28 November 2023

Hiroshima Castle

From Castles in Japan, by Morton S. Schmorleitz (Tuttle, 2011), Kindle Loc. ~1850ff:

In 1589 Mori Terumoto began what would be an eight-year project: he built a castle on an island in the delta of the Ota River, calling this part of his domain "Hiroshima," which means "wide island." At the beginning of the 17th century, the Mori fief was given to the Asano Clan, who held the castle until 1871. During the Restoration all of the buildings were torn down except the keep.

The castle is noted for the fact that the Emperor Meiji resided there for seven months during the war with China (1894-95). When Japan became involved in the war of 1904-5 with Russia, the castle was used as a troop garrison.

At 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945, Hiroshima Castle, along with a large portion of the city, was completely demolished in the historic first atomic attack. Reconstruction of the castle donjon was begun in 1958. It is built on the original foundation and is an exact replica of the former keep in exterior appearance. The structure is five stories, 117 feet high, and is in the style of the early Momoyama period. The donjon houses a museum and a lookout.

26 November 2023

Hagi Castle in Choshu Domain

 From Castles in Japan, by Morton S. Schmorleitz (Tuttle, 2011), Kindle Loc. ~1800ff:

Hagi Castle was built between 1604 and 1606 by the Mori Clan, lords of Choshu fief. Before the battle of Sekigahara, the Mori fief was the second largest in all Japan, but after that epic struggle, in which the Mori were on the losing side, their fief was reduced to about one-fourth its original size. Even with this reduction it was still one of the 10 largest in the country. The castle was laid out so that the five-story donjon was situated at the edge of the inner moat. It measured, on the ground floor, 65 feet east to west and 53½ feet north to south. The top floor was 20½ feet by 17½ feet, and the total height was about 47 feet. Fourteen generations of Moris lived in a mansion on the castle grounds, which were practically on an island, with a bay on one side and a river and moat on the others. An observation tower was placed on a hill behind the castle overlooking the sea.

Choshu fief was a hotbed of anti-Tokugawa feeling after Sekigahara. Children were put to bed at night with their feet toward Edo as a form of insult to the shogunate, and they were told never to forget the defeat of their ancestors at Sekigahara. Dislike for the Tokugawas also may have stemmed from Tokugawa disrespect of the Imperial House; the Mori Clan claimed direct lineage to the imperial family and therefore had strong feelings of loyalty toward the emperor.

Hagi was the birthplace of Yoshida Shoin, the imperial patriot who advocated the overthrow of shogunate rule and a return of power to the emperor. At his school in Hagi he preached this philosophy until his death at the hands of the shogunate a few years before the Restoration took place. Many of Shoin's pupils became leaders of the Restoration era.

The leaders of Choshu were also resentful of the shogun's relations with foreign countries, and in 1863 their shore batteries fired on an American ship off the Choshu coast and effectively blocked the Shimonoseki Straits to foreign shipping. The following year a combined force of Dutch, American, British, and French warships put an end to the harassment, and Choshu agreed to pay an indemnity. After this incident the Choshu leaders came to friendly terms with the foreigners.

During the revolt against the shogunate, Choshu, along with most of the clans in western Japan, firmly supported the imperial cause. To show their complete loyalty to the emperor, the Choshu leaders were the first to tear down their castle (1874). The samurai were now without employment, but the head of the Mori Clan encouraged them to become peaceful farmers and raise fruit. This enterprise is still carried on today by their descendants.

Only the stone walls of the inner court and the inner moat of the castle remain. The base of the donjon can also be seen, and the huge stones used for pillar supports are still imbedded within the foundation. Steep stone steps running the entire length of several of the inner walls, overlooking the moat, provided a means of rapid troop deployment when immediate defense was imperative.

It is interesting to note that time has not touched Hagi as heavily as it has most other castle towns, and some descendants of samurai families still reside at their ancestral home sites behind old walls in the samurai quarters of the town.

08 November 2023

Osaka: From Castle to Commerce

From Castles in Japan, by Morton S. Schmorleitz (Tuttle, 2011), Kindle Loc. ~1017ff:

After 1615, Osaka was no longer an important military center, but became one of the three chief cities under direct control of the shogunate. (Note: The others were Edo and Kyoto.) A 10-year restoration of the castle was begun in 1620, but the donjon was struck by lightning and destroyed in 1665, During the remainder of the feudal period the castle grounds served as the seat of local government and for the garrisoning of troops.

As time went on, Osaka became the most important commercial center in the country. Hideyoshi had encouraged merchants from the fortified city of Sakai to move to Osaka and supply the castle and the town, which was rapidly growing. After Ieyasu took over, more merchants came in from Fushimi. Although the daimyo of the Ou and Kanto districts built warehouses in Edo to store and distribute their revenues of rice, most of the feudal lords converted rice into cash at Osaka. Soon there were some 500 to 600 warehouses in the city which not only processed food, but many other forms of merchandise as well.

During most of the Tokugawa period the city remained a peaceful but busy commercial center. In 1837, however, the peace was broken by a riot led by one Oshio Heihachiro. Many fires were started, and homes and buildings (especially of the rich) were destroyed before troops garrisoned at the castle could bring the situation under control. This riot was an overt expression of national dissatisfaction with the government, a malcontent feeling that eventually led to the downfall of the Tokugawa regime. During the 1850's and '60's the castle was used to receive foreign diplomats when the shogun was in residence there.

In September 1868 part of the castle was burned by Tokugawa troops as they retreated before troops loyal to the emperor during the civil war that brought about the Restoration. In 1931 a donjon of ferro-concrete material was constructed atop the 45-foot foundation of the former keep, and the castle grounds were opened as a public park. During the Pacific War troops were again garrisoned on the castle grounds. Although the new donjon was not touched by the war, four turrets were destroyed. Today the castle grounds are again used as a public park, and the donjon contains exhibits relating to the history of old Osaka including a display of archeological interest and a model of the castle showing what it was like at its prime.

07 November 2023

Azuchi Castle Innovations

From Castles in Japan, by Morton S. Schmorleitz (Tuttle, 2011), Kindle Loc. ~830ff:

Azuchi Castle had several distinct features that differentiated it from its predecessors. Its massive proportions and the use of stone as a major building material, as noted in an earlier chapter, were to provide protection from the most destructive firearms available at that time. Other innovations such as the use of high towers and the location of the castle on a hill rather than in mountains with dense vegetation, were also related to a change in the tactics of warfare. These changes made guns an extremely effective defense because the enemy could be seen a long way off and met by gunfire precisely directed from the height of the donjon.

Just as Azuchi Castle was the prototype of the present-day relics of feudal times, the castle town created by [Oda] Nobunaga outside the castle walls was the prototype of a new kind of castle town in general. He had built quarters for his various soldiers and retainers but they were slow to occupy them, and it was two or three years before the town became fairly well settled. (Note: By 1582 the population had reached about 5,000.) At the same time, he made conditions attractive for tradesmen and artisans so that the town would be supplied with the necessary commodities to make it prosper. In 1577 Nobunaga issued a town charter stating that Azuchi was to be a free-market town with no taxes levied on sales or purchases. All merchants traveling along the Nakasendo had to seek lodging in the town when passing through, there were to be no taxes on building or transportation (except in time of war), and in the event of cancellation of debts in the province, debts owed to the town's residents would not be included. These concessions to tradesmen were made to attract money to the town, but the motive was more political than economic. With free trade, goods flowed from all parts of the country to the population and market centers, thus increasing the wealth of the cities and in turn the lord of the area. At the same time, the roads were improved to facilitate the movement of goods, and in time of war the same roads could be used to move troops. Free-trade practices also attracted skilled artisans whose talents could be used to make the tools of war.

It was during this period that Jesuit missionaries arrived in Japan and received encouragement from Nobunaga, who regarded them as a rival to Buddhism for which he had little use. When Father Gnecchi Organtino and some other priests visited Nobunaga at Azuchi, Nobunaga was so flattered that he offered the Jesuits a building site for both a church and a house; the missionaries were only too happy to accept.

After Akechi Mitsuhide killed Nobunaga at Kyoto on June 21, 1582 he marched to Azuchi, took over the castle, and distributed gifts from Nobunaga's treasury to likely supporters. (Note: Akechi is said to have treated the missionaries well.) He did no harm to the castle, but Azuchi nevertheless met its downfall shortly thereafter. It is known for certain that the fortress burned to the ground, but by whom is open to controversy. One popular and often repeated story is that Nobunaga's son, in a fit of rage, grief, or perhaps both, put the castle to the torch. Sansom acknowledges the story, but indicates that looting townspeople probably were responsible for the fire. Still another version says that the tower was destroyed by Nobunaga's adversaries. In any case, the castle burned, leaving only the stone walls, moats, earthworks, and tower foundation (Fig. 23).

The town of Azuchi is now a country village populated by people (some of whom are direct descendants of Nobunaga) who till the land, fish in Lake Biwa, and are proud of their history. At one time they wanted to rebuild the castle donjon but the idea was abandoned for several reasons including lack of funds. Also, the remains of the castle have been declared a special historical relic, and the Committee for the Preservation of Cultural Assets is reluctant to allow construction of a new donjon because of possible damage to the ruins. In addition there is some question whether reliable plans and drawings exist from which a reasonable facsimile could be built. Proponents of the project claim that drawings of the original castle exist and are the property of a temple at the foot of Azuchiyama, but the only known evidence of drawings is a sketch of the exterior on a scroll hanging in the temple.

05 November 2023

Japan's Golden Age of Castle-building

From Castles in Japan, by Morton S. Schmorleitz (Tuttle, 2011), Kindle Loc. ~460ff:

In December 1614, [Tokugawa] Ieyasu gathered together a large host and laid siege to the castle in what is known as the Winter Campaign. In less than a month the two sides came to terms in which [Toyotomi] Hideyori agreed to allow the outer defenses of the castle to be destroyed as a gesture of his good faith. The Tokugawa forces went a bit further, however, and also filled in the inner moat.

Soon after the besieging army left, Hideyori again began to gather troops at the castle. When he ignored Ieyasu's command to cease this activity, the Tokugawa forces again descended on Osaka. This was the opening of the Summer Campaign, which began in May 1615 and ended early in June when the besieging forces fought their way into the castle. Hideyori committed suicide, bringing an end to the Toyotomi Clan. The Tokugawa were now supreme. Ieyasu died about a year later, but he had laid a foundation that gave his descendants rule of Japan for over 250 years.

The period of history just discussed might be referred to as the golden age of castle building, starting with Nobunaga's Azuchi Castle, which was designed as a fortification to resist forces armed with the matchlock. Its high stone walls, deep wide moats, corner towers, and tall donjon were intended to cope with this new weapon. At the same time the castle's design enabled defenders to use firearms to best advantage. Next came Hideyoshi's castle at Osaka, even more formidable and impregnable. These two structures set the pattern for later castle construction. (Note: It is thought that the Portuguese helped with the design of these two fortresses.) Most castles and castle ruins extant today were built in the short three-decade period from 1580 to 1610, employing the architectural design of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. It was then that Kato built his fortress at Kumamoto with its high, imposing walls, Ikeda greatly improved and enlarged the small castle at Himeji, and Ieyasu took the small castle at Edo and developed it into one of the largest fortresses in the world.

Shortly after Sekigahara, Ieyasu called upon the tozama ["outsider"] lords to contribute heavily to the building of Edo Castle. These lords were those who were not related to, or had no hereditary tie with, the Tokugawa family and had remained neutral during Sekigahara or submitted to Ieyasu thereafter.7 In addition to Edo Castle, they were also compelled to build other castles including those of Nijo, Hikone, Nagoya, and Sumpu [in Shizuoka], and to enlarge and remodel still others. Most of these castles were located in strategic areas between Kyoto and Edo and were built on the pretext of providing for national defense. Most, however, were never used in the kind of warfare for which they were designed. The building program was undertaken to reduce the resources of the tozama daimyo, whom Ieyasu did not trust, and to keep them under control.

Policies were also laid down by the Tokugawa government to control the tozama daimyo in ways other than financial. Castles were not to be built, remodeled, or repaired without permission from the shogunate. Men of the samurai class were obligated to live in the castle town. This requirement, an extension of Hideyoshi's sword hunt, tended to strengthen the feudal system. Marriages between the daimyo families had to be approved by the shogunate to prevent hostile alliances from developing, Tokugawa vassals were placed in fiefs where they could observe the activities of their tozama neighbors and report any evidence of conspiracy to Edo. They were moved frequently to prevent them from becoming too well established and forming alliances.

The daimyo were permitted to govern their fiefs without much interference from Edo, but they were obliged to observe the regulations imposed by the shogunate. Although they were allowed this freedom, they were required to alternate residence between their fiefs and Edo. This policy, known as sankin-kotai, was designed to prevent them from conspiring against the Edo government. While they were away from Edo, they left their families there as hostages. The traveling to and from Edo was another form of control, for the daimyo were expected to travel with a huge retinue, thereby incurring expenses that sapped their resources.

03 November 2023

Japanese Castles and Castle Towns

From Castles in Japan, by Morton S. Schmorleitz (Tuttle, 2011), Kindle Loc. ~172ff:

The castles of Japan are an integral part of both feudal and modern Japanese history. During the 14th and 15th centuries the petty feudal barons built defensive castles to serve as or to protect their residences. These fortifications also became the seats of government for the domains over which the barons ruled, and they became the social centers for the areas as well. It was also during this period that domestic and foreign trade began to flourish, thus adding increased status to the castle town as an economic center.

As the 16th century opened, the struggle between the feudal barons intensified with each one attempting to spread his influence over a wider territory. During this struggle the castles assumed greater importance as more people moved to the castle towns. The result was that these economic centers became increasingly vital. About 1542 the first firearms were introduced to Japan by the Portuguese, an event that radically changed the course of warfare. Defenses were substantially reinforced to offset the new weapons, and those barons who were not fortunate enough to have acquired them were defeated. By the end of the century almost all of Japan had been brought under the unified control of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was made shogun (military ruler of the country) in 1603. Ieyasu set up his seat of government at Edo (present-day Tokyo) and from there administered the country as one feudal fief. The daimyo, or lords of the various fiefs, generally ran their domains much as the shogun ran the country. Similarly, the provincial castle towns began to resemble Edo, to the point where street names were identical.

Under Tokugawa rule, each fief was allowed to have only one castle; so all subsidiary strongholds were torn down, and the samurai who had manned them were transferred to the remaining castle and its town. This shift in population attracted merchants and artisans, and it was not long before the castle town was the commercial center of the fief. The samurai, who had little to do because there were no longer battles to be fought, became administrators, and many took up scholarly pursuits while others interested themselves in the arts. Thus castle towns evolved into commercial and cultural centers.

When the feudal period ended in the mid-19th century, the importance of the castle town did not diminish. Many such towns continued to flourish as population centers, and today half of the 60 or so cities with populations over 100,000 are former castle towns. That these feudal towns continue to be important administrative centers is indicated by the fact that 34 of the 46 prefectural capitals were once castle towns.

But the importance of the castle in Japan does not end with its relationship to modern urbanization. The architectural style employed in castle construction is one of the forms that is most truly Japanese in that it was relatively little influenced by Chinese design. This architectural style is called Azuchi-Momoyama after the period of history in which it developed. The amazing fact about this period was its short duration, for it lasted only from 1568 to 1603.