Kuniyoshi Castle

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Although an earlier fortification built by the Sagaki Clan had existed on the site, Kuniyoshijō was constructed in 1556 by Awaya Katsuhisa, a vassal of the Wakasa-Takeda Clan. The castle was positioned between the Takeda's main base at Nochiseyamajō (Obama), and acted as an important line of defence against encroachment from the neighbouring province of Echizen. Between 1563 and 1569, the castle withstood attacks and sieges by Asakura Yoshikage of Echizen. In 1570, Kuniyoshijō supported Oda Nobunaga, helping to facilitate his invasion of Echizen. During the Echizen campaign, Awaya Katsuhisa was able to rescue his old lord, Takeda Motoaki, who had been taken as a hostage in 1568 by the Asakura. Oda Nobunaga exterminated the Asakura in 1573, and the Awaya would become his vassals, leaving Wakasa to serve him elsewhere.

From 1583, following the death of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi appointed Kimura Sadamitsu as lord of Kuniyoshijō, and a small jōkamachi (castle town) developed at the foot of the castle mount with a hundred buildings. In 1587, Asano Nagayoshi became the lord of the castle. Eguchi Saburōemon and Asano Heiuemon acted as castellans.

In 1600, Kyōgoku Takatsugu became lord of Wakasa, and his vassal, Tada Koshinaka, was made castellan of Kuniyoshijō. In 1604 a large fire ravaged the castle town. Around 1615, Kuniyoshijō was abolished following the Ikkoku-Ichijōrei, an edict by the Shogunate which saw many smaller castles and forts abandoned and demolished. However, in 1634, when Sakai Tadakatsu became lord of Wakasa, ruling from Obamajō, the Sagakichō-Bugyōsho, an administrative centre, was founded at the base of the castle mount south of where the castle's kyokan (residential area) used to be. This bugyōsho was upgraded in 1803 and became Sagaki-jin'ya. Stone walls and even a relocated gate remain from that facility.

Visit Notes

Kuniyoshijō can refer to a multispatial, multilayered historic site centred around the ruins of the medieval mountaintop castle of Kuniyoshijō. The castle itself is medieval in origins, playing a prominent role locally during the Sengoku period. At the foot of the castle mount was where Awaya Katsuhisa, lord of the castle, had his residence. The castle's kyokan (residential area) was quite vast, but the centre of the yakata (fortified manor hall), Awaya-yakata, appears to have been northwest of the Edo period bugyōsho (magistrate's office) / jin'ya site. Awaya-yakata and Kuniyoshijō formed a typical jōkan complex of a manor hall with a yamajiro (mountaintop castle) defending it and acting as a fortified redoubt in times of conflict. The foot of the castle mount later played host to several proto-modern facilities, and the ruins of these are located nearby and adjacent to those of the medieval ruins.

Kuniyoshijō is on the list of 'Next Top 100 Castles' and 'Top 100 Yamajiro'. I walked there from Mihama Station. The ruins at the foot of the mountain or hill in the case of many yamajiro are often negligible, but Kuniyoshijō is a busy site in terms of history. The lower ruins are at least half of the reason to visit this site. I'll cover each portion of the site separately.

As for Kuniyoshijō itself, it is a yamajiro with many baileys. There is evidence ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts) near the main bailey at the top of the castle mount, though much of the masonry has long since collapsed. Other features include gate complex ruins and dorui (earthen ramparts). One significant portion of dorui is at the rear of the main bailey; it is thought to have been a yaguradai, a base for a tower. Another interesting dorui formation can be found dividing a pair of lower baileys to the southwest. To the northwest there is a long spur made up of consecutive baileys. As I was a bit pressed for time I didn't explore them in detail, though I could see to the very end by going down to the middle bailey. The terracing here is impressive, and I could make out the masugata(square)-shaped depressions in the earth which once served as gate sites.

Related Sites:

Awaya Yakata

Sagaki Jin'ya

Junhanshi Yashiki

Obama Castle

Nochiseyama Castle

Ichijodani Castle


Castle Profile
English Name Kuniyoshi Castle
Japanese Name 国吉城
Founder Awaya Katsuhisa
Year Founded 1556
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Next 100 Castles, Local Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Artifacts Ishigaki, Dorio, Kuruwa
Features stone walls, castle town
Visitor Information
Access Mihama Sation on the Obama Line; 30 minute walk to trailhead
Visitor Information 24/7 free; mountain (museum closed in winter)
Time Required 180 minutes
Location Mihama, Fukui Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 36' 53.17" N, 135° 57' 52.92" E
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Added to Jcastle 2023
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Jōkaku Hōrōki

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