40.Yamanaka Castle Part1

The castle for the western defense of the Hojo Clan

Location and History

Western Defense for Hojo Clan

Yamanaka Castle was located on the west of Hakone Barrier, the western gateway of Kanto Region, now in the eastern part of Shizuoka Prefecture. The castle was first built in the middle 16th Century during the Sengoku Period by the Hojo Clan, who owned Kanto Region. The clan aimed to protect their home base, Odawara Castle on the eastern side of Hakone Barrier, by building Yamanaka Castle. This castle was also improved before the ruler, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, attacked the Hojo Clan in 1590.

The location of the castle

Yamanaka Castle was built surrounding the Tokaido Road, one of the major roads in Japan. During that time, if someone walked up the slope on the road from the west, it would require passing through the castle. The road was actually on the Third Enclosures of the castle, and beside the Main Enclosure. The Third Enclosure also had water moats on the west to prevent enemies’ attacks and was for the water reservoir.
On the south of the Third Enclosure, a long defense strongpoint called “Taizaki-demaru” spread with the road parallelly. On the west of the Third Enclosure, the Second Enclosure, the West Enclosure, and the West Turret were added towards that direction. These enclosures were able to work closely to prevent attacks from enemy forces.

The location map of the ruins of Yamanaka Castle (from the signboard at the site)

Hojo’s Unique Methods for building Castle

The techniques used in the castle were unique to the Hojo Clan. All the enclosures were made of earthworks, using natural terrain such as ridges and valleys. They were mainly connected by wooden bridges which could fall down when a battle happened. They were also divided by deep dry moats whose bottoms were left parallel or as latticed ridges. The method for building the moats is called “Une-bori” for the parallel ridges and “Shoji-bori” for the latticed ridges. These dry moat building methods are considered features of the Hojo’s castles. Once soldiers fell into the moat, they couldn’t move from there at all. The area of the castle reached about 200,000 square meters. Hojo thought the castle could make Hideyoshi stuck for a while.

“Une-bori” for the parallel ridges
“Shoji-bori” for the latticed ridges

Fall in Battle of Yamanaka Castle

However, the castle was captured by Hideyoshi in just half a day. In the early morning, March 29, 1590, nearly 70,000 soldiers of Hideyoshi’s troop started to attack the castle, while the number of the defenders was only about 4,000. The attackers first charged both the West Turret and the Taizaki-Demaru defense strongpoint, but they suffered a significant number of casualties by the counterattack of Hojo’s guns. If it was a local battle, the attacker might have paused the charge to prevent more damages. However, the commanders forcibly continued to charge, otherwise, they might have been fired by the ruler. That resulted in the success of capturing the castle for Hideyoshi in exchange for a lot of dead soldiers including one of the Hideyoshi’s commander, Naosue Hitotsuyanagi.

The Portrait of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, attributed to Mitsunobu Kano, ownd by Kodaiji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This battle lasted for a few hours. It is said that another reason for the short battle was that Hojo’s soldiers were confused because their head, Ujikatsu Hojo, escaped from the castle. Others point out that the Taizaki-Demaru defense strongpoint was unfinished in construction before Hideyoshi’s attack. Anyway, even such a strong castle couldn’t survive without enough soldiers and the right instructions.

The signpost of the castle ruins

To be continued in “Yamanaka Castle Part2”

106.脇本城~Wakimoto Castle

The castle when the Ando clan was its peak

立地と歴史~Location and History

舟運で繁栄した出羽国~Dewa Province Prospering by Ships

Before the Modern times, mass transportation was done by ships, but sailing on ocean could be dangerous because ships were not developed enough. In the case of Japan, in the Middle Ages, merchant ships sailed mainly on islands seas, such as the Seto Island Sea and the Japan Sea, not on the Pacific Ocean. For this reason, areas with a large port along the island seas prospered at that time.
Dewa Province (combining what is now Akita and Yamagata Prefectures) was one such areas.

1860年代の日本古来の弁財船~Traditional Japanese junks in 1860s (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

秋田で力をつけた安東氏~Ando Clan has power at Akita

The Ando Clans had a great power to manage the marine transportation based in the north Dewa (roughly now Akita Prefecture). In the “Sengoku” Period- a period when local clans around Japan were fighting for control over all of the country- the Ando Clans was divided into two groups namely the Hiyama-Ando Clan and the Minato-Ando Clan. The Hiyama-Ando Clan lived in Hiyama Castle which was located on the northern part of Akita, while the Minato-Ando Clan lived in Minato Castle located on the southern part of Akita.

城の位置~The location of the castle

Chikasue Ando was at first the lord of the Hiyama-Ando, but was able to take over the Minato-Ando as it didn’t have its own successor. As a result, he ruled over the entire Akita and became known as one of the greatest warlords.

安東愛季の肖像画、東北大学附属図書館蔵~The portrait of Chikasue Ando, owned by Tohoku University Library (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

安東愛季が脇本城を拡張~Chikasue Ando develops Wakimoto Castle

Chikasue moved his home base to a castle located between Hiyama and Minato Castles in 1577. The castle that he chose was the Wakimoto Castle. The castle is said to be first built in the 15th century, then Chikasue developed the castle as one of the largest mountain castles in eastern Japan (about 150 hectare). The castle was located on a 100m high hill in the connecting part of Oga Peninsula, near an important trading port called Tsuchizaki-minato. This location proved to be very strategic as a main road called “Tenga-michi” ran between the two sides of the castle giving the Lord full control over transportation.

遺跡の全体図、現地案内板より~The whole map of the ruins, from the signboard at the site

Chikasue was at the peak of his career as an administrator expanding his territory and building relationship with other great warlords such as Nobunaga Oda by sending letters and gifts. However, during a battle in 1587 he suddenly fell ill and died. His son, Sanesue lived in Minato Castle and was lastly transferred to Kanto Region by the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1602. Wakimoto Castle seemed to be abandoned since then.

安東実季木造、羽賀寺蔵~The wooden statue of Sanesue Ando, owned by Haga-ji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)


城跡へ登っていく~Walking up to Castle Ruins

Now, the ruins of Wakimoto Castle are still very large, and they are divided into five areas. However, not all the 5 areas have been developed equally. So, when I visited, I covered the one that was most developed which is “Uchidate”. This was the main portion of the castle, and now is further developed for tourists to visit easily.

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

The entrance of the ruins is alongside National Route 101. You can park at a parking lot if you are driving. Then, you need to walk up the road to the ruins which was part of the old road, “Tenga-michi”. When you go farther passing through the guide house of the ruins, you will see the top of the hill.

城跡の入口~The entrance of the castle ruins
残っている「天下道」~The remaining “Tenga-michi” road
案内所を越えて頂上へ~Passing the guide house to the top

生鼻崎周辺~Around Oihana-saki Cape

Basically, the foundations of the castles, in eastern Japan during the Sengoku Period, were made out of soil. The ruins have no buildings, instead they have earthen walls, dry moats, entrances, etc. When you climb on top of the hill, you will see a lot of enclosures on a cape called “Oibana-saki”, sticking out to the sea on the left on the west direction. You can see that these enclosures are in lines towards the top of the cape. In fact, there were many more enclosures with the cape spread to the sea in the past, but they collapsed when an earthquake happened in the Edo Period. Historians speculate that they were used for the Ando clan’s retainers’ houses. At the top of the cape, you can also have a wild view of the Japan Sea.

内館地区の地図、現地案内板に注記~The map of Uchidate Area, from the signboard at the site, adding notes
岬に伸びる曲輪~The enclosures spreading to the cape
生鼻崎周辺の想像図、現地案内板より~The imaginary drawing around Oibana-saki Cape, from the signboard at the site
日本海の眺め~A view of the Japan Sea

城の中心部分~Center of Castle

There are two larger enclosures surrounded by dry moats on the opposite side of the route on the east direction. They are supposed to be the center of the castle. Historians also speculate that two buildings on the northern side were used for other purposes. For example one of them was used as the building for the public ceremonies called “Shuden’ and the other for hosting the guests called “Kaisho”.

城の中心部分~The center of the castle
空堀~The dry moat
北側の曲輪~The north enclosure
中心部の想像図、現地案内板より~The imaginary drawing around the center, from the signboard at the site

The other southern enclosure is surrounded by high thick earthen walls, and it is also very large one. This is thought to be used as the house of the lord. I wonder if Chikasue lived in it. From the enclosure, you can also have a great view of the coast line and the town which was once the castle town.

土塁に囲まれた南側の曲輪~The south enclosure surrounded by the earthen walls
海岸線の景色~A view of the coast line

その後~Later History

In 1804 of the Edo Period, a famous traveler, Masumi Sugae visited the ruins of Wakimoto Castle. He recorded the ruins on his diary and left his sketches of them. Investigations have been done since 1993 and it was found out that the castle had a huge scale. Because of it, the ruins were designated as a National Historic Site in 2004.

菅江真澄の脇本城のスケッチ、現地案内板より~One of Sugae’s sketches for Wakimoto Castle, from the signboard at the site

私の感想~My Impression

When I visited the ruins of Wakimoto Castle, the weather was very bad. In addition, I saw only one area called “Uchidate”, but I was able to witness the large scale of the ruins. If you have enough time to visit the ruins in a fine day, you can enjoy them more! I think the study for the castle have just started compared with other famous castles. I will be looking forward to seeing the new discovery from the castle.

岬側からの城跡の風景~A view of the castle ruins from the cape

ここに行くには~How to get There

If you want to go there by car: It takes about 30 minutes from the Showa-Oga IC on Akita Expressway. There is a parking lot at the entrance of the ruins.
By train, It takes about 30 minutes from Wakimoto Station on JR Oga line to the ruins on foot.
From Tokyo to Wakimoto Station: Take the Shinkansen super express and transfer to Oga line at Akita Station.

リンク、参考情報~Links and References

脇本城跡、男鹿市観光協会(Oga city tourism association)
・「日本の城改訂版第150号」デアゴスティーニジャパン(Japanese Book)
・「土崎港(秋田港)の「みなと文化」/渡辺英夫」(Japanese Paper)

9.久保田城~Kubota Castle

The castle made of earth by the Satake Clan

立地と歴史~Location and History

佐竹氏が新しく作った城~New Castle Satake Clan built

The Satake Clan had been based in Hitachi Province (what is now Ibaraki Prefecture) since around the end of the Ancient times. In the late 16th century, they lived in Mito Castle and their territory was worth as much as an earning of 548 thousand Koku in rice (the 8th largest lord in Japan at that time). However, they were transferred to Akita in Tohoku Region by the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1602, as they didn`t firmly support the Shogunate when Battle of Sekigahara happened in 1600. The size of their territory was reduced (to 200 thousand Koku in rice), but they decided to build their new castle in the new land. This was Kubota Castle.

城の位置~The location of the castle

お家芸だった土の城~Building Castles of earth was their Specialty

Kubota Castle was built on a 40m high mountain called Shinmei-yama alongside Asahigawa River. The castle was almost all made of earthworks with no Main Tower. It has been said that the reason for it is that Satake had no ability and techniques for building stone walls and a Main Tower, or they feared the Shogunate`s authority. In the same period as Satake moved to Akita, it was usual for other lords to build a castle with stone walls and a Main Tower. However, building a castle of earthworks was the specialty of the Satake Clan. There is evidence also with Mito Castle, Satake Clan improved this technique, and it was used by the Tokugawa Clan following Satake as a castle of earthworks till the end. That meant Satake could build a strong castle using only earthworks.

土造りの水戸城~Mito Castle made of earthworks

自然地形を生かした巧みな配置~Clever Arrangement using Natural Terrain

The center of the castle had two tiers, surrounded by the inner moat. The upper tier was called “Honmaru” or the Main Enclosure, and the lower tier was called “Ninomaru” or the Second Enclosure. Around the center, there was “Sannnomaru” or the Third Enclosure, surrounded by the outer moat. In addition, “Nishikuruwa” or the Western Enclosure and “Kitanomaru” or the Northern Enclosure were placed outside the Third Enclosure inside the river. The Main Enclosure had the Main Hall where the lord lived, and four turrets instead of the Main Tower. It also had five gates, but anyone from the outside the castle had to go through the Second Enclosure to reach it. Satake complete the castle with clever arrangement and using natural terrain after over 20 year construction.

出羽国秋田郡久保田城画図部分、江戸時代~Part of the illustration of Kubota Castle in Akita District, Dewa Province, the Edo Period(出典:国立公文書館)

Satake governed their Kubota Domain all through the Edo Period, but their governance was not stable. Akita was a very windy area, so the people of the Domain suffered several famines from dry winds, flood and water damage. It often caused riots, as a result, the Domain lacked resources. Kubota Castle also suffered fires, but was repaired and restored each time.

最後の藩主、佐竹義堯の銅像、千秋公園~The statue of Yoshitaka Satake, the last lord of Kubota Domain


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

城跡の千秋公園へ~To Senshu Park as Castle Ruins

Now, the ruins of Kubota Castle has become Senshu Park. Visitors usually go across the remaining Outer Moat through Nakadobashi Bridge on the south to the Third and Second Enclosures. In the past, Kuro-mon Gate on the east was the front entrance of the castle. The Second Enclosure has a large space where buildings such as offices and warehouses were built. Satake Historical Museum exhibits the histories of Kubota Domain and the Satake Clan.

外堀~The Outer Moat
城に向かう道~The road to the castle
黒門跡~The ruins of Kuro-mon Gate
二の丸~The Second Enclosure

本丸への長い坂~Long Slope to Main Enclosure

You can walk up to the Main Enclosure through a long and curved stairways called “Nagasaka” or the Long Slope. Stone walls have been partly used, as this spot was very important. A gate called “Nagasaka-mon” stood at the curved part. At the end of the stairways, Omote-mon Gate, the front gate of the Main Enclosure has been restored. There is the guardhouse called “Omono-gashira Gobansho” which is the only remaining building in the castle beside the gate.

長坂~The Long Slope
長坂門跡~The ruins of Nagasaka-mon Gate
復元された表門~The restored Omote-mon Gate
現存している御物頭御番所~The remaining guardhouse

土造りの本丸~Main Enclosure made with Earthworks

The center of the Main Enclosure has a shrine and the statue of the lord of the castle. It may not look like a castle, however if you walk around the Enclosure, you can find the foundation of the castle is made of only earth, but strongly. One of the turrets, Osumi-yagura Turret has been rebuilt at the northwest corner of the Enclosure. It is built much higher than the original one for viewing. The Enclosure has several entrances such as the Back Gate, so you can also walk up and down enjoying how the castle uses natural terrain cleverly.

本丸~The Main Enclosure
再建された御隅櫓~The rebuilt Osumi-Yagura Turret
裏門跡~The ruins of the Back Gate
本丸の土塁~The earthen walls of the Main Enclosure

その後~Later History

After the Meiji Restoration, Kubota Castle became the Akita prefectural office in 1872. That meant the castle also was the origin of Akita Prefecture and Akita City. However, most of the castle buildings were burned down in 1880. In 1890, the former lord, Satake Clan bought the castle ruins and lent the land to Akita City as a park named Senshu Park. Former warriors of the Kubota Domain donated cherry plants for the park in 1892, so that’s why the park has also become famous for its cherry blossoms.

御隅櫓と桜~Osumi-Yagura Turret with cherry blossoms(licensed by アラツク via Wikimedia Commons)

私の感想~My Impression

You may find the ruins of Kubota Castle just like a park, because they were once developed as a modern park. You can also find the ruins was really a castle made of earth if you look at the foundation of the ruins carefully. It may be a good idea to compare this castle with Mito Castle that the Satake Clan built as well. Akita Prefecture is now developing lots of wind farms using the windy climate that they suffered from in the past. On the other hand, the governor of Akita Prefecture right now (Mar2021) is a descendant of the Satake Clan. I think Akita is trying to take good care of both tradition and innovation.

本丸に登る小径~The trail to the Main Enclosure
秋田県の風力発電所~A wind farm in Akita Prefecture(licensed by 8-Forest via Wikimedia Commons)

ここに行くには~How to get There

It takes about 10 minutes from the west entrance of JR Akita station to the castle ruins on foot.
From Tokyo to Akita st.: Take the Akita Shinkansen super express.
If you want to go there by car: It takes about 20 minutes from the Akita-Chuo IC on Akita Expressway. Senshu Park offers a parking lot

リンク、参考情報~Links and References

久保田城、秋田市公式サイト(Akita City Official Website)
・「よみがえる日本の城9」学研(Japanese Book)
・「日本の城改訂版第60号」デアゴスティーニジャパン(Japanese Book)