163.Kuroi Castle Part1

Kuroi Castle was the home base of Naomasa Ogino who was a strong warlord, called “the Red Devil in Tanba”. When Mitsuhide Akechi attacked the castle, its fall was at hand but…

Location and History

Tanba, Important Province to protect Kyoto

Kuroi Castle was located in the western part of Tanba Province which is now part of Hyogo Prefecture. Tanba Province is not popular for the present generation because the province was small and finally merged with Kyoto and Hyogo Prefectures. However, it was very important in the past because of its location just northwest of Kyoto, the capital of Japan. Especially, in unquiet times like the Sengoku Period, it was critical area for protecting or attacking Kyoto. In 1467 when the Onin War occurred in Kyoto, Sozen Yamana, the head of the West Squad went to Kyoto through the province. Since then, local lords in the province were involved in politics and battles over the central government.

The range of Tanba Province and the location of the castle

A scene of the Onin War, from a picture scroll of the Origin of Shinnyo-do Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Home Base of Naomasa Ogino, called “Red Devil in Tanba”

The Akai Clan was one of them, which served great warlords in Kyoto, like the Hosokawa Clan, and improved its power and territory in Tanba Province. Naomasa Akai was born in 1529 and was adopted to the Ogino Clan during his childhood because the Akai wanted to take in the Ogino’s power to get their lager presence. Since then, Naomasa was renamed his family name to Akai, however, he united with his parents’ home during all his life. Kuroi Castle was originally the home base of the Ogino Clan and eventually belonged to Naomasa. In 1554, Naomasa killed his foster father, Akikiyo. It is said this was because Akikiyo tried to follow the rule of Nagayoshi Miyoshi, the ruler at that time, which Naomasa never allowed. After that, Naomasa called himself Aku-emon as his nickname (Aku means evil but strong). However, he built a temple for worshiping Akikiyo, which may have meant his action didn’t come from his desire for revenge.

The illustration of Naomasa, from the signboard at the site

Naomasa was not a political person, but an excellent general, who just wanted to maintain his clan’s independence by the alliance with other local lords, even though they sometimes needed to serve greater warlords outside their province. For example, he defeated Munekatsu Naito in 1565, who was the deputy military governor of Tanba Province and supported the Miyoshi Clan. In 1571, Suketoyo Yamana in Tajima Province, next to Tanba in the northwest, invaded Tanba. Naomasa repelled the invasion, counterattacked Tajima, and even captured Takeda Castle in the province instead in 1575. People often called him the Red Devil in Tanba, for his strength.

The ruins of Takeda Castle

Group of small Forts

Kuroi Castle was built on Inokuchi Mountain (357m above the sea level). It was very large (around 8km perimeter) as the home base of the Ogino Clan, but was also one of mountain castles made of soil using natural terrain, which were usually seen throughout the whole country for warriors to live and protect themselves under the severe Sengoku Period. To cover its large range, Kuroi Castle worked as a group of small forts. The main portion of the castle including the Main Enclosure was on the top of the mountain to monitor the area around and all the branch forts so that the lord of the castle was able to instruct the defenders. Each fort had a distinct role, for example, the Sekito Tier and the Three-tiered Enclosure were built on the Main Route to protect the main portion, the Eastern Barbican Enclosure for defense of the eastern ridge, and the Western Enclosure for living on the mountain. That way, the defenders could prevent enemies from attacking the castle efficiently. The only weak point of the castle was that it didn’t have a good well because of the rocky terrain of the mountain.

The 3-D miniature model of Kuroi Castle Ruins, exhibited by the Kasuga Community Center

The relief map around the castle

Mitsuhide Akechi captures Castle after Naomasa’s Death

Naomasa’s strength may have actually also caused his crisis. Suketoyo Yamana, who was invaded by Naomasa, asked Nobunaga Oda who was the ruler then for help. Naomasa had once served but was against Nobunaga at that time. Nobunaga thought he would like to govern the important Tanba Province directly as well. Nobunaga sent his senior vassal, Mitsuhide Akechi to invade Tanba Province in 1575. At first, everything was going well for Mitsuhide, when Hideharu Hatano, another dominant local lord turned into Mitsuhide’s supporter. Mitsuhide next besieged Naomasa’s Kuroi Castle, waiting for the supplies and water to run out. However, after two months of the siege when the castle’s fall was at hand, Hideharu betrayed him. Mitsuhide was defeated instead and had to withdraw. This result was called the tactics of Akai’s attracting, which built Naomasa’s reputation much higher.

The Portrait of Mitsuhide Akechi, owned by Hontokuji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The portrait of Hideharu Hatano, from the database of Historiographical Institute, the University of Tokyo (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The castle was finally captured by Mitsuhide in 1579, just after Naomasa’s death by illness. Mitsuhide improved the castle by building great stone walls on the top. That fortified the castle and showed the authority of the new ruler to the people, which was one of the ways Nobunaga and his retainers often did that. Mitsuhide made his senior vassal, Toshimitsu Saito govern the castle. That’s why his daughter, who would later be Kasuga-no-tsubone or Lady Kasuga, the leader of the shogun’s inner palace, came from there. Mitsuhide and Toshimitsu rebelled and killed Nobunaga in the Honnoji Incident in 1582, but were soon defeated by Hideyoshi Hashiba, the next ruler. Kuroi Castle was followed by several of Hideyoshi’s retainers. However, the castle was eventually abandoned in the process of unification of Japan by Hideyoshi. Lords and warriors did not always need mountain castles to deal with the new periods.

The stone walls, built on the top of Kuroi Castle
The portrait of Lady Kasuga, owned by Rinshoin Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

To be continued in “Kuroi Castle Part2”

163.黒井城 その1






応仁の乱の様子、「真如堂縁起絵巻」より (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)












明智光秀肖像画、本徳寺蔵 (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
波多野秀治肖像画、東京大学史料編纂所蔵 (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)


春日局肖像画、麟祥院蔵 (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)


96.Obi Castle Part3

The completed castle on the Shirasu plateau


Samurai Residence street and Domain school

If you walk around the eastern part of the main portion, there is the Samurai Residence street which still has its original atmosphere with stone walls, white mud walls, hedges and traditional gates. Though many of the residential buildings inside were turned into modern facilities, restaurants or residences, some of them remain as they were, for example, a former senior vassal, Ito’s residence being used as a hotel.

The map around the castlle

The Samurai Residence street
The former residence of Ito Denzaemon, used as a hotel

There is also the restored domain school building, called Shintoku Hall, one block north from the street, which provided talented people, including Jutaro Komura who was the plenary power of the Japanese side to sign the Treaty of Portsmouth to end the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. The stone walls around it are original, so when they needed to be re-piled for repairing, all stones should be numbered and re-piled to the original positions exactly as historical items.

The restored building of the domain school
The interior of the building
The picture of Jutaro Komura (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The stone walls of the domain school, being repaired

Walking on former Castle Town

Visiting the former castle town below the castle ruins is also recommended, which is surrounded by the winding Sakatanigawa River. The town also has a similar atmosphere to the Samurai Residence street and looks more casual. For example, Ushiromahi or the Back Town street has waterways with varicolored carps swimming. Honmachi-Shonin (or the Main Town Merchant street) has old merchant houses where you can enjoy eating and shopping.

The Back Town street
varicolored carps in a waterway

Finally, if you look at the castle ruins from the western side of the town along the river, you can see the castle was built on the edge of high and vertical cliffs which originate from the Shirasu plateau. Part of the cliffs are covered with concrete to avoid them from collapsing. Modern-day people are still struggling to maintain the castle ruins on the cliff, so the Obi Domain by the Ito Clan must have made much greater efforts to do it.

The Sakatanigawa RIver
The cliffs along the river, where the castle ruins are
Part of the cliffs are covered with concrete

Later History

After the Meiji Restoration, most of the castle buildings were demolished. However, the layout of the castle and town including their street plans continued being used to the present time. Nichinan City launched the restoration project in 1974. After that, the area of castle ruins and town were designated as the first Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings in the Kyushu Region in 1977, followed by the restoration of the Main Gate in 1978 and the hall in Matsu-no-maru Enclosure in 1979. That’s why we can enjoy the well-balanced remaining and restored items in this site.

The restored Main Gate
The castle town also has great stone walls

My Impression

I think Obi Castle is the completed castle on the Shirasu plateau. Building castles on the plateau was easy thanks to its nature, while maintaining them could be very difficult. Natural hazards, such as harsh weathers and earthquakes, often caused collapsing of cliffs in these castles. Because of that, other castles of the same type like Sadowara, Shibushi, Chiran were abandoned in the peaceful Edo Period. However, the Ito Clan, the lord of the castle, didn’t have any substitute land. That’s why the clan’s Obi Domain continued to build their castle and town all through the period which we can enjoy to visit right now.

The stone walls of the former Main Enclosure
The earthen walls of the former Main Enclosure

How to get There

If you want to visit the castle ruins by car, it is about a 45 minute drive (through Miyazaki Prefectural Road 28) away from Tano IC on the Miyazaki Expressway. There is a parking lot for visitors in front of the castle ruins.
If you want to use public transportation, it takes about 15 minutes on foot to get there form JR Obi Station.
For visitors from Tokyo or Osaka: It may be a good idea to rent a car at Kagoshima or Miyazaki Airports after using a plane.

The parking lot in front of the castle ruins

That’s all. Thank you.
Back to “Obi Castle Part1”
Back to “Obi Castle Part2”