186.Kaneda Castle Patr1

Kaneda Castle was one of the ancient mountain castles in western Japan. They were built by the Imperial Court after the Battle of Baekgang, Korea in 663. Kaneda Castle was at the foremost line against possible invasions from the alliance of Tang and Silla. This was because it was located in Tsushima Island, only about 50km away from Korea.

Location and History

One of Ancient Maintain Castles

Kaneda Castle was one of the ancient mountain castles in western Japan. They were built by the Imperial Court after the Battle of Baekgang, Korea in 663. Japan tried to help Baekje, but was beaten by the Tang and Silla alliance. Emperor Tenchi was scared of invasions from the alliance, so he ordered these castles’ constructions. Kaneda Castle was at the foremost line against the alliance because it was located in Tsushima Island, only about 50km away from Korea.

The locations of the major ancient mountain castles

The map about the Battle of Baekgang (licensed by Samhanin via Wikimedia Commons)

These castles are also called Korean style mountain castles which were established in Korea and brought to Japan with the instructions from the refugees from Baekje. There had been many battles in ancient Korea (part of present day North and South Korea) due to invasions from China and the internal conflict with three countries, Baekje, Silla and Goguryeo. The style involves surrounding the whole mountain by stone walls or earthen walls, which was very different from that of Japanese castles that would be later established. If people in Korea at that time were attacked by enemies, they would escape to their mountain castle, wait for the enemies’ supply to run out and counterattack the enemies. This style was applied to Japan to immediately prepare for possible invasions from the alliance.

The diorama of Kaneda Castle Ruins, exhibited by the sightseeing information center Fureaidokoro Tsushima

Stone Walls mostly surround Mountain

The Imperial Court built Mizuki in 664 as the 1st ancient mountain castle. After that, it also built Ono and Kii Castles in 665, and then, Takayasu, Yashima and Kaneda Castles in 667, according to Nihon-shoki, the oldest official chronicles of Japan. It is thought that nearly 30 ancient mountain castles, including recorded and non-recorded ones, were built along the estimated routes of the invasions around the northern Kyushu Region and Seto Inland Sea. The Imperial Court also drafted soldiers from eastern Japan, who would be called Sakimori, and sent them to the northern Kyushu Region to protect and monitor this area. The fire-signal system was also developed in the region to rapidly inform the signs of what happened.

The ruins of Mizuki
The ruins of Ono Castle
The ruins of Kii Castle

Kaneda Castle was built on Joyama Mountain facing Aso Bay in the central part of Tsushima Island. The castle was about 15km away to the north from the provincial capital of Tsushima, near the current Izuhara Port. This was probably because the usage of the castle would follow that of the mountain castles in Korea like a shelter. Its perimeter was about 2.2km, which was mostly covered with stone walls, in contrast to other ancient mountain castles like Ki-no-jo, mostly surrounded by earthen walls. The northern and western sides of the castle were along the steep ridges of the mountain, which were naturally very defensive. On the other hand, the southern side faced the valley which would be the entrance to the castle and the eastern side was beside the bay. That’s why several gates were built and the stone walls were higher on these sides. It is thought that there were no office buildings and no warehouses, but only buildings like barracks the Sakimori soldiers used inside the castle, according to the results of excavations.

The aerial photo around the castle

The Aso Bay
The stone walls of Kaneda Castle (the southeast stone fortress)
The earthen walls of Ki-no-jo

The relief map around the castle

Castle is shortly abandoned because of Stable Diplomatic Relations

Meanwhile, the diplomatic negotiations with foreign countries continued. For, example, Tang and Goguryeo started to fight with each other in 666. Both countries asked Japan for help. While Emperor Tenchi moved the capital from Asuka in Nara to Otsu, more interior than Asuka in 667 and made the first national census in 670 probably to prepare for the next war. The tension between Japan and Tang reached its peak after Tang defeated Goguryeo in 668. It is said that Tang actually planned to invade Japan then. However, the plan was canceled as Tang and Silla battled each other in 670. The battle resulted in Silla repelling Tang and the unification of Korea Peninsula in 676. The next emperor, Tenmu, also made friendly relations with Silla, which meant the serious threat to Japan had gone.

The ruins of the imperial palace of Otsu (licensed by Saigen Jiro via Wikimedia Commons)

As a result, there would be no need for maintaining all the ancient mountain castles. Many of them including Kaneda Castle were repaired or improved by the end of the 7th Century. However, it is thought that Kaneda Castle was abandoned at the beginning of the 8th Century. Manyoshu, the oldest anthology of Japan, which was first published in the late 8th Century, contains a Tanka poem created by a Sakimori soldier who was in charge of Tsushima Island. Interestingly, this Tanka was published nearly a century after the castle was active. The life of this great castle was only 30 to 40 years.

The ruins of Kaneda Castle (the first gate)

To be continued in “Kaneda Castle Part2”

86.大野城~Ono Castle

The guardian of the western capital “Dazaifu”

立地と歴史~Location and History

古代山城の一つ~One of Ancient Mountain Castles

Ono Castle was one of ancient mountain castles in western Japan. It was built by the Imperial Court after the Battle of Baekgang, Korea in 663. Japan tried to help Baekje, but was beaten by the ally of Tang and Silla. Emperor Tenchi was scared of invasion by the ally, so he ordered the construction of these castles with the help of the refugees from Baekje. That’s why these castles are also called “Korean style mountain castles”.

白村江の戦いの図~The map about the Battle of Baekgang(licensed by Samhanin via Wikimedia Commons)

These ancient mountain castles looked very different from the typical castles built later in Japan, like Himeji, Osaka, and Nagoya castles, because their main structures were an outline surrounding the top of the mountain with earthen and stone walls, water reservoirs, and entrance gates. There seemed to be buildings for offices, barracks, and warehouses inside these castles, so in case of an emergency, people could escape from plain areas, and continue to live and govern preventing enemies’ invasion.

古代山城の一つ、鬼ノ城での復元例~An example of the restoration for Kino-Jo, one of the ancient mountain castles

大宰府を守る城~Castle protecting Dazaifu

Ono Castle was definitely the most important ancient mountain castle among them, as it was located on a mountain called “Shioji-yama”, behind the ancient Japanese local government, “Dazaifu”. Dazaifu basically governed the area of Kyushu Region, but it also had very important duties, like taking care of Japan’s diplomacy and defense because it is located near China and Korea. The government office and town were built similar to the capital of Japan.

大宰府跡と四王寺山~The ruins of Dazaifu and Mt. Shioji-yama
大宰府政庁の模型~The miniature model of the Dazaifu office building(大宰府展示館~Dazaifu Site Exhibition Hall)

In addition, Shioji-yama mountain was the most suitable for the mountain castle. Its ridge rounds the flat center. The ridge could be the outline, and buildings could be built at the center, but it was not enough. People made great efforts to build earthen walls along the ridge using a method called Rammed earth, and further build stone walls to fill valleys with the help of the technicians from Beakje. The overall length of the outline reached 8.4km.

四王寺山の模型~The miniature model of Mt. Shioji-yama(大宰府展示館~Dazaifu Site Exhibition Hall

敵は来なかった~Enemy didn’t come

Fortunately, the ally did not attack Japan. Japanese old history books such as “Nihon-shoki” and “Shoku-nihongi” say that the castle was built in 665, and repaired in 698. However, it seemed to have been abandoned at some point.

城の位置~The location of the castle


Now, the ruins of Ono Castle are spread mainly along the outline, so it takes a lot of time to see all of them. This time, I will describe two areas where you can see representative ones in a short time.

城周辺の地図~The map around the castle

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

焼米ヶ原周辺地区~Around Yakigomegahara area

You can drive from the front of Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine up to Shioji-yama mountain through the Shioji forest road. Then, you will reach and park at Yakigomehara parking lot. From the parking, you can walk around several ruins.

・The earthen walls line
This is the southern part of the outline, and was partly built doubly. It could be an important spot for the castle. You can have a good view of the town on the south.

土塁線~The earthen walls line
街並みの景色~A view of the town

・Zochoten foundation stone group
It is one of the groups for ruins of buildings. The foundation stones for four buildings remain along the outline. So far, over 70 ruins of buildings were found on the mountain. Many of them are thought to have been used as warehouses.

増長天礎石群~Zochoten foundation stone group

・Dazaifu route Castle Gate Ruins
They are the largest castle gate ruins out of the nine castle gate ruins previously found in the castle. The excavation team found out that the gate was replaced three times. It might have been the front gate of the castle.

大宰府口城門跡~Dazaifu route Castle Gate Ruins(licensed by 小池隆 via Wikimedia Commons)

北部周辺地区~Around the northern area

You can drive to the center of the mountain, then turn to the right at the intersection in front of Kenminnomori Center, and you will reach Hyakken stone walls. There is a small parking lot beside them.

百閒石垣を見上げる~Looking up Hyakken stone walls
百閒石垣から道路を見下ろす~Looking down the road from Hyakken stone walls

・Hyakken stone walls
They are the largest ones among the castle, which are about 180m across (Hyakken means 100 ken, ken is an old unit of length in Japan, 1 ken is about 1.8m.) and about 8m high. The area around was the northern entrance of the castle, and was considered very important. The stone walls were piled with chopped natural stones on the base rock very carefully. They also have some gaps that can drain water. There are similar stone walls of mountain castle ruins in Korea. That’s because technicians from Korea helped with the construction.

百閒石垣~Hyakken stone walls
石垣に近づきます~Getting closer to the stone walls
石垣までの坂はかなり急です~The slope to the stone walls is steep

その後~Later History

About one century after the foundation of the castle, the Four Devas or Shitennoji Temple was founded on the castle ruins in 774. The temple was for praying against Silla that was said to have cursed Japan. The mountain became a castle for praying. The present name of the mountain comes from the temple. The name of the building ruins “Zochoten” is one of the four Devas. In the Warring States or Sengoku Period, Iwaya Castle was built on the mid-slope of the mountain. In the Edo Period, people made a lot of stone figures of the Buddha and prayed them. The ruins were finally designated as a National Historic Site in 1953.

石仏のうちの一体~One of the stone figures of the Buddha(taken by ヘンリー3世 from photoAC)

私の感想~My Impression

I recommend you to at least see Hyakken stone walls. You can also see it’s surprising that such stone walls have survived for over 1350 years. The stone walls still look very strong when you look at them. I also think that I will spend a day walking around all the ruins sometime.

百閒石垣~Hyakken stone walls

ここに行くには~How to get There

I recommend you to go there by car.
The ruins are around 5 km away from the Dazaifu IC on Kyushu Expressway.

リンク、参考情報~Links and References

大野城跡、大野城市(Onojo City Website)
大野城跡、宇美町(Umi Town Website)
・「マンガ版大野城物語」古代山城サミット実行委員会(Japanese Comic)