15.Ashikaga Clan Hall Part1

The hometown of the Ashikaga Clan

Location and History

Seiwa-Genji family develops and settles in Ashikaga Manor

Ashikaga Clan Hall was located in modern day the center of Ashikaga City in Tochigi Prefecture. In fact, it has now become Bannaji Temple, a famous old one itself. It may not have looked like a typical castle that we usually imagine, but it was said that the ruins remain the first formation of a Japanese warrior’s hall with defense systems.

The tower gate of Bannaji Temle

The Ashikaga Clan is more popular as the shoguns of the Ashikaga Shogunate during the Muromachi Period in the 14th and 15th Centuries than as a local lord. As a matter of fact, the history of the clan started in the 12th Century at Ashikaga Manor (similar to the current Ashikaga City) in Shimotsuke Province (presently Tochigi Prefecture) they developed. Yoshikuni Minamoto, who was the ancestor of the clan and a member of the Seiwa-Genji family line, one of the descendants of the Imperial Family, first settled there.

The range of Ashikaga City and the location of the castleKabasaki-Hachimangu Shrine[/leaflet-marker

Before the Kamakura Shogunate was established, warriors needed to formally donate their developed land to high-class nobles as a manor to keep their own territories, otherwise, they were not guaranteed by any public institutions. That’s why Yoshikuni settled and developed their territory which would be called Ashikaga Manor by making great effort. Since then, they have called themselves the name of the land “Ashikaga” as their family name. Yoshikuni’s son, Yoshiyasu Ashikaga was said to be the founder of the clan and first built Ashikaga Clan Hall followed by his son, Yoshikane, the second generation of the clan.

The portrait of Yoshikane Ashikaga, owned by Bannaji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Typical Residence of Early Samurai

The features of the hall include earthen walls and the outside water moats which surround the area. They form a square, so historians call such typical warriors’ halls “Hokan” or the Square Hall. One side of the square is around 200m long. This style of halls was used for a long time until the 17th Century during the Sengoku Period, such as Takeda Clan Hall and Ouchi Clan Hall. Lords and warriors usually lived in their halls which could provide relief in case of an emergency like a battle. Therefore, Ashikaga Clan Hall can be considered one of the earliest castles built by warriors in Japan.

The remaining earthen walls and water moats of Ashikaga Clan Hall
The miniature model of Takeda Clan Hall, exhibited by Kofu Fujimura Memorial Museum
The ruins of Ouchi Clan Hall (the current Ryufukuji Temple)

Yoshikane contributed the launch of the Kamakura Shogunate at the end of the 12th Century by Yoritomo Minamoto, the head of the Minamoto Clan and the first Shogun of the Samurai government in Japan, as a relative of Yoritomo. He was also a religious person who built a private building for worshiping Buddhist images, which would be the origin of Bannaji Temple. Furthermore, he established Kabasaki Temple for his retirement and was said to be one of the founders of the Ashikaga School which was one of the highest academies in the Middle Ages of Japan, which would have made Ashikaga a medieval cultural city.

The ruins of Kabasaki Temple
The remaining Gakko-mon or the School Gate of Ashikaga School

Ashikaga Clan survives in Kamakura Period and becomes Shoguns in Muromachi Period

Yoshikane’s son, Yoshiuji became a senior vassal of the Kamakura Shogunate even though the shoguns of the Minamoto Clan died off and the Hojo Clan got the power as the regent. The Ashikaga Clan also got new territories such as in Mikawa Province (now part of modern day Aichi Prefecture). That’s why Yoshiuji usually lived in Kamakura, the capital of the shogunate, where his clan set the government office for controlling their territories. Even their original home base, Ashikaga Manor was governed by the administration office, not by the lord of the clan. Therefore, Yoshiuji turned his father’s hall in Ashikaga (Ashikaga Clan Hall) into Bannaji Temple in 1234 to pray for his father’s happiness in the next world and for his clan’s prosperity.

The portrait of Yoshiuji Ashikaga, owned by Bannaji Temple, drawn in the Edo Period (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Kannno Mountain (now called Iwai Mountain) where the administration office of Ashikaga Manor was built

The Ashikaga Clan survived all through the Kamakura Period while many other senior vassals of the shogunate were defeated by the Hojo Clan. Many of the Ashikaga’s lords came from the mothers that came from the Hojo Clan, that way, they could keep the second position in the shogunate. It was also said that many warriors wanted the Ashikaga Clan to change the country as a follower of the Minamoto Clan. Takauji Ashikaga, the lord of the 5th generations after Yoshiuji, was born from the mother who did not come from the Hojo Clan. These may be the reasons why he defeated the shogunate together with Emperor Godaigo and Yoshisada Nitta, another descendant of the Minamoto Clan.

The portrait of Takauji Ashikaga, owned by Jodo-ji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The portrait of Emperor Godaigo, owned by Shojokoji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The portrait of Yoshisada Nitta, owned by Fujishima Shrine (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

To be continued in “Ashikaga 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)