3.Matsumae Castle Part1

A unique castle in the last period of them

Location and History

Castle was built at End of Edo Period

Matsumae Castle was located in the southern edge of Hokkaido Island which was called Ezo until the Edo Period. Only the Matsumae Domain ruled the island in the period because the native Ainu people mainly lived there. There were over 200 domains in Japan throughout the period, which required earning over 10 thousand koku of rice in their territory. However, the Matsumae Domain couldn’t earn enough rice at that time due to the cold climate of the island. So instead, the domain was allowed to trade with the Ainu people exclusively by the Tokugawa Shogunate to maintain it. As a result, the shogunate specially considered it as an independent domain. On the other hand, the domain at first wasn’t allowed to have a castle which needed a higher status that it didn’t have. That’s why the domain had only a hall for the lord, called Fukuyama-kan at its home base of Matsumae until around the end of the Edo Period.

The location of the castle

In 1849, the lord of the domain, Takahiro Matsumae, was suddenly ordered by the shogunate to build a new castle, which was rare in the period. This was because foreign ships often came around Japan, which might have threatened the safety of the country. The homebase of the domain faced Tsugaru Channel between Hokkaido and the mainland of Japan, where these ships could sail. The shogunate expected the domain to build the castle as a base for coastal defense. Takahiro chose a famous scholar of military science, Ichigaku Ichikawa for the location and design of the castle. Ichigaku recommended moving their homebase to another place in Hakodate for the castle. He didn’t think that Matsumae was suitable for the castle because of its location on the halfway point of a gentle slope. However, the domain refused it, saying it was too expensive and they didn’t want to leave the familiar environment of Matsumae. Finally, the castle was built by replacing the Fukuyama-kan hall in 1855, which was eventually renamed Matsumae Castle.

The photo of Takahiro Matsumae, around 1864 (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The relief map around the castle

Castle is mixed with Traditional Japanese style and Modernized features

Matsumae Castle is one of the latest castles to be built using Japanese style, such as having a Main Tower, turrets and gates built with stone walls in several separated enclosures. The castle actually had the Main Enclosure including the three-level Main Tower, its gate and the Main Hall for the lord. The Second Enclosure with several turrets was also built blow the Main Enclosure. The Third Enclosure with the Front Gate was further below. The Inner and Outer Moats were dug between them. On the other hand, the castle had some advanced and specific features. 7 batteries were built towards the sea in the Third Enclosure as a base for coastal defense. The turrets in the Second Enclosure, such as Taiko-Yagura or the Drum Turret, were used as the command posts for the batteries. The stone walls of the castle were built precisely using a method called Kikko-zumi or the Tortoise Shell style. However, those of the Main Tower were not built high at only around 3m, which made it harder to target for ships with guns. The walls of the tower were also built strongly that can withstand gun attacks.

The diorama of the castle, exhibited at the site, adding the red letters
The present restored Main Tower with the original Main Entrance Gate on the right
The Drum Turret on the left and the Main Tower on the right in the old photo of the castle, from the signboard at the site
An example of the stone walls using the Tortoise Shell style method, around the Outer Back Gate

Castle falls twice during Meiji Restoration

The first battle at the castle happened in 1868 during the Meiji Restoration, but not against foreign ships but rather against Japanese troops. The former Shogunate Army led by Takeaki Enomoto escaped from the main land to Hokkaido and captured Goryokaku in Hakodate and they made it their home base. Then, they sent troops led by Toshizo Hijikata and a fleet to Matsumae Castle. The attackers and the defenders in the castle at first fought each other with cannonade. A ship (Banryu-maru) of the fleet had to withdraw being shot by a battery outside of the castle. However, Hijikata also attacked the side and the back of the castle. In fact, the back side was the weakest point of it. This was because the gentle slope, where it was built on, was easy to attack from the back. Moreover, the Matsumae Domain spent a lot of money on the front facing the sea, but only a few on the back. The castle would eventually fall.

The photo of Takeaki Enomoto, in 1868   (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The photo of Toshizo Hijikata, taken by Kenzo Tamoto, in 1868 (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The photo of Banryu-maru, in 1868 (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The spot where Hijikata first attacked, called Umasaka Route, marked by the red circle

In the next year, the warriors of the domain, who managed to escape to Aomori in the main land, tried to retaliate with the help of the New Government Army to get Matsumae Castle back. They equipped stronger guns with a more modernized fleet than the former Shogunate Army. They landed at Hokkaido again and got close to the castle by fighting. When they attacked the castle from the other side of it, the defender of the former Shogunate Army eventually surrendered.

The spot where Matsumae warriors attacked, called Yudonosawazaka Route, marked by the red circle

To be continued in “Matsumae Castle Part2”

1.根室半島チャシ跡群~The ruins of chashi in Nemuro Peninsula

The Ainu people certainly lived there.

立地と歴史~Location and History

アイヌの人々とチャシ~Ainu people and Chashi

Chashi are said to be castles which were built by the Ainu people, but the details are uncertain, because they had no written language. Chashi means fences or a fence line in Ainu language. Ainu are native people around Hokkaido who earned a living by hunting, fishing, and trading. Their origin is also uncertain, but they seemed to establish their own culture around the 13th century, and had a presence in a large area ranging from Sakhalin to the Kuril Islands.

イザベラ・バードによるアイヌ男性のスケッチ、19世紀~The painting of Ainu men, attributed to Isabella Lucy Bird, in the 19th Century(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

According to excavations, over 500 of Chashi were built between the 16th and 18th centuries. At that time, several heads of Ainu called “Sapanekuru” were increasing their power by trading with foreign people even form Okhotsk and Primorskii, and Japanese whose origin was the Japanese mainland. It is thought that these heads mainly built the Chashi. Many of Chashi were simple with one enclosure surrounded by a fence line and dry moat. However, in Nemuro Peninsula, there were a lot of Chashi which were more complex. It could be because the heads in the peninsula had more power than others.

城の位置~The location of the castle

なぜチャシが作られたか~Why were Chashi built?

There are several possible reasons for why Chashi were built. The most widely accepted theory is that they were built to prepare for battle against “Japanese”. This is because the area where they were built matches the influence area of Saksaynu who actually fought with Matsumae Domain under Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th century.

シャクシャイン像~The statue of Saksaynu(taken by Yuka2018 from photoAC)

Others point out that the heads of Ainu might have fought with each other over their properties gotten by trading. They found out that some advanced Chashi had many works to prevent outsiders from entering their main building. The building must have stored their properties. Other supposed reasons are for worship sites, festival grounds, public meeting places, places for negotiation, and so on.

ヲンネモトチャシの曲輪~An enclosure of Wonnemoto Chashi

アイヌの悲しい歴史~Ainu’s sad history

In the late 18th century, the merchants, who were agents of Matsmae Domain, exploited Ainu people. Young Ainu people in eastern Hokkaido called “Menashikuru” were very angry about it and rebelled against Japanese (Menashi-Kunashir Rebellion). They were supposed to be also angry at the old heads of Aine. Their Chashi might have been completed for the battle. Many of Ainu and Japanese were killed and wounded in the battle, and lastly Matsumae Domain put down the rebellion.

乱で亡くなった日本人の墓碑~The tombstone of the Japanese killed in the rebellion

After that, Matsumae Domain forced Ainu to limit their trading, as a result, the Ainu community was declining. Meanwhile, Tokugawa Shogunate and the modern Japanese government had the policy to assimilate Ainu into Japanese. The population of Ainu significantly decreased by the 19th century. Chashi were all abandoned and have been forgotten.

チャシから望むオホーツク海~Sea of Okhotsk from a Chashi


Now, Nemuro City has over 30 ruins of Chashi, 24 of them are designated as a National Historic Site, and two of them are developed for visitors by the city as below.

城周辺の地図~The map around the castle

ノツカマフ1号、2号チャシ跡~Ruins of Notsukamafu N0.1 and No.2 Chashi

The ruins of these Chashi are on a cape Notsuka extending from Mappu Bay. No.1 Chashi consists of two round enclosures with a diameter of around 30m, divided and surrounded by 2 to 3m deep dry moats. You can enter one of them through an earthen bridge.

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

遺跡への入口~The entrance to the ruins
遺跡に続く小径~The trail which leads to the ruins
1号チャシへの土橋~The earthen bridge to No.1 Chashi
1号チャシからの眺め~A view from No.1 Chashi
1号チャシのもう一つの曲輪~Another enclosure of No.1 Chashi

No.2 Chashi has a single round enclosure with a more shallow dry moat surrounding it, so it is said that it might have been uncompleted. Notsukamafu is where the Ainu leaders of Menashi-Kunashir Rebellion were executed.

2号チャシ~No.2 Chashi
2号チャシの端部分~The edge of No.2 Chashi

オンネモトチャシ跡~Ruins of Wonnemoto Chashi

The ruins are two flat surfaces of steps on a cape protruding from the western side of Wonnemoto Bay. They have a great view when you see them from the Wonnemoto fishing port on the eastern side. The surfaces are square shaped enclosures, also divided and surrounded by dry moats. You can see them well mounded at the top of the cape. When you stand on both of them, you can see a wild landscape of the land of Hokkaido and the sea of Okhotsk.

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

温根元漁港から見たオンネモトチャシ~Wonnemoto Chashi from the Wonnemoto fishing port(licensed by 1467jp via Wikimedia Commons)
遺跡への入口~The entrance to the ruins
遺跡に続く小径~The trail which leads to the ruins
ヲンネモトチャシの標柱~ The signpost of Wonnemoto Chashi
2段になっている曲輪~The two step enclosures
温根元漁港~The Wonnemoto fishing port
遺跡からの眺め~A view from the ruins

その後~Later History

The study of Chashi has been improved since the 1970s. Some historians researched old books and documents Japanese or foreign people recorded. Others investigated the remaining oral history of Ainu. Local governments have been excavating the ruins of Chashi across Hokkaido. They found out that the area around Nemuro City had many developed Chashi which are also related to the historical events. The 24 of Chashi in the city were designated as a National Historic Site called “The ruins of Chashi in Nemuro Peninsula” in 1983.

オンネモトチャシとオホーツク海~Wonnemoto Chashi and Sea of Okhotsk

私の感想~My Impression

When I first stood on the ruins of Chashi, I felt like I came to the edge of the earth. Nemuro City is actually in front of the border between Japan and Russia, though Japan insists that south Kuril Islands belong to it. After I learned about the Ainu history, I think that Okhotsk was an open sea for Ainu, because they had no border. Chashi might have lastly been used for battle with Japanese, but they had prospered by building Chashi in their own way. I wonder if the problem between Japan and Russia was resolved, the open sea could come back to Hokkaido.

日本最東端の地、納沙布岬~Nosappu Cape, The easternmost tip of Japan

ここに行くには~How to get There

I recommend you to visit them by car.
Both the ruins of Notsukamafu and Wonnemoto are alongside Hokkaido Prefectural Route 35 in the northern coast of Nemuro Peninsula. There is a small parking lot in front of the entrance of the both ruins. It takes about 30 minutes from Nemuro Station.

リンク、参考情報~Links and References

根室半島チャシ跡群、根室市観光協会(Nemuro City Tourism Association)
・「列島縦断「幻の名城」を訪ねて/山名美和子著」集英社新書(Japanese Book)
・「歴史群像121号、戦国の城/道東のチャシ群」学研(Japanese Magazine)