might build Norisada Shii castle as a secure main base built on the higher Rakan-yama mountain. Rakan-yama mountain had been used as a place of cultivation and Suzuki clan might also hoped the protection of gods and Buddhas.

Structure of castle

Central area of Norisada-Shii castle is a knife-edge shaped one of about 40 meter long and 20 meter wide, which has small entrance space at its southwest edge and northwest edge. Route from secondary area runs below the south line of central area and enters from southwest gate, which enables attack from upward to approaching enemies.

At the east of central are, secondary area which is a crescent moon shape protects climbing road from hillside. Ahead of secondary area there is another area faces the saddle point to next mountain and climbing route as a fronts-side fort, which is protected by the line of clay wall. 

At the west of central area, three terraces of about 30 meter long and 20 meter wide continues which are regarded as third area. North line of the castle including central area, secondary area and third area is unitary protected by the line of corridor area which has several small peaks as shooting point, like Mariko castle (Shizuoka prefecture) built by Takeda clan.

Contrary to north side, south side of the castle is simply protected by the slope and there is no clear defense line. Clearly Norisada Suzuki clan felt threat from northward and built additional defense line considering the use of matchlock guns. Total size of the castle is about 200 meter long and 150 meter wide, and it is relatively larger than the territory of Norisada Suzuki clan then there might be external assist to prepare the castle.

Tension around castle

Since the independence of Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) from Imagawa clan in 1560, Norisada Suzuki clan served to Tokugawa clan. But since the break of Tokugawa clan and Takeda clan, the warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture), north part of Mikawa province was exposed to the threat of Takeda clan.

Especially in 1575, Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), the leader of Takeda clan, intruded into the north part of Mikawa province and fell Onuma castle and Asuke castle (Aichi prefecture) both are only 10 kilometer apart from Norisada Shii castle. There is no record of fall of Norisada Shii castle at this time, but would be the front line against Takeda army.

But at that year Katsuyori Takeda suffered fatal defeat at the battle of Nagashino before central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) and Ieyasu Tokugawa, then retreated from Mikawa province. Norisada Suzuki clan served to Ieyasu Tokugawa and resided until 1590, when Tokugawa clan was moved to Kanto region. 

Brothers lived at castle

Shigetsugu Suzuki (?-?), the leader of Norisada Suzuki clan, accompanied with Tokugawa clan then Norisada Shii castle was abolished. Later after the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Ieyasu Tokugawa who became the Shogun of Edo Shogunate recovered native place Mikawa province then Shigetsugu Suzuki was appointed as a small lord of Norisada area again, Suzuki clan built its administrative office Norisada-Jinya at the side of former castle.

Shigetsugu Suzuki had two sons it mean Shosan Suzuki (1579-1655) and Shigenari Suzuki (1588-1653). As a house of hereditary retainer these brothers served to Ieyasu Tokugawa and his son Hidetada Tokugawa (1579-1632) as close guard and were expected to promote as military or administrative staffs of Edo Shogunate.

But Shosan Suzuki was deeply interested in Buddhism and felt the impermanence of things, in the field of battles. Many lords and samurais of this era nominally became monk to sacrifice the karma of cruelty, but Shosan Suzuki resigned his job and left his status to younger brother then entered sincere training of Buddhism.

To devastate Shimabara island

Different from many famous priests exercised their power in the high position of Edo Shogunate, Shosan tried to spread the Buddhism from the situation of people and  wrote the tale of Buddhism in simple Kana style. Shosan also insisted diligent work and abstinence for each occupation leads to the training of Buddhism, that is same character as “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” by Max Weber.

On the other hand, Shigetsugu Suzuki steadily worked for Edo Shogunate, and participated in the Shogunate army sent to subjugate Shimabara-no-Ran, the rebellion of local people in Shimabara peninsula and Amakura island occurred in 1637. The cause of the rebellion was the tyranny of Matsukura clan and Terasawa clan, the lords of Shimabara area and Amakusa area.

At the battle Shigetsugu Suzuki fought hard as a vanguard, then was appointed as the local governor of Amakusa island at Tomioka castle (Kumamoto prefecture), where became directly managed by Edo Shogunate. As many people of Amakusa area died at the siege of Hara castle (Nagasaki prefecture), Shigetsugu Suzuki called immigrants from other areas.

Recovery of Shimabara island

As too much tax was the cause of rebellion, Shigetsugu Suzuki also reperformed land survey to decrease taxable income. Catholic was also a cause of rebellion then Shigetsugu Suzuki strictly banned it, but replacing relief was necessary for local people. Thus Shigetsugu Suzuki called his brother Shosan Suzuki, then Shosan entered Shimabara island rebuilt many Buddhist temples and preached to local people.

But the good government policy of Shigetsugu Suzuki was conflicted with the intention of Edo Shogunate, and among dilemma Shigenari Suzuki died earlier than his brother Shosan Suzuki. There is a tale that Shigenari Suzuki killed himself to protest against Shogunate but it was a fiction but shows the respect of local people to Shigenari Suzuki.

After Shigenari Suzuki, Shigetoki Suzuki (1607-1670), the son of Shosan Suzuki and adopted by Shigenari Suzuki, succeeded the governor of Amakusa island. Finally in 1659 the taxable income of Amakusa island declined to half amount, then the situation of the island became stabilized. 

Afterward of castle

The people of Amakusa island appreciated the effort of brothers and son for the revival of island and worshiped them at Suzuki shrine. Shosan Suzuki devoted his life for the spread of Buddhism from his home Onshin-ji temple near Norisada-Shii castle. Norisada Suzuki clan continued by the end of Edo era as the lord of Norisada area.

Today no building remains but structure of the castle well remained on the mountain. Instead temples and training place of Shosan Suzuki remains around the castle and becomes a hiking course. Quiet and peaceful scenery of Norisada area might be a goal that brothers of Suzuki clan wanted to realize at devastated Shimabara islands after the brutal battle.


30 minutes drive from Tokai-Kanjo Jidoshado Expressway Toyota-Matsudaira interchange.

Related Castles

Tomioka Castle -Abolished to save local people-
Hara Castle -Ruin of repose of souls-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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