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Castle Ichiuji Castle

Ichiūji Castle (一宇治城 Ichiūji-jō) is a former castle complex located in Hioki City, Kagoshima Prefecture.

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At the beginning of the Kamakura Period, Ki no Shiro Tokikiyo (紀四朗時清), also known as Ijūin Tokikiyo (伊集院時清) was appointed governor of Ijūin County. He constructed Ichiuji Castle where he and his descendants ruled for four generations or some 130 years. They were called the "Old Ijūin clan" (古伊集院家). Later, a branch of the Shimazu clan, the "New Ijūin clan (新伊集院家), took over the castle. In the Nanboku-chō period (1336-1392), Ijūin Tadakuni (伊集院忠国) sided with the Southern Court and fought against the Shimazu who supported the North.

In 1536, Ichiuji Castle once again changed hands and was ruled by the main branch of the Shimazu. The 15th head of the clan, Shimazu Takahisa (島津貴久, 1514-1571) started a series of campaigns to reclaim the provinces of Satsuma, Osumi, and Hyūga (modern-day Kagoshima and Miyazaki Prefecture). His strife for territorial expansion would be accomplished by the next generation of Shimazu. When the Portuguese shipwrecked in Tanegashima in 1543 he jumped at the chance and started to trade with the foreigners. He was the first daimyō to import Western firearms to Japan.

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Shimazu Takahisa (島津貴久, 1514-1571)

In 1549, he welcomed Francisco Xavier in his mountain residence at Ichiuji Castle. Later, he moved his base to Uchi Castle in Kagoshima. In 1590, Ichiuji Castle was abandoned.

The castle is situated on a 60-metre high plateau skirted by the Kamino River on the northern side and with steep precipices on all other sides. Like many castles in Kagoshima, it lies on a shirasu-daichi (シラス台地, pyroclastic plateau) and made use of curved valleys for moats and the plateau for its enclosures. The former castle grounds form the present-day Shiroyama Park.

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Based on a map of the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. The location of the enclosures is estimated.

Visitors who come by car can leave their vehicle at the parking lot of Shiroyama Park. Visitors arriving at Ijūin Station need to detour to the south (cf. the map above).

Entrance (登城口 Tojōguchi)

We were climbing the stairs next to the parking lot to reach the castle site.

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The statue of Francisco Xavier next to the entrance: I wonder what kind of impression he had of the Japanese castle which must have been so entirely different from Western castles.

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② Tsurube Castle (釣瓶城 Tsurube-jō), a fortification on the southern side. "Castle" here is synonymous with kuruwa, an enclosure.

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Some earthwork found around Tsurube Castle.

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③ There is another fortification on the southern side, Minami-no Castle (南の城 Minami-no-jō), nowadays merely an open space.

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I then proceeded to the northern side of the castle. The path leading up the hill seems to date back to modern times.

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There were two fortifications on the northern perimeter: the right one was Shinmei Castle (神明城 Shinmei-jō) and the left one Izaku Castle (伊作城 Izaku-jō). They appeared too well-maintained for castle remains.

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The trench between Shinmei and Izaku castles.

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⑤ Shinmei Castle was the centre of Ichiūji Castle. The observation tower stands on the presumed position of Shimazu Takahisa's residence.

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The view from the tower; the near side is Ijūin Town and the mountain in the background shrouded in clouds is Sakurajima.

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Although there are arguments both for and against maintaining a castle site as a park, at least the children will be pleased to frolic about a genuine castle site.

Date of visit: 19 October 2013

Access:

  • Address: Ijuinchō Ota, Hioki, Kagoshima 899-2521
  • Transportation: a 15-minute walk from JR Kagoshima Main Line Ijuin Station
    3 kilometres from Kagoshima Expressway Ijūin Interchange via Prefectural Route 24
  • Parking: free parking lot at Jōyama Park ( 'P' pointed on the map above)
  • Other sights: Izaku Castle


Map:


About author
Hiroto Uehara
Hiroto is an ordinary Japanese office worker, but his true mission is searching for castles on the weekend.

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