Azuchi Castle

Azuchi Castle

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was one of the primary castles of Oda Nobunaga
Oda Nobunaga
was the initiator of the unification of Japan under the shogunate in the late 16th century, which ruled Japan until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. He was also a major daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. His opus was continued, completed and finalized by his successors Toyotomi...

. It was built from 1576 to 1579, on the shores of Lake Biwa
Lake Biwa
is the largest freshwater lake in Japan, located in Shiga Prefecture , northeast of the former capital city of Kyoto. Because of its proximity to the ancient capital, references to Lake Biwa appear frequently in Japanese literature, particularly in poetry and in historical accounts of battles.-...

, in Ōmi Province
Omi Province
is an old province of Japan, which today comprises Shiga Prefecture. It was one of the provinces that made up the Tōsandō circuit. It is nicknamed as .Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake, is located at the center of the province...

. Nobunaga intentionally built it close enough to Kyoto
Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

 that he could watch over and guard the approaches to the capital, but, being outside the city, his fortress would be immune to the fires and conflicts that occasionally consumed the capital. This location was also quite strategically advantageous, in managing the communications and transportation routes between his greatest foes - the Uesugi clan
Uesugi clan
The was a Japanese samurai clan, descended from the Fujiwara clan and particularly notable for their power in the Muromachi and Sengoku periods ....

 to the north, Takeda clan in the east, and Mōri clan
Mori clan
The Mōri clan was a family of daimyō, descended from Ōe no Hiromoto and established themselves in Aki Province. Their name was derived from a shōen in Mōri, Aikō District, Sagami Province. The generation of Hiromoto began to name themselves Mōri.After the Jōkyū War, Mōri was appointed to the jitō...

 to the west.

History


Unlike earlier castles and fortresses, Azuchi was not intended to be solely a military structure, cold, dark, and foreboding. Nobunaga intended it as a lavish mansion, which would impress and intimidate his rivals, not only with its defenses, but with its lavish apartments and decorations, and flourishing town and religious life. The keep
Keep
A keep is a type of fortified tower built within castles during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars have debated the scope of the word keep, but usually consider it to refer to large towers in castles that were fortified residences, used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the...

, called Tenshukaku, rather than being the center of the castle's defences, was a seven-story building containing audience halls, private chambers, offices, and a treasury, as though it were a royal palace. In addition to being one of the first Japanese castles with a tower keep, Azuchi was unique in that its uppermost story was octagonal. In addition, the facade of Azuchi, unlike the solid white or black of other castles, was colorfully decorated with tigers and dragons.

There were five main militaristic features of Azuchi Castle that differentiated it from earlier castle designs. Firstly, it was a massive structure, with the walls of the castle ranging from 18 feet to 21 feet in thickness. The second feature of Azuchi Castle is the predominant use of stone. The walls were constructed from huge granite stones fitted carefully together without the use of mortar. A third innovation of the Azuchi Castle was the high central tower, or donjon. The tower allowed for increased visibility for the use of guns against an opposing force. Builder’s plans for the castle show the donjon to be 138 feet tall, with seven levels. Fourthly, Azuchi Castle had irregularly formed inner citadels. These inner citadels gave defenders ample defensive positions against intruders. The location of Azuchi Castle was also a novel feature. Whereas most Japanese castles found the most advantegous position was at the base of mountain surrounded by dense vegetation (which would allow cover for an enemy), Azuchi Castle was built on a plain to give a wide view of an approaching enemy.

Nobunaga desired a full castle town, and built well-defended homes for his generals, a Jōdo-shu
Pure land
A pure land, in Mahayana Buddhism, is the celestial realm or pure abode of a Buddha or Bodhisattva. The various traditions that focus on Pure Lands have been given the nomenclature Pure Land Buddhism. Pure lands are also evident in the literature and traditions of Taoism and Bön.The notion of 'pure...

 Buddhist temple called Jōgon-in, and a number of homes for commoners a short distance away on the shore of the lake. However, he had trouble convincing people to move into these homes at first. In the summer of 1577, he issued a municipal charter, guaranteeing residents immunity from taxes, building or transport levies, and moratoria, and forced all travelers on the Nakasendō
Nakasendo
The , also called the , was one of the five routes of the Edo period, and one of the two that connected Edo to Kyoto in Japan. There were 69 stations between Edo and Kyoto, crossing through Musashi, Kōzuke, Shinano, Mino and Ōmi provinces...

 highway to stop in the town overnight for lodging, thus bringing business to his town's innkeepers. By 1582, the town's inhabitants numbered roughly 5,000.

In addition to welcoming many of Nobunaga's powerful political guests, such as Tokugawa Ieyasu
Tokugawa Ieyasu
 was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan , which ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara  in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Ieyasu seized power in 1600, received appointment as shogun in 1603, abdicated from office in 1605, but...

 and Niwa Nagahide
Niwa Nagahide
, also known as Gorōzaemon , was a Japanese samurai of the Sengoku through Azuchi-Momoyama periods of the 16th century. He served as a retainer to the Oda clan, and was eventually a daimyo in his own right....

, Azuchi castle also hosted an event in 1579 which has come to be known as the Azuchi religious debate
Azuchi religious debate
The took place between monks of the Nichiren and Jōdo sects of Japanese Buddhism, at Oda Nobunaga's Azuchi Castle in 1579.Nobunaga, who effectively ruled over all of Japan at the time, had a long history of low tolerance for violence or competition for power from religious groups...

 (安土宗論, Azuchi shūron), taking place between leaders of the Nichiren
Nichiren
Nichiren was a Buddhist monk who lived during the Kamakura period in Japan. Nichiren taught devotion to the Lotus Sutra, entitled Myōhō-Renge-Kyō in Japanese, as the exclusive means to attain enlightenment and the chanting of Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō as the essential practice of the teaching...

 and Jōdo
Pure land
A pure land, in Mahayana Buddhism, is the celestial realm or pure abode of a Buddha or Bodhisattva. The various traditions that focus on Pure Lands have been given the nomenclature Pure Land Buddhism. Pure lands are also evident in the literature and traditions of Taoism and Bön.The notion of 'pure...

 sects of Buddhism.

In the summer of 1582, just after Nobunaga's death at Honnōji
Incident at Honnoji
The ' refers to the forced suicide on June 21, 1582 of Japanese daimyo Oda Nobunaga at the hands of his samurai general Akechi Mitsuhide. This occurred in Honnō-ji, a temple in Kyoto, ending Nobunaga's quest to consolidate centralized power in Japan under his authority.-Context:Oda Nobunaga was at...

, the castle was attacked by the forces of Akechi Mitsuhide
Akechi Mitsuhide
, nicknamed Jūbei or called from his clan name and title, was a samurai who lived during the Sengoku period of Feudal Japan.Mitsuhide was a general under daimyo Oda Nobunaga, although he became infamous for his betrayal in 1582, which led to Nobunaga's death at Honno-ji...

, Nobunaga's betrayer. The castle was set aflame, though some accounts claim this might have been the work of looting townspeople, or of one of Nobunaga's sons. Mitsuhide, therefore, never managed to occupy the castle.

The Azuchi-Momoyama Period
Azuchi-Momoyama period
The came at the end of the Warring States Period in Japan, when the political unification that preceded the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate took place. It spans the years from approximately 1573 to 1603, during which time Oda Nobunaga and his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, imposed order...

 of Japanese history takes its name, in part, from this castle. All that remains of the castle today is the stone base. However, a reproduction of Azuchi, based on illustrations and historical descriptions, stands in Ise Sengoku Village, a samurai theme park near Ise
Ise, Mie
, formerly called Ujiyamada , is a city located in eastern Mie Prefecture, on the island of Honshū, Japan.Ise is home to Ise Grand Shrine, the most sacred Shintō Shrine in Japan, and is thus a very popular destination for tourists. The city has a long-standing nickname—Shinto —that roughly means...

. In addition, a full-scale replica of the top floors of the donjon is on display at the Nobunaga no Yakata Museum near the original castle ruins.

Contemporary Media


In the Samurai Warriors
Samurai Warriors
is the first title in the series of video games created by Koei's Omega Force team based loosely around the Sengoku period of Japanese history and it is a spinoff of the Dynasty Warriors series...

/Warriors Orochi
Warriors Orochi
, is a PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 hack and slash video game developed by Koei and Omega Force. It is a crossover of two of Koei's popular video game series, Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors...

 franchise, Azuchi Castle was termed by Naoe Kanetsugu
Naoe Kanetsugu
was a Japanese samurai of the 16th-17th centuries. The eldest son of Higuchi Kanetoyo, Kanetsugu was famed for his service to two generations of the Uesugi daimyo. He was also known by his court title, Yamashiro no Kami or his childhood/adolescent name, Higuchi Kanetsugu .Kanetsugu served first as...

 as "one of the most impregnable and powerful castle" in the Sengoku Period though as he metaphorically termed the castle to have "lack of justice" due to being controlled by Oda Nobunaga
Oda Nobunaga
was the initiator of the unification of Japan under the shogunate in the late 16th century, which ruled Japan until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. He was also a major daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. His opus was continued, completed and finalized by his successors Toyotomi...


See also


External links