104.九戸城~Kunohe Castle

Kunohe Castle was where the Warring States Period ended, and it has a sad history.

九戸城本丸跡~The ruins of Kunohe Castle’s Honmaru

立地と歴史~Location and History

Kunohe Castle was in the Ninohe area now called Ninohe City. This castle was built by the Kunohe clan which came from the Kunohe area. The name Kunohe Castle comes from the clan’s name, not from the name of the land.

二戸市周辺の地図~The map around Ninohe City

Originally, Kunohe clan were relatives of the Nanbu clan, the great warlord in Tohoku district in the Warring States Period. There was internal trouble about the inheritance of the Nanbu clan after Harumasa Nanbu died. The Nanbu’s senior vassals recommended Harumasa’s cousin, Nobunao Nanbu as the successor against another candidate supported by Masazane Konohe. Nobunao was chosen in their meeting, but since then, he and Masazane confronted each other. As a result, Masazane rebelled against Nobunao in 1591.

南部晴政肖像画、もりおか歴史文化館蔵~The portrait of Harumasa Nanbu, owned by Morioka History and Culture Museum(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
南部信直肖像画、もりおか歴史文化館蔵~The portrait of Nobunao Nanbu, owned by Morioka History and Culture Museum(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
九戸政実の掛け軸~The scroll of Masazane Kunohe(二戸市商工会 Web Site から引用)

That happened during the unification of the whole country by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, just after the reassessment of his territorial ownership in Tohoku district called “Oshu-Shioki” in 1590. The rebellion might have been caused by Oshu-Shioki because Masazane was forcibly put under Nobumasa. Nobumasa asked Hideyoshi for help, then Hideyoshi sent about 60 thousand troop led by Ujisato Gamo and Nagayoshi Asano to Konohe Castle where Masaane was with about only 5 thousand defenders in September, 1591.

蒲生氏郷肖像画、会津若松市立会津図書館蔵~The portrait of Ujisato Gamo, owned by Aidu Wakamatsu Library(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimeidia Commons)
浅野長吉肖像画、東京大学史料編纂所蔵~The portrait of Nagayoshi Asano, owned by Historiographical Institute the University of Tokyo(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimeidia Commons)

Kunohe Castle formed a natural fortress which was on river terraces surrounded by rivers and valleys. The defenders called “the Kunohe Party” were also so strong that they repelled the first attack. Attackers were worried about casualties from aggressive attacks, so they suggested Masazane to surrender. He accepted it in a few days in exchange for the safety of the people in the castle including women and children. However, the promise was broken and many people were executed after the attackers got the castle. Masazane was also beheaded. The excavation shows bones of executed men and women buried in the second enclosure “Ninomaru”. It is said that the Kunohe Rebellion is the last battle of the Warring States Period.

城周辺の地図~The normal map around the castle

城周辺の起伏地図~The relief map around the castle

城周辺の航空写真~The aerial photo around the castle


Now, the ruins of the main enclosure “Honmaru” and Ninomaru mainly remain developing for a historic site.

二ノ丸と空堀で隔てられた本丸~Ninomaru and Honmaru devided by a dry moat
本丸の空堀~The dry moat surrounding Honmaru
本丸の南虎口~The south entrance of Honmaru

東北地方では一番古い石垣がありますが、実は蒲生氏郷により築かれたものです。The oldest stone walls in Tohoku region were actually rebuilt by Gamo.

本丸追手門にある石垣~The stone walls at the main entrance of Honmaru
二ノ丸から本丸に渡る橋~The bridge between Ninomaru and Honmaru

Other enclosure ruins such as “Wakasa-Date” and “To-Date” are more likely in the original way of Kunohe.

外館跡を見上げる~Looking up the ruins of Todate
若狭館跡~The ruins of Wakasadate

Even now you can understand how the castle was protected by natural landscape when walking around. For example, you can look up at Honmaru from the guide house on the former Sannomaru enclosure.

本丸を囲む空堀の底~The bottom of the dry moat srrounding Honmaru
三の丸から本丸を見上げる~Lookin up Honmaru from Sannomaru

その後~Later Life

After the Kunohe Rebellion, the castle was reconstructed by Gamo, and owned by Nanbu, and it was renamed from Kunohe to Fukuoka. But people in Ninohe area have been calling it “Kunohe” because of Nanbu moving to Morioka Castle soon after as well as their nostalgia for Kunohe. The castle was abandoned in 1636, turned into a farm. In the Modern Ages, an agricultural experiment station was opened in 1893, it was lastly designated as a national historic site in 1935.

農業試験場の記念碑~The monument of the agricultural experiment station

私の感想~My Impression

The story of Kunohe Castle is still mysterious. Why did Masazane surrender in a moment before the winter that would be an advantage for defenders (September in the lunar calendar is similar to October now)? Why did Toyotomi send so many soldiers (150 thousand including the rear) for such a small number of the rebels to the place far away from the center? And, did the Kunohe Party do noting against Toyotomi’s violence?

二の丸脇の大空堀跡~The ruins of the large dry moat beside Ninomaru

Some writers speculate and offer their assumptions in their novels. For instance, Katsuhiko Takahashi says Masazane sacrificed himself to save the Nanbu relatives (Beside Nobunao, another relative Tamenobu Tsugaru, once supported Masazane, survived as a lord.). Ryutaro Abe wrote Toyotomi might have aimed to draft Tohoku people being strong in the cold for his invasion of Korea in 1592. Masazane had known it, then he has ended the war to prevent it from happening at the sacrifice of Kunohe Castle. Both writers also speculate many of people should have escaped from the castle by a secret path. Thinking about mysteries of history is very interesting, and it may be a key to finding the fact.

現地にある城の地形モデル~The terrain model of the castle at the site

ここに行くには~How to get There

If you want to go there by car: It takes about 15 minutes from the Ichinohe IC on Hachinohe Expressway. The guide house offers a parking lot.
If you want to go there by bus from Ninohe station: Take the JR bus bound for Kenritsu-Ninohe-Byoin or Karumai-Byoin, or the Iwate-Kenpoku bus bound for Ibonai-Eigyosho , and take off at the Tonko-Inari-Jinja bus stop. The ruins are a 5 minute walk away from the bus stop.
From Tokyo to Ninohe st.: Take the Tohoku Shinkansen super express.

リンク、参考情報~Links and References

岩手県二戸市 九戸城跡~Ninohe City Official Website
二戸市商工会(Only Japanese)
九戸政実プロジェクト「戦国ダンシ九戸政実」(Only Japanese)
・「歴史群像158号~戦国北奥戦記」(Japanese Magazine)
・「天を衝く(1)~(3)」高橋克彦著、講談社文庫(Japanese Book)
・「冬を待つ城」安部龍太郎著、新潮文庫(Japanese Book)
・「南部九戸落城」渡辺喜恵子著、毎日新聞社(Japanese Book)

投稿者: Yuzo

城巡りが好きなYuzoです。日本には数万の城があったといわれています。その内の200名城を手始めにどんどん紹介していきます。 I'm Yuzo, I love visiting castles and ruins. It is said that there were tens of thousands castles in Japan. I will introduce you top 200 castles and ruins of them, and more!