5 posts tagged Hojo
Yamanaka Castle ruins, Mishima, Shizuoka prefecture, my photo set on Flickr.
Designated as a mountain top castle, strictly speaking Yamanaka Castle is actually a fort, having been extensively dug and carved from the side of the mountain, and using only the bare earth as it’s defences, it has no stone walls. Signs immediately in front of the entrance refer to it as “Yamanaka fort ruins” in English.
Hõjõ Ujiyasu (1538-90) built Yamanaka fort as a subsidiary to the main Hõjõ stronghold at Odawara Castle. Around 1588 relations between the Hõjõ and Toyotomi Hideyoshi degenerated. Hõjõ Ujimasa then began to strengthen the fortifications of Yamanaka fort with the addition of more earthen defences and several moats. But in 1590 as Ujimasa was nearing the completion his new fortifications, Hideyoshi launched his attack on Yamanaka with 40,000 of his troops that he had stationed at Ichiya Castle. The 5,000 defenders of Yamanaka were severely outnumbered and the swift attack only lasted half a day before the fort was captured. Hõjõ Ujimasa retreated with several of his generals to Odawara Castle to prepare for the onslaught of Hideyoshi’s attack.
It is unusual as a mountain top castle in that rather than being built on the actual top of the mountain it was cut into the side of the mountain facing the Tõkaidõ road as a defence to protect Odawara Castle and the Tõkaidõ road which was the road leading into the Sagami area - the lands of the Hõjõ. The defences span a considerable distance across the ridges and side of the mountain. The main keep was situated at 586 metres above sea level with a fantastic panoramic view of the ocean and Mount Fuji.
Originally there were wooden walls and wooden gates atop all of the earthen embankments with wooden bridges joining the baileys. There are no original structures remaining today however. What makes these ruins remarkable is the extent of the defences and the remarkably well-preserved moats and earthworks. Today the moats and defensive mounds have been covered in well maintained grass to stop erosion. Trees and shrubs (azaleas and Japanese box) have been planted in many areas both to stop erosion and to add beauty to the parkland. The azaleas look spectacular in spring with the whole mountain side covered in pinks and whites. Some azaleas have been shaped into balls along the edge of the moats which gives the impression of silent samurai standing guard along the defences. Japanese box have been pruned along the tops of some embankments to signify the original wooden walls.
There are lots of signs placed at areas around the grounds to indicate the various features and it is easy see the layout of the ground and understand the substantial defences. The rare and unique defences and moat structures are superbly preserved and for this Yamanaka fort ruins was listed as number 40 in the top 100 castles of Japan in 2006.
The most recognisable feature of the site is the use of two particular types of dry moat - ridge moats called unebori and shojibori. A dry moat was the preferred defence in mountainous areas and made it harder for an attacking force to cross. The lower sections of the Yamanaka defences consisted of unebori dry moats. These are dry moats with single ridges running across the moat to stop an attacking force. The upper sections of the defences, particularly around the western bailey, consist of elaborate Shojibori dry moats. Shojibori have ridges in a checkered pattern forming large squares like the squares of a Japanese paper divider screen (shoji). Having ridges in the moats means that an attacking force is considerably slowed down by having to climb each ridge as they cross the moats, opening them up to arrows and guns from the defenders situated on the upper walls. Defenders could also use the ridges to rush attackers attempting to scale the mounds. The moats were capable of collecting water during rain with all of the moats designed to drain into a lower collection area for use by the castle town in the valley below.
Yamanaka has five baileys and several smaller flat defensive areas. There is the main bailey (honmaru), the second bailey (ninomaru), a north bailey (kitanomaru), a west bailey (nishinomaru), and an additional bailey (taizakinomauru). The main bailey and second bailey were divided by unebori dry moats with steep inner walls. The defensive mounds atop these moats originally had wooden walls with inner platforms for the defenders to shoot from. There was a single dirt bridge joining the two baileys. The second bailey was the largest of the five and has a slope to impede an attacking force. Just below the second bailey there are two ponds that provided the water for the fort. One was for the horses and one for the people.
The west bailey was also quite large and has the best view of the surrounding area. This bailey has shojibori along one side.
The additional bailey was added in 1589 when it became apparent that Toyotomi Hideyoshi was preparing for an assault on Odawara, but wasn’t enough to stop the onslaught of Hideyoshi’s 40,000 strong army.
The Yamanaka fort ruins were designated a national historic site in 1930. The site was made into a public park in 1973 and archaeological research was begun on the site.
Odawara castle, Odawara, Kanagawa prefecture. Flickr: http://flic.kr/p/8pJbdN
Odawara castle, Odawara, Kanagawa prefecture.
Couldn’t resist taking this shot as I passed Odawara Castle this evening. Odawara Castle, Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Ichiya matsuri in Hayakawa is held on the Ishigaki mountain top which was once the scene of the most unconventional siege in the history of Samurai warfare. The matsuri celebrates the fall of Odawara castle and a re-enactment of the events leading up to the Hojo clan surrender to Toyotomi Hideyoshi is a great spectacle.
People wearing hand-made armour relate the story of the siege and show that they are indeed proud of their heritage and history.
In June 1590 Toyotomi Hideyoshi laid siege to the impregnable Odawara castle. This was the third time Odawara castle had been laid siege to. This was Hideyoshi’s major move in eliminating the Hojo clan who were a threat to his dominance. The Hojo had hoped that logistical difficulties of the mountainous area would force Hideyoshi to call off his siege of their formidable Odawara stronghold. Hideyoshi’s vast army however was well-supplied, and he built a solid base nearby to disrupt the enemy.
This siege is recognised as one of the most unconventional in samurai history. Hideyoshi had a make-shift “castle” built on an opposing mountain top to that of Odawara castle on what is now called Ishigaki “stone walls” mountain. He had a moat and large scale walls constructed with baileys and defences matching that of any castle, but it was never intended to be anything more than a siege camp. The ruins are still quite visible despite the passing of time and the whole mountain top is now a beautiful park.
In building the fortifications, Hideyoshi required that the surrounding towns provide ten days of labour in constructing the walls - one day of missed work would be punished by requiring five extra days work. Stone was hastily carried in and the walls were constructed in the traditional manner - but in half the time it would normally take for such a large construction.
The temporary fortification rivalled any castle embankments being at the top of a steep mountain. The siege lasted three months and the besieging army was soon supported by the surrounding towns who saw an easy way to make a profit. Hideyoshi’s army was soon supported by merchants in the area who brought in supplies and equipment. The samurai were entertained by everything: from concubines, prostitutes and musicians to acrobats, and jugglers.
“We have surrounded Odawara castle on all sides with great rings of troops.” Wrote Hideyoshi to his wife. “We have fortified an adjacent mountain with solid walls, we will not let a single enemy out.”
In contrast the Hojo defenders within Odawara castle slept on the walls of their castle with their arquebuses and armour. Despite their smaller numbers, however, they discouraged Hideyoshi from attacking and Hideyoshi knew all too well the impregnability of the great Odawara castle which had outlasted two previous attacks before.
For the most part, Hideyoshi’s siege consisted of traditional starvation tactics. Odawara castle’s food supplies were cut off and support from surrounding satellite castles was blocked. A few small skirmishes erupted around the castle between the two sides, as when a group of miners from Kai under Hideyoshi’s command dug an extensive tunnel under the walls of the outer bailey of Odawara castle, allowing the Samurai of Ii Naomasa to enter Odawara castle in secret using “castle entering techniques.”
After three months, the Hojo Samurai surrendered, facing overwhelming numbers and an impending shortage of food and supplies. Hojo Ujimasa committed suicide and the Hojo lost their control of the Kanto region. During the siege 40,000 men occupied Odawara castle while Hideyoshi had at his command over 200,000 men which he had spaced at junctions and all around the plains of Odawara. He also had three large ships sitting offshore in an attempt to bombard Odawara castle with cannon.
Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Hideyoshi’s top generals who had actually spearheaded the siege, was given the Hojo lands. Though Hideyoshi could not have guessed it at the time, this would turn out to be a great stepping-stone towards Tokugawa’s attempts at conquest and the office of Shogun.