Utsunomiya Castle

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Utsunomiya6.jpg

History

The story of Utsunomiya Castle begins with a fortification built by Fujiwara Hidesato or Fujiwara Souen in the Heian Period around 1062. During the Kamakura Period the castle was under the control of the Utsunomiya Clan who continued to rule for another 500 years. During the Sengoku Period, Utsunomiya Castle was also caught in several battles around the area, including an attack by the Hojo that burned a large section of the castle town. it was during this period of warring states, that the castle became much more heavily fortified with high walls and a deep moat. The Utsunomiya were defeated by Hideyoshi and their lands including the castle were confiscated in 1597. During the Edo Period, Utsunomiya Castle was the home for several Tokugawa loyalists. In particular Honda Masazumi is responsible for renovating the castle and castle town providing the basic layout for modern day Utsunomiya. Utsunomiya Castle is named as one of the Seven Great Kanto Castles and is famous as the place where the shogun stayed when he visited Nikko. Most of Utsunomiya Castle was burned down during the Boshin war. The current reconstructions were completed in 2007.

Visit Notes

While they've done a good job faithfully reconstructing a section of wall and 2 yagura, I was still a little disappointed in this site. The big glass elevator, metal railings and huge concrete tunnel all detract from giving it a historic feel. I understand the necessity of some of these for modern day reconstructions like this, but I think they could have done a better job disguising some of these necessities. I also really don't see the need for that huge concrete tunnel through the middle of the wall. Regardless, the height of these walls is really impressive. Utsunomiya Castle did not have a main keep, but the yagura atop these immense walls should have provided a field of view just as good as the large keeps of other Edo Period flatland castles. This reconstructed wall faces west so I had a hard time getting decent pictures in the morning with the sun behind the wall. I recommend visiting in the afternoon.

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Castle Profile
English Name Utsunomiya Castle
Japanese Name 宇都宮城
Founder Fujiwara Hidesato or Fujiwara Souen
Year Founded 1062
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations
Historical Period Edo Period
Features turrets, walls
Visitor Information
Access Utsunomiya Station (JR or Tobu sta.); 15min walk
Visitor Information
Time Required
Website http://www.utsunomiya-jo.jp/tale in 1000/index.htm
Location Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 33' 18", 139° 53' 6"
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Admin
Year Visited 2008
Visits October 17, 2008
Added to Jcastle 2008


1.78
(9 votes)
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ARTHatamoto

22 months ago
Score 0++
One of the volunteer guides was kind enough to demonstrate for us how the yagura would be locked with an Edo Period key. He also allowed us to go to the roped-off second storey of one of the turrets and pointed out that the shachihoko (the roof ornaments in the form of mythological fish) form a male and female pair, the male being the one with its mouth open the widest. I hadn’t noticed that they weren’t identical until I zoomed in with my camera. ~ There is a mock tenshukaku of Utsunomiyajō built off site at Utsunomiya Zoo. The mock keep was built to house a demonstration of a legendary weapon called Tsuritenjō (the hanging ceiling). This trap was said to have been built by castellan Honda Masazumi in an attempt to assassinate Shōgun Tokugawa Iemitsu. This probably stems from Honda formerly being a close ally of the Toyotomi, and yet he seems to have been well trusted and a loyal retainer. He fell out of favour in 1622 to however and so the legend might have also followed this occurrence. My initial plan was to investigate this mock keep after the castle itself but there was so little information about it that I gave up, rather than go all the way to the zoo and pay in only to be disappointed by not being able to see the tsuritenjō, as I couldn’t confirm it was in operation.
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FurinkazanHatamoto

43 months ago
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Today i visited this little site. It's something of a mix. The 2 reconstructed towers are in wood, like it should be. The embankment is in concrete. That on itself isn't a problem, but the tunnel is. To add to Kris' comment, the guide in the tunnel gave me an A4 page about the castle's history, in english. In the tunnel are 2 models. One of the honmaru with all its buildings, the other is of the city, both of the Edo-period.
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Kiddus i2003Gunshi

55 months ago
Score 0++
Interesting , shame more wasn't constructed.
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KrisGunshi

80 months ago
Score 0++
I have to agree; full marks for their barrier-free access but it does make it look a bit like a futuristic weapons factory that is going to start rolling out the tanks. Quite small and not so good for photos. I think they sold themselves short – they could have done so much more – I hope they do. The volunteer guide inside the tunnel (not the Jomon pottery house) was very knowledgeable though, which made it more interesting. Supposedly the Otemon faced North, not East as would be expected, reflecting the fact that this castle was originally established for the purpose of conquering the North of Japan. From the castle the first stop would be Futara Shrine, to pray for victory. Another interesting point represented by the reconstruction is that the inward facing walls of the yagura do not have windows so that the people on guard would not be able to look down on the Shogun during his stay. Still, the main reason I went to see Utsunomiya is because of its role in the Boshin War. The castle has a detailed `Hijikata Toshizo was here` themed walking map which includes a good map of the castle and surrounding points of interest. Most of the sites require a lot of imagination – the site of Matsu-ga-mine Mon, where he suffered a bullet wound to the foot, is now a sea of carparks. Nearby that there is some remnant earthen wall (very minor but it exists); also the giant Gingko tree where the san-no-maru used to be is worth seeing for its size and the fact it was there back when there used to be a castle. My final favourite was the kimono shop I happened to see by chance that had a sign saying `since 1868.`