153.Kitabatake Clan Hall Part1

The lord of the Kitabatake Clan reigned at the clan’s hall, called the Taki Palace. The hall had a great Japanese garden which still remains. The group eventually became a great warlord clan in the early 16th Century.

Location and History

Southern Court Noble family becomes Warlord

Kitabatake Clan Hall was the home base of the Kitabatake Clan which governed Ise Province which is the modern day Mie Prefecture between the 14th and the 16th Centuries. The clan was a unique lord’s family who was originally a noble but finally became a warlord until they were taken over by Nobunaga Oda. Kitabatake Clan Hall was also uniquely located in the Taki area which was inconvenient but defensive so that clan was able to survive for a long time.

The range of Ise Province and the location of the castle

In the Period of Northern and Southern Courts during the 14th Century, Emperor Godaigo of the Southern Court sent his trusted vassal, Chikafusa Kitabatake to eastern Japan to govern the region. Chikafusa and his son, Akiie fought against the lords of the Northern Court, as a general. As a result, their relatives in the Tohoku Region remained as a noble birth lord family, called Namioka Palace, which lived in Namioka Castle until the late 16th Century. Similarly, Akiie’s little brother, Akiyoshi was sent to Ise Province and he was assigned as its Governor in 1338. Ise Province consisted of the eastern part facing the sea and having Ise Grand Shrine, one of the most important shrines for the Imperial family, and the western part of mountain areas having the routes to Yoshino in Yamato Province (now Nara Pref.), the home of the Southern Court.

The portrait of Emperor Godaigo, owned by Shojokoji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The statue of Akiie Kitabatake in Kitabatake Shrine
The ruins of Namioka Castle

The Kitabatake Clan in Ise Province also battled the Northern Court and eventually chose their home at a place in the defensive western part, which would be the Taki area. The area was on the way to the Ise Main Road connecting Ise Grand Shrine and Yamato Province, which was considered important. However, it was a small basin along the Yatemata River, surrounded by mountains. There were 7 entrances to the area, which were all on steep mountain passes or deep valleys. That meant the area itself was very defensive.

The relief map of the Taki area with its 7 entrances

The sitting statue of Akiyoshi Kitabatake, exhibited by Misugi Home Museum  (licensed via Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, the Southern Court eventually declined and the Ashikaga Shogunate supporting the Northern Court was established. The Kitabatake Clan somehow managed to survive, however, they sometimes opposed the shogunate about how to treat the descendants of the Southern Court. The clan first built their hall in a land surrounded by the Yatemata and the other two rivers in three directions and mountains in the west. The land was leveled to three tiers, the upper one was about 3m above the middle one and surrounded by long stone walls, so it seemed that the Main Hall was built on the upper tier. These stone walls are thought as one of the earliest ones built for warriors’ halls or residences. They were piled vertically using natural oval-shaped river stones, unlike typical stone walls for castles later, piled with a slant, using processed stones.

The excavated stone walls of the upper tier

Castles are built to protest Hall

The shogunate troops sometimes attacked the territory of the Kitabatake Clan from the west. As a result, the clan started to build new castles in that direction to protect their hall. They first built the final castle for emergencies on a mountain about 80m above the hall. It had a simple main enclosure on the top and belt enclosures around with passes. The western edge of the mountain was cut by a deep ditch where only the narrow earthen bridge could be used.

The relief map around the castle

The layout of the final castle, from the signboard at the site, adding the red English letter
The ruins of the final castle

The clan also built a larger castle over the pass towards the west, called Kiriyama Castle. The castle was located on another mountain about 160m above the final castle, which was much harder to access for enemies as well as defenders. Therefore, the castle seemed to be used as a lookout usually and for being besieged in cases of emergency. As a result, the clan was able to prevent the enemies from invading the Kitabatake’s territory.

The ruins of Kiriyama Castle

Prosperity and Destruction of Kitabatake Clan

After that, the clan and the shogunate made peace with each other, which made the government of the clan in Ise Province stable. Their several branch clans, such as the Kozukuri Clan, were sent to various places of the province and the lord of the Kitabatake Clan reigned at the clan’s hall, called the Taki Palace. The hall was also expanded to have a great Japanese garden which still remains. The group eventually became a great warlord clan in the early 16th Century and its influence reached the peak in the middle of the century when the 7th lord, Tomonori Kitabatake was the lord.

The remaining Kitabatake Clan Hall Ruins Garden
The portrait of Tomonori Kitabatake, owned by Iseyoshida Library (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

However, a new threat came from Owari Province, north of Ise. Nobunaga Oda, who would later be the ruler of Japan, started to invade Ise Province in 1568. Moreover, the relative Kozukuri Clan turned supporting Nobunaga. Tomonori had to move to his home from the hall to Okochi Castle near the battle fields. The Kitabatake and Oda Clans made peace in 1569 under the terms of Nobunaga’s son, Nobukatsu being adopted as the Kitabatake Clan’s successor. This was actually the starting point of taking the Kitabatake Clan over by the Oda Clan. Tomonori was finally killed by Nobukatsu in 1576. The castles in Ise Province, including Kitabatake Clan Hall, were captured by the Oda’s troops at the same time.

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 portrait of Nobukatsu Oda, owned by Sokenji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

To be continued in “Kitabatake Clan Hall Part2”

55.千早城~Chihaya Castle

The origin of typical Japanese mountain castles

立地と歴史~Location and History

楠木正成の活躍~Activities of Masashige Kusunoki

Masashige Kusunoki was a great general based in Kawachi Province (what is now the eastern part of Osaka Prefecture) in the 14th century. He first worked under the Kamakura Shogunate, a government body for warriors in the middle ages, but when Emperor Godaigo was against the Shogunate in 1331, he supported the Emperor fighting with the Shogunate in Akasaka Castle. However, the castle was built in a hurry and wasn’t very strong enough to protect against enemies, so Masashige had to run away and disappear. The Emperor was caught by the Shogunate and brought to Okinoshima Island in Japan Sea.

楠木正成肖像画、狩野山楽筆、楠枇庵観音寺蔵~The portrait of Masashige Kusunoki, attributed to Sanraku Kano, owned by Nanpian Kannonji Temple(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
後醍醐天皇肖像画、清浄光寺蔵~The portrait of Emperor Godaigo, owned by Shojokoji Temple(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1333, Masashige wanted to take revenge, so he started making his new network of castles: Kami-Akasaka, Shimo-Akasaka, and Chihaya. Chihaya Castle was the last one of the network. It was located alongside Chihaya Road connecting Kawachi and Yamato (now Nara Prefecture) Provinces, and
on the way to Mt. Kongosan which was known for the training of Shugen-do, i.e., Japanese mountain asceticism. The castle was also on one peak, surrounded by valleys on all sides.

城の位置~The location of the castle

千早城の模型、千早赤阪村郷土資料館蔵~The miniature model of Chihaya Castle, owned by Chihaya-Akasaka Folk Museum(licensed by Wikiwikiyarou via Wikimedia Commons)

千早城の戦い~Siege of Chihaya

正成と僅か千名の兵士からなる部隊は、千早城に籠城し、幕府の大軍から何回も攻められました。 これは千早城の戦いと呼ばれ、日本で最初の本格的な山城での戦いでした。幕府軍の武士たちはこのような戦いでどう攻撃してよいかわからず、陣地や攻めどころといった戦略や計画もなく、しゃにむに城に突進していきました。正成とその部下たちは、敵と戦うのに大抵は盾や矢を使ったのですが、更には岩、丸太、油と火、煮えた汚物までも使って幕府軍を撃退したのでした。また、夜襲をかけて、敵を更に疲弊させました。この籠城戦は3ヶ月間続きます。
Masashige, with his small army of one thousand soldiers, was besieged in Chihaya Castle, by the massive Shogunate troops several times. It is called Siege of Chihaya, and it is the first big battle to occur in a mountain castle in Japan. The shogunate warriors didn’t know how to attack in such a battle, so they straightaway charged the castle without any strategies or planning, with regards to position or location of attack. Masashige and his army mostly used shields and arrows in order to fight the enemies. In addition, they also used rocks, logs, oil and fire, and even boiled filth to repel the Shogunate. They also delivered night attacks to further tire the enemies. The siege lasted for three months.

千早城合戦図、歌川芳員筆、江戸時代、湊川神社蔵~The illustration of Siege of Chihaya, attributed to Yoshikazu Utagawa, in the Edo Period, owned by Minatogawa Shraine(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

During the siege, Emperor Godaigo escaped from the island, and requested all the warriors, even those that backed Shogunate, to support him. Some influential retainer of the Shogunate, such as Takauji Ashikaga and Yoshisada Nitta, took sides with the Emperor. The troops attacking Chihaya heard about it and withdrew. Finally, Masashige won and the Shogunate was destroyed in just 12 days after the Siege of Chihaya ended.

足利尊氏肖像画、浄土寺蔵~The portrait of Takauji Ashikaga, owned by Jodo-ji Temple(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

正成と城の最期~End of Masashige and Castle

Emperor Godaigo started Kenmu Restoration, but the kingdom was soon divided into his Southern Court and the Northern Court that Takauji established with another Emperor. Masashige followed Godaigo till the end, but was unfortunately defeated by Takauji in the Battle of Minatogawa, 1336 in Settsu Province (now part of Hyogo Prefecture). Chihaya Castle was kept by Masashige’s descendants, but eventually fell due to the attack of the Northern Court in 1392.

河内千破城図、湊川神社蔵~The illustration of Chihaya Castle, owned by Minatogawa Shrine(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)


急坂を登る~Climbing Steep Slope

Now, the entrance to the ruins of Chihaya Castle is still the gateway for Mt. Kongosan. You have to climb up over 500 steps of stones along the steep slope. The steps were not there originally, instead they were developed when a shrine was constructed . The trail is partly zigzagged to prevent enemies in the past.

千早城跡入口~The entrance of Chihaya Castle Ruins
石段の急坂~The steep stone steps
曲がりくねっている山道~The zigzagged trail

城の中心部は神社に~Center of Castle becomes Shrine

After about 20 minutes of 150m high climbing, you will reach the Fourth Enclosure which is the roomiest space in the castle. You can go further the route on a saddle of the mountain to the Third Enclosure. The enclosure has the shrine office and the monument of the castle.

第四郭~The Fourth Enclosure
山の鞍部~The saddle part of the mountain
第三郭~The Third Enclosure
城の記念碑~The monument of the castle

Chihaya Shrine that worships Masashige is on the Second Enclosure in at the back of the Third Enclosure. The First Enclosure is also at the back of the Second Enclosure, but it is closed to visitors of the shrine as it is considered the sanctuary. It is thought that a building, like a watchtower, stood on the First Enclosure in the past.

千早神社~Chihaya Shrine
第一郭は立ち入り禁止~The First Enclosure is closed

残っているものはあるか?~Does something original remain?

The side tail goes from the shrine. From the trail, you can look down at something like bounded enclosures. I wonder if they are original or not. If you go back to the saddle between the Third and Fourth Enclosures, you can go down from the mountain using the side pathway to the shrine. One of the valleys’ bottoms has become a forest road. When you look up at the mountain from the road, you can see how steep the slope is, and how well the castle used natural terrain.

腰曲輪のように見えます~They can look like bounded enclosures
自然の断崖~The natural cliff

その後~Later History

Chihaya Castle had been abandoned for a long time. However, after the Meiji Restoration, the situation dramatically changed. Emperor Meiji who was a descendant of the Northern Court decided that the Southern Court was orthodox for some reasons. Masashige, who had been recognized as a great strategist only popular among historians, suddenly transformed into the most famous historical figure. His strategies and ideologies were used to educate all the nations in Japan, which was to be loyal subjects, until World War ll. As a result, Chihaya Shrine was built on the castle ruins in 1879.

皇居外苑にある楠木正成の銅像~The statue of Masashige Kusunoki at Outer Gardens of the Imperial Palace(licensed by David Moore via Wikimedia Commons)

Even now, many old people in Japan think Masashige is just a loyal retainer. On the other hand, some young people even don’t know his name. Historians are recently studying about him as some parts of his personality still remain a mystery. The site has been designated as a National Historic Site since 1934.

私の感想~My Impression

I think that Chihaya Castle is the forerunner of typical mountain castles in Japan, because it used natural hazard at maximum to protect from enemies. Later warriors must have learned a lot from the castle and the battle on it. I am pleased to see that the shrine are is well maintained and Masashige’s name is kept intact .I hope that the shrine will allow visitors to enter the First Enclosure, and that the local government will preserve the ruins really like a historic site to let so that people know more about real Masashige more.

第一郭を見上げる~Looking up the First Enclosure

ここに行くには~How to get There

By car, it takes about 30 minutes away from the Mihara-Mnami IC on Hanwa Expressway. There are several parking lots around the entrance of the castle ruins.
By bus, you can take the Kongo Bus on Chihaya Line bound for Chihaya-Ropeway-Mae or Kongo-Tozanguchi from Tondabayashi Station on Kintetsu Nagano Line, or take the Nankai Bus on Kobuka Line bound for Kongosan-Ropeway-Mae from Kawachi-Nagano Station on Nankai Koya Line or Kintetsu Nagano Line. Get off at the Kongo-Tozanguchi bus stop in both cases.

リンク、参考情報~Links and References

千早城 千早神社、千早赤阪村観光協会(Chihaya-Akasaka Village Tourism Association)
・「日本の城改訂版第103号」デアゴスティーニジャパン(Japanese Book)
・「日本の攻城戦55/柘植久慶」PHP文庫(Japanese Book)