Iji Castle

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IjijouRecon (4).JPG


Ijijō was constructed in 767 by the Yamato to consolidate territory as part of their expansion into northern Honshū. Ijijō was intended to keep the local Emishi, an ethnic group from northern Honshū, in check, but the Yamato also relied on friendly chieftains to keep the peace, such as Ijijō's castellan, Koreharu Azamaro, who was an Emishi chief ('Koreharu' is an alternate reading of 'Iji'). In 780, an inspector from the imperial court, Ki Hiromasa, and another local chief, Michishima Ôtate, were staying at Ijijō in preparation for working on the construction of Kakebetsujō, when Azamaro turned on them and killed them, sparking the Hōki Rebellion. The rebels then attacked and looted Tagajō, and a period of instability in the region followed. The fate of Azamaro is unknown.

Mechanisms for hand-held crossbows ('ishiyumi' in Japanese can also refer to ballista-type weapons, and 'shudo' specifically is a handheld crossbow) have been excavated at the ruins of Ijijō. Crossbows can be cumbersome but they are easy to use with little training, so the imperial court which used peasant recruits liked them. However, compared to bows they had several drawbacks (not a pun!). Crossbows were difficult to replace and costly to import. They faced domestic production and suppliy issues. Crossbows were used in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries, but the rising professional samurai class much more preferred bows as they were easier to equip and could be used effectively from horseback. Warfare in northern Japan made much use of cavalry. The relatively static crossbow was used to defend Yamato jōsaku forts like Ijijō, but it's hard to see them being favoured by the attacking Emishi. The Emishi did steal crossbows stored at forts, but one wonders if they used them much, especially since the bolts were difficult to produce locally.

Visit Notes

Ijijō is an 8th century castle ruin which is a national level historical site in Jōno Township, Kurihara Municipality. Ruins remain in the form earthworks such as dorui (earthen ramparts). There are neighbourhood names in the township such as 'Ôhori (Great Moat)', and these are probably related to the castle. I have not yet been to this site myself, but there is a partial reconstruction of it at the Esashi-Fujiwara Village in Ōshū Municipality, Iwate Prefecture, which I visited.

The speculative reconstruction of Ijijō at the Esashi-Fujiwara Village features a paling wall linking two archer platforms and a gatehouse. There are also two buildings which appear to be intended as guardhouses. The terrain is very different from the fort's original site, and it is set in a valley which has been turned into a garden-like space enjoyed by visitors and ducks alike.

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  • Reconstructed yaguramon at Esashi-Fujiwara no Sato
  • Reconstructed watchtower at Esashi-Fujiwara no Sato

Castle Profile
English Name Iji Castle
Japanese Name 伊治城
Founder 767
Year Founded Koreharu Azamaro
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations National Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Artifacts Yaguramon, &c.
Features gates, turrets, walls
Visitor Information
Access Nearest station is Kurikoma-Kōgen Station on the Tōhoku-shinkansen
Visitor Information Reconstruction is at Esashi-Fujiwara Village
Time Required 45 minutes
Website https://www.pref.miyagi.jp/soshiki/bunkazai/kuni-siseki33.html
Location Kurihara, Miyagi Prefecture
Coordinates 38° 45' 55.30" N, 141° 2' 15.58" E
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Added to Jcastle 2023
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Jōkaku Hōrōki
Kojō Seisuiki

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