57.Sasayama Castle Part1

One of the castles which were built to surround Osaka Castle

Location and History

Tanba, Important Province for Rulers

Sasayama Castle was located in modern day Tanba-Sasayama City, in Hyogo Prefecture. Hyogo is a large prefecture which covers the western part of the Kansai Region. However, the castle was located at that time in Tanba Province which is much smaller than Hyogo Prefecture but was located in mountain areas just behind the northwest of Kyoto, the previous capital of Japan. That meant governing Tanba Province was very important to protect Kyoto and monitor if the lords in western Japan would do something effective to the central political circles.

The range of Tanba Province and the location of the castle

Castle construction is ordered by Shogunate

Ieyasu Tokugawa defeated Mitsunari Ishida supporting the Toyotomi Clan in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and established the Tokugawa Shogunate by becoming the shogun in 1603. However, the situation was still unstable because the Toyotomi Clan was still living in Osaka Castle, which was uncontrollable by the shogunate. In addition, there were many lords in western Japan, who were in favor of the Toyotomi Clan and might have been against the shogunate in the future. The response of Ieyasu to the situation was to build several strong castles around Osaka Castle to contain the Toyotomi Clan and divide the Toyotomi Clan and its favors. They are known as Nagoya, Iga-Ueno, Hikone, Zeze, Nijo in Kyoto, Kameyama and Sasayama Castles. These castles were built as the construction orders by the shogunate, which made lords including the Toyotomi Clan favors join at their own expenses. The side effects of the constructions were to reduce the lords’ money and force them to give up their rebellious split to be against the shogunate by showing the strong network of the castles.

The Portrait of Ieyasu Tokugawa, attributed to Tanyu Kano, owned by Osaka Castle Museum (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The network of the castles around Osaka Castle, which Ieyasu built

The construction of Sasayama Castle launched in 1603, which was instructed by Terumasa Ikeda who was the lord of Himeji Castle, with the help of 20 lords from 15 provinces and was designed by Takatora Todo who was considered as a master of castle constructions. The castle was built on a hill called Sasayama, in the Sasayama Basin. The main portion of the castle was on the hill, using the natural terrain and building high stone walls over the hill. Other than that, the castle had simple flat square enclosures and double water moats surrounding it. That designs made it easier to build the castle, but it would made it weaker to protect the castle instead.

The Portrait of Terumasa Ikeda, owned by Tottori prefectural art museum (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The portrait of Takatora Todo, private owned (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The main portion of Sasayama Castle, from the miniature model of the castle, exhibited by the historical museum in the Large Study Hall of Sasayama Castle
The castle was surrounded by the double water moats, from the miniature model of the castle, same as above

Castle is designed by Takatora Todo

To prevent enemies from attacking it easily, Takatora designed the castle’s entrances to be strictly protected using the Masugata system. The Masugata refers to a defensive square space which was surrounded by gates and stone walls where enemies would be locked out. Another defensive system that Takatora designed was the Umadashi. It refers to a square enclosure sticking out from the entrance connected by a narrow path among the moat. The enclosure had another moat in front of it, so its entrances were at both sides where the defenders could counterattack from them. Takatora established these structures in his own Imabari Castle which was completed in 1604.

The Umadashi and Masugata systems at the Main Gate of Sasayama Castle, from the miniature model of the castle, same as above
Imabari Castle
The Masugata system of Imabari Castle, from the signboard at the site

Main Tower is not built

On the other hand, Sasayama Castle didn’t have its Main Tower in the Main Enclosure on the top. In fact, the stone wall base for the tower was built, however, the tower was not built. This was because the shogunate determined the castle would not need it as it would be enough to protect the castle without it. Another reason was that the lords working for the construction also needed to move to the another site for Nagoya Castle. That’s why Sasayama Castle was completed after only a half year of construction. Instead, several turrets were built in the Main Enclosure and the Main Hall for the lord was built in the Second Enclosure, which constituted the main portion of the castle.

The stone wall base for the Main Tower of Sasayama Castle
The Main Enclosure of Sasayama Castle, where its Main Tower was not built, from the miniature model of the castle, same as above
The Large Study Hall, the restored building of the Main Hall in the Second Enclosure of Sasayama Castle

The castle was first owned by Yasushige Matsudaira, a relative of Ieyasu Tokugawa. After the shogunate defeated the Toyotomi Clan in 1615, several hereditary feudal lords followed the castle to monitor non-hereditary feudal lords in western Japan as the Sasayama Domain, such as the Aoyama Clan which governed the area until the end of the Edo Period.

The portrait of Yasushige Matsudaira (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
A general view of Sasayama Castle, from the signboard at the site

To be continued in “Sasayama Castle Part2”

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!

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