Kanmuriyama Castle (Bitchu)

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BitchuuKanmuriyamajou (1).JPG


In April, 1582, Kanmuriyamajō, under the command of Hayashi Shigemasa, a vassal of the Mōri Clan, was surrounded by 30,000 troops alligned to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It was a prelude to the famous flooding attack on Bitchū-Takamatsujō by Toyotomi, then called Hashiba, as part of his campaign to conquer Chūgoku from the Mōri Clan. Kanmuriyamajō was held by Hayashi Shigemasa with commanders Torigoe Sahē and Matsuda Saemon; its garrison numbered only 3,600 soldiers. Besieging forces, under Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Ukita Hideie, underestimated the capacity of the defenders, expecting to take the castle with overwhelming numerical advantage, but they were repulsed with a tremendous amount of return fire from guns and cannon. The attacking forces began to settle in for a lengthy siege, but then the unexpected occured. A fire broke out in the castle toward the end of April. It appears that the fire started where matchlock fuses were being stored against a brushwood fence. An inflammable arrangement to be sure, but one wonders if a fire wasn't started deliberately by a turncoat or infiltrator... The besieging forces in anycase saw the conflagration engulfing the fort from within and immediately stormed it. The defenders were out of position due to the commotion caused by the fire, and their defence completely collapsed, leading to the fall of Kanmuriyamajō.

Hayashi Shigemasa bid his loyalist troops farewell, and committed seppuku in the southern tower of the castle. At least 139 of his retainers then died, either by suicide or whilst resisting the enemy to cover the dignified seppuku of others. When the attackers stormed the castle tower they retrieved Shigemasa's head; it was then sent to Kyōto by Hideyoshi to be presented to Oda Nobunaga.

Visit Notes

Kanmuriyamajō is small yamajiro (mountaintop castle) ruin in Kibi County. I wasn’t going to go because the site seemed quite hostile during the off-season, but it’s only a small hill and very easy to access, so I couldn’t simply cycle on past. I doused myself in bug repellent and wore hiking gloves and long sleeves, but I was nonetheless besieged by large mosquitoes as soon as I entered the ruins. Because of this I spent ten minutes or less quickly having a look around.

The ruins of Kanmuriyamajō consist of earthworks, mostly levelling and terracing which divides the hilltop into baileys which climb up like a step-ladder. Below the main bailey there is a second bailey, and below that a third bailey. There is a very large pit at the entrance to the site, which is heavily coated in bamboo and trees, and this is thought to have been a well dug at the castle. Each bailey is signposted. There is a gate ruin at the entrance to the site. The main bailey is now a small, neglected park with a stela.

A map I was following by Yogo-sensei indicates that there may be tatebori (climbing moats) on the far side of the main bailey, but since the area was so overgrown and bug-ridden, I had to cut my explorations short.

  • Main bailey and stele monument
  • Main Gate Site
  • Third bailey, a terraced bailey (koshikuruwa)
  • 2nd bailey, terraced (koshikuruwa)

Castle Profile
English Name Bitchu Kanmuriyama Castle
Japanese Name 備中冠山城
Founder Hayashi Shigemasa
Year Founded 16th century
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features trenches
Visitor Information
Access Ashimori Station on the Kibi Line; 35 minute walk
Visitor Information 24/7 free; mountain
Time Required 30 minutes
Website https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%86%A0%E5%B1%B1%E5%9F%8E
Location Okayama, Okayama Prefecture
Coordinates 34° 43' 10.06" N, 133° 48' 19.15" E
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Added to Jcastle 2022
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Jōkaku Hōrōki

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