38.Iwamura Castle Part1

A great mountain castle with a sad episode

Location and History

One of Three Great Mountain Castles

Iwamura Castle was a large mountain castle which was located in the eastern part of Mino Province (now Gifu Prefecture). The castle has been considered as one of the Three Great Mountain Castles followed by Bicchu-Matsuyama and Takatori Castles. Basically, mountain castles were built during the Sengoku Period when many battles happened. However, during the peaceful Edo Period, most castles were moved or rebuilt on plain land for the governor. The Three Great Mountain Castles were rare examples which remained until the end of the Edo Period. In particular, Iwamura Castle had the highest altitude of 717 meters high among the active castles during that time.

The location of the castle

The relief map around the castle

Bicchu-Matsuyama Castle
The ruins of Takatori Castle

Female Lord, Otsuya and her Tragedy

It was said that the Toyama Clan first built the castle in the 13th Century, but it is quite uncertain. Records show the clan used the castle as their home base in the first 16th Century during the Sengoku Period. The Toyama Clan was one of the local warlord families residing in the area, which became the head of the local lord group called the Iwamura Group. However, the clan was affected by other larger warlords such as the Takeda and Oda Clans. For example, the clan often worked for the Takeda Clan. They often married their wife who belonged to the Oda Clan. This was to ensure balance between the two clans. In 1571, when a lord of the castle died, Nobunaga Oda sent one of his sons as the next lord of the Toyama Clan. The ex-lord’s wife named Otsuya, who came from Oda and Nobunaga’s aunt, actually governed the castle because the new lord was still very young. She has been known as one of the few female lords in Japan.

The family crest of the Iwamura Clan, called Maru-ni-Futatsubiki or Two horizonal lines inside a Circle
The portrait of Nobunaga Oda, attributed to Soshu Kano, owned by Chokoji Temple, in the late 16th century (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The situation became very serious for Otsuya when Shingen Takeda decided to fight against Nobunaga. This was because her territory was the buffer zone between Shingen and Nobunaga, which both clans wanted to own. Shingen sent his retainer, Torashige Akiyama with troops to capture Iwamura Castle in 1572. The castle was surrounded by the troops, but it survived for a while because it had very good defensive structures. Torashige negotiated an arranged marriage with Otsuya in order to be a part of the Takeda Clan. Otsuya accepted it.

The portrait of Shingen Takeda, owned by Jimyo-in Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The portrait of Torashige Akiyama, attributed to Fuko Matsumoto, owned by Erinji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

However, Nobunaga was very angry to hear about this. Nobunaga decided to send his troops to Iwamura Castle in 1575 after Shingen had died and the power of the Takeda Clan began to decline especially by the defeat in the battle of Nagashino Castle. The castle was besieged again but survived for 5 months because of its own strength. The attackers negotiated that the defenders could be saved if they surrendered. Torashige and Otsuya accepted this, however, the promise was a lie, so they were executed, which became a big tragedy during the Sengoku Period.

The ruins of Nagashino Castle
The illustration of Iwamura Castle, one of the Shoho Castle Illustrations, exhibited by the National Archives of Japan

Matsudaira Clan modernizes Castle

After that, several different lords governed the castle. In 1601 after the Tokugawa Shogunate was established, Ienori Matsudaira became the lord of the castle and the founder of the Iwamura Domain. Before his entry, the castle was probably a large and simple mountain castle with its buildings like the Main Hall at a high place. However, Ienori moved the Main Hall to the foot of the mountain to make it more convenient for him. He also modernized the mountain part by building stone walls which surrounded the enclosures. For example, the Main Enclosure on the top had two two-level turrets on the stone walls and two gates, but was empty inside during the late Edo Period. It might have been designed for emergencies like battles. In addition, Ienori also developed the castle town, which still has a good atmosphere to visit now.

The restored gate and turret of the Main Hall at the foot (taken by HiC from photoAC)
Stone walls of Iwamura Castle
The Main Enclosure part of the illustration above
The former castle town of Iwamura (taken by rupann7777777 from photoAC)

To be continued in “Iwamura Castle Part2”

68.備中松山城~Bicchu-Matsuyama Castle

The strong castle still remains on the mountain.

立地と歴史~Location and History

山の上に広がった城~Castle spread over Mountain

Bicchu-Matsuyama (what is now Takahashi City) was located in the center of Bicchu Province (the western part of now Okayama Prefecture). Many lords considered this area important and battled each other over it since the first Middle Ages.

城の位置と備中国の範囲~The location of the castle and the range of Bicchu Province

Bicchu-Matsuyama Castle was first built on a mountain called Gagyu-san which has four peaks on it. The first castle was on the back peak called Omatsuyama, then it was spread to the other peaks. What we generally call Bicchu-Matsuyama Castle is on the second peak from the front called Komatsuyama.

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

めまぐるしく変わる城主~Lords were changed several times

In the “Sengoku” or Warring States Period, the Mimura Clan mainly held the castle. Iechika Mimura under the Mori clan took away the castle from the Amago clan in 1561. Since then, several battles happened over the castle. Iechika’s son, Motochika formed an alliance with Nobunaga Oda against Mori, but was lastly beaten by Mori in 1575. The Komatsuyama peak became the center of the castle until then.

三村氏の家紋「剣片喰」~The family crest of the Mimura Clan(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

After that, the castle was an important site for Mori, but it was taken by the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1600 due to Mori’s loss in the battle of Sekigahara. The castle seemed to be once in ruin. In the Edo Period, several lords such as the Kobori and the Mizunoya clans governed the castle and castle town. They repaired, improved, and completed the castle again.

城主の一人、水谷勝隆肖像画、高梁市歴史美術館蔵~The Portrait of Katsutaka Mizunoya, one of the lords, ownd by Takahashi City History Museum(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

山裾に御殿~Hall on Foot of the Mountain

They usually lived in the main hall called Onegoya on the foot of the mountain, because it was convenient for governance. In the late Edo Period, people started to refer to the hall on the foot as “the Castle” than the castle on the mountain as “the Mountain Castle”.

備中国松山城絵図部分、江戸時代~Part of the illustration of Bicchu-matsuyama Castle in Bicchu Province, in the Edo Period(出典:国立公文書館)


城への道のり~Route to the Castle

城周辺の地図~The map around the castle

( I will introduce only the main part of Bicchu-Matsuyama Castle on Komatsuyama peak, because I have only been there.) If you drive to Bicchu-Matsuyama Castle, you have to park at the parking lot half-way up the mountain. Then, you will transfer to the shuttle bus or walk. The shuttle bus goes to Fuigo Pass near the front peak called Maeyama. Everyone has to climb up from the pass to the castle. it takes about 30 minutes on foot going through the ruins of Nakadaiko Turret.

中太鼓櫓跡~The ruins of Nakadaiko Turret
城に至る山道~The trail to the castle

素晴らしい石垣~Wonderful stone walls

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

You may be surprised to see the combination of stone walls and natural stones. It’s the ruins of the Main or Ote-mon Gate which is the entrance of the Third Enclosure or “Sannomaru”. From the Sannomaru, you will also see the route to the Second Enclosure or “Ninomaru” zigzagged and surrounded by stone walls. It also looks great. In the Ninomaru, you can finally see the Main Enclosure or “Honmaru”.

大手門跡~The ruins of the Main or Ote-mon Gate
二の丸に続く通路~The route to the Second Enclosure
二の丸から見た本丸~The Main Enclosure from the Second Enclosure

本丸と天守~Main Enclosure and Main Tower

Honmaru has the Main Tower or “Tenshu” and three turrets. The Tenshu is one of the 12 remaining ones in Japan and the only one on mountain castles. It is two stories and 11m high which is the smallest one among the 12 Tenshu. However, it matches the rocky top of the mountain and looks heavy.

本丸~The Main Enclosure
天守~The Main Tower

The turrets are also a two story one and two single story ones. They have a good valance. You can enter Tenshu. The inside of it is simple and practical. There is a fireplace and a dressing room for the lord at the first floor. The second floor has a Shinto altar. It is said that they were prepared for the lord’s last battle. Of course, the views from the top are very good!

天守の正面~The front of the Main Tower
天守1階~The first floor
天守2階~The second floor
本丸奥にある二階櫓~The two story turret at the back of the Main Enclosure
本丸からの眺め~A view from the Main Enclosure

その後~Later History

After the Meiji Restoration, Bicchu-Matsuyama Castle was abandoned and the buildings in Onegoya were demolished, but the buildings on the mountain were left as it would be. As a result, they were in ruin again. In the first Showa Era, a teacher, Tomonaru Shinano investigated the castle and reported to the public. Because of it, Takahashi Town started to preserve the castle. It was lastly designated as an Important Cultural Property in 1956.

三の丸の土塀も重要文化財です~The Important Cultural Property also includes this earthen walls at the Third Enclosure

私の感想~My Impression

It is surprising to know that many people have made great efforts to keep such a great castle on the mountain. I hope I can visit the whole castle area (from the foot to all the peaks of the mountain) someday.

大松山城跡~The castle ruins of Omatsuyama peak(taken by あけび from photoAC)

ここに行くには~How to get There

To the parking lot near the shuttle bus terminal:
If you want to go there by car, it takes about 30 minutes from the Kayo IC on Sanyo Expressway.
If you want to go there by bus, it takes about 10 minutes from Bicchu-Takahashi Station.
From Tokyo, Nagoya, or Osaka to Bicchu-Takahashi Station: Take the Shinkansen super express and transfer to Hakubi local line at Okayama Station.

リンク、参考情報~Links and References

備中松山城、高梁市公式ホームページ(Takahashi City Website)
・「歴史街道スペシャル、名城を歩く22、備中松山城」PHP研究所(Japanese Book)
・「よみがえる日本の城5」学研(Japanese Book)