Horikawa Castle

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Horikawajou (1).jpg


Following the defeat of the Imagawa at Okehazama in 1560, the Imagawa lost control in Mikawa. Horikawajō was built by Saitō Tameyoshi, a vassal of the Imagawa Clan, in 1667, in preparation for war with the Tokugawa. Horikawajō at that time was built on the shores of Lake Hamana, a saline water body connected to the sea, and was inaccessible by foot at hightide. Tokugawa Ieyasu invaded Tôtōmi in 1568.

Horikawajō was attacked by Tokugawa forces in March, 1569. The garrison commander at that time was Nitta Yūsaku; he rallied local rōnin forces under the Odō, Takeda, Yamamura, and Nitta clans, and holed up in the castle. Horikawajō was defended by mostly armed peasants when Tokugawa forces attacked. The defenders numbered 2,000, including women. Tokugawa Ieyasu attacked with 3,000 seasoned warriors, and Horikawajō fell within a day. The castle was destroyed and only a mound for interring severed heads remained.

It is said that 1,000 defenders at the castle were slaughtered. Six months later, 700 more villagers were rounded up and executed, their headless bodies displayed along the Miyakoda River. The population of Kiga Township at that time is thought to have been about 3,000 divided between seven villages, and so the siege of Horikawajō and its aftermath ultimately left more than half the local population dead.

There is a story that earlier in his invasion of Imagawa territory, Tokugawa Ieyasu attempted to take Horikawajō with a much smaller force in which he took on a frontline role disguised as a regular warrior, but was forced to retreat by armed villagers. Could this explain his ire in dealing with the local population, wantonly slaying hundreds of them even after they had been suppressed?

As for Horikawajō's rōnin commanders, they did not fair much better. Takeda Takamasa committed seppuku in the bailey whilst the castle burned. Commander Odō escaped to safety at Horiejō, but later committed seppuku out of guilt. Commander Yamamura escaped the castle in a small boat, but likewise committed seppuku when he felt the enemy closing in. Nitta Shirō escaped in the chaos and tried to disguise himself by cutting his hair, but he was later captured and executed. Nitta Yūsaku is presumed killed in the chaos of the castle's fall.

Visit Notes

Horikawajō is a former hirajiro (plainsland castle) site in the countryside outside of Kiga, Hosoe Township, Hamana Ward, Hamamatsu Municipality. No ruins of fortifications remain and the site is now fields. A small park with a hedgerow and camellia bushes can be found as the site of the fort today. Here there is a marker stone for the castle, and the only remains from that time, a kubiźuka, or burial mound for severed heads, which was presumably constructed following the fall of the castle with the remains of its defenders interred.

  • Castle marker

Castle Profile
English Name Horikawa Castle
Japanese Name 堀川城
Founder Saitō Tameyoshi
Year Founded 1567
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition Ruins only
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Artifacts Head Mound
Visitor Information
Access Kiga Station on the Tenryū-Hamana Line; 10 minute walk
Visitor Information 24/7 free; fields
Time Required 10 minutes
Location Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture
Coordinates 34° 48' 11.05" N, 137° 38' 45.71" E
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Added to Jcastle 2024
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Shiseki Yawa

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