70.岡山城~Okayama Castle

The city has developed with the castle.

立地と歴史~Location and History

岡山市の起源~The origin of Okayama City

Okayama City is the capital of Okayama prefecture, Chugoku Region. The city has been developing based around Okayama Castle. The castle is now known for as a tourist spot alongside Asahigawa River with Korakuen, one of the most famous gardens in Japan. Actually, a lot of the city area comes from the part of the castle.

城の位置~The location of the castle

旭川沿いの岡山城(右)と後楽園(左)~Okayama Castle (on the right) and Korakuen Garden (on the left) alongside Asahigawa River

In the “Sengoku” or Warring States Period, the Ukita clan first built a castle on one of the hills called Ishiyama on the delta of Asahigawa River. Hideie Ukita expanded the castle into another hill in the east of Ishiyama. The hill was called Okayama, the origin of Okayama Castle and the name of the city.

現在の石山の地点~The present spot of “Ishiyama”
石山から見た城の中心部~The center of the castle from Ishiyama

古い形式の天守~Old type Main Tower

Hideie who was trusted by the ruler, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, became one of the five chief ministers, and was allowed to build a large Main Tower or “Tenshu”. The Tenshu remained until World War II. It was a five story building in an old style called “boro-gata” or look-out tower style. It had a small look-out tower on a large scale turret with hip-and-gable roofs. Its base stone walls and the first story above were constructed along the shape of the hill. They are said to remain the very first Tenshu style compared with that of Azuchi Castle, the first typical Tenshu in Japan.

宇喜多秀家肖像画、岡山城蔵~The Portrait of Hideie Ukita, owned by Okayama Castle (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
第二次世界大戦前の岡山城の古写真~An old photo of Okayama Castle before World War II(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

岡山城の完成~Completion of Okayama Castle

The lords of the castle were changed after Hideie was defeated in the battle of Sekigahara in 1600. The Kobayakawa clan, then the Ikeda clan continued to improv the castle and the castle town in the Edo Period. Asahigawa River flows along the delta of the castle from the north to the southeast being a natural hazard. As a result the castle was expanded into the west direction. They made water moats quintupled towards the direction.

備前国岡山城絵図部分、江戸時代~Part of the illustration of Okayama Castle in Bizen Province, in the Edo Period(出典:国立公文書館)

They also built many turrets and gates to protect the castle. In 1700, Korakuen garden was made in the opposite of the castle across the river. It shows it had already been in peace at that time.

後楽園の風景~A view of Korakuen Garden(taken by grandstream from photoAC)


街中の遺跡~Ruins in City Area

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

Now, the center of Okayama Castle, Honmaru enclosure has been developed as Ujo Park (Ujo means Crow Castle). The name comes from the Tenshu being painted black. The park is about 2 km from Okayama Station. The castle once spread to half of the way in the past, so there are some ruins of the castle outside the park. For example, Nishite Turret on the former Nishinomaru enclosure remains in the city area. It is designated as an Important Cultural
Property, but it looks lonely among modern buildings.

西手櫓 ~Nishite Turret

The ruins of Ishiyama enclosure is near the park. It was the first center of the castle, and is now used as a parking lot. The stone walls covering the enclosure seem to be built in the Edo Period.

石山曲輪~Ishiyama enclosure

本丸の遺跡~Ruins in Honmaru

本丸周辺の航空写真~The aerial photo of around Honmaru

The park, the former Honmaru, has two entrances. One of them is the route crossing Meyasu-bashi Bridge over the inner moat. It was the Main Route or “Ote-Michi” to Honmaru. The other is going through Roka-mon Gate beside the river, the back gate of Honmaru. You can have a good view of the castle with the river.

目安橋~Meyasu-bashi Bridge
廊下門~Roka-mon Gate

Honmaru has three levels of the ground. The lower level called Genodan is the area around the gates. The middle level called Omotemuki is where the hall for official residence and governance was. Tsukimi Turret remains there as an Important Cultural Property. It can also be seen with excellent stone walls from outside Honnmaru. The upper level called Hondan is the oldest part. Akazuno-mon Gate is its entrance. It had the original Tenshu and the main hall for a lord.

下の段~The lower level
表向~The middle level
月見櫓(内側)~Tsukimi Turret(inside)
月見櫓(外側)~Tsukimi Turret(outside)
不明門~Akazuno-mon Gate
本段~The upper level

The present Tenshu has been apparently restored and used as a museum. The stone walls surrounding Hondan were originally built by Hideie. They look very old.

外観復元された天守~The apparently restored Tenshu
本段を囲む石垣~The stone walls surrounding the upper level

その後~Later History

After the Meiji Restoration, Okayama Castle was abandoned and almost all of its buildings were demolished. The Honmaru area was used as the ground for a school. The other areas of the castle were turned into the city area with their water moats being filled. The original Tenshu remained as a National Treasure. However, it was unfortunately burned down by the Okayama Air Raid in 1945. After World War II, the Honmaru area was been developed as Ujo Park. Tenshu was apparently restored in 1966. The two gates, Roka-mon and Akazuno-mon , were also restored apparently at the same time.

岡山城の鯱~A golden grampus of Okayama Castle

私の感想~My Impression

Okayama Castle which is now named Ujo Park is a good place to visit. You can have great views and experience together with Korakuen Garden. I wish I could see and enter the original Tenshu. I also hope that officials will let people know the castle is the origin of Okayama City. For example, the remaining Nishite Turret among the city area should be known more to people.

西手櫓 ~Nishite Turret

ここに行くには~How to get There

If you want to go there by car: It takes about 20 minutes from the Okayama IC on the Sanyo Expressway. The park offers a parking lot.
From Okayama Station: Take the tram from the Okayama-ekimae stop in front of the east exit of the station, and get off at the Joka stop. Or It takes about 20 to 30 minutes on foot from the station.

リンク、参考情報~Links and References

岡山城-川面に映える漆黒の城Okayama Castle
岡山城-川面に映える金烏城(Okayama City Museum)
・「よみがえる日本の城5」学研(Japanese Book)