Kuno Castle

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TohtoumiKunojou (1).jpg


Kunojō was originally built by the Kuno Clan, circa 1500, who were vassals of the Imagawa Clan. The first lord was Kuno Munetaka. In the mid' 16th century the castellan was Kuno Motomune, Munetaka's son. Lord Motomune was killed at the battle of Okehazama in 1560, fighting on the side of the Imagawa along with the Matsudaira against the Oda Clan, and succeeded by his brother, Kuno Muneyoshi.

Whilst Kuno Muneyoshi would later fight and distinguish himself in many battles under Ieyasu, he was initially loyal to the Imagawa. Even in 1568, as Tokugawa forces surrounded Kakegawajō, the last stronghold of the embattled Imagawa Ujimasa, Lord Muneyoshi struck out from Kunojō at Tokugawa forces in the area. Tokugawa Ieyasu was reluctant to weaken his assault of Kakegawa by sending a force to Kunojō, itself a strong fort, and so instead he made diplomatic moves, sending negotiators to Kunojō.

Imagawa Ujimasa, Takeda Shingen - who was invading from Suruga Province which he had earlier conquered - and Tokugawa Ieyasu all wanted the Kuno Clan to support them. Ultimately, Kuno Muneyoshi decided to support Ieyasu, but, rather than fight his former liege, he went to battle against Takeda forces at Ieyasu's urging. This was after Muneyoshi first suppressed a pro-Imagawa faction within the Kuno Clan with the aid of Tokugawa forces. The Kuno supported Tokugawa Ieyasu following his conquest of Tôtōmi Province and subsequent conflict with the Takeda Clan which ended with the death of Takeda Katsuyori in 1582. The Kuno would relocate with the Tokugawa to Kantō after Toyotomi Hideyoshi evicted them.

In 1588, Toyotomi Hideyoshi made Matsushita Yukitsuna, a samurai of minor standing, castellan of Kunojō with a feif valued at 16,000 koku. Yukitsuna and Hideyoshi went way back, and it was Yukitsuna who had given the young Hideyoshi, then called Kinoshita Tōkichirō, his first samurai gig at his castle of Zudajijō (the Matsushita-yashiki). The layout of Kunojō and its ruins that we see today date largely to Lord Yukitsuna's time when he renovated and expanded the castle.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi died in 1598, and Matsushita Yukitsuna supported Tokugawa Ieyasu in his war with Ishida Mitsunari in 1600. However, perhaps he was still regarded with suspicion due to his close links to Hideyoshi, as in 1603 Lord Yukitsuna was censured for building ishigaki (stonewalls) without permission from the Shogunate, and was demoted to a lesser holding far away.

Thereafter Kuno Muneyoshi would return to his ancestral castle. At this time his fief was valued at 10,000 koku, slightly less than he had in Kantō. In 1609, he died, and his son, Kuno Munenari, took over as lord of Kunojō. In 1619, Lord Munenari relocated to Wakayamajō to serve Tokugawa Yoshinobu, and he was replaced as castellan at Kunojō by Hōjō Ujishige. In 1640, Lord Ujishige was relocated to Sekiyadojō, and Kunojō briefly became a branch castle of Yokosukajō before being finally abandoned in 1644.

Visit Notes

Kunojō is a hirayamajiro (hill-and-plainsland castle) ruin in Washizu township, Fukuroi Municipality. Ruins of this earthwork fortress carved from a hill include dorui (earthen ramparts), horikiri (trenches) and kuruwa (baileys). Originally, the base of the hill was surrounded by swampland from which broad moats were fashioned for defence and waterborne transportation. The surrounding land has, however, long since been reclaimed. The ruins are maintained as a park which has parking and toilets, so anyone can visit. There are signboards with information; one features an illustration by renowned castle-illustrator Kagawa Gentarō.

The castle's so-called ôtemon (main gate) area was actually a ferry landing, as the fortress was accessed by boat - in addition to having a land connection. Kagawa-sensei's illustration shows a turret here to protect the landing, but the mound seen today is quite small, and was probably more of a look-out tower on stilts rather than a solid building. This flatland area of the castle is now surrounded by reeds, and during my visit these reed patches were busy with the flittering and twittering of mejiro (warbling white-eyes), the yellow-feathered warblers with distinct white-embossed eyes.

The layout of Kunojō is complex and expansive, and satisfyingly contains, in addition to the main, secondary and tertiary baileys, north, south, east and west baileys too. The south and west baileys are on flatland, whilst the eastern and northern baileys are elevated somewhat (it seems there were two 'north baileys' but that the outer one of the two has been lost to redevelopment). There is a stretch of land beneath the main bailey and between the north and east baileys which has a long stretch of dorui. Dorui can also be seen prominently in the second bailey. Otherwise rare or unique at the site, there is a horikiri on an outcrop beneath the main bailey; it hardly seems necessary, but maybe it was constructed prior to the hilltop fort being expanded into the surrounding plain.

Kunojō is not to be confused with Kunōjō, also in Shizuoka Prefecture.

  • Main bailey from below

Castle Profile
English Name Kuno Castle
Japanese Name 久野城
Founder Kuno Munetaka
Year Founded c.1500
Castle Type Hilltop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations Local Historic Site
Historical Period Edo Period
Artifacts Horikiri, Kuruwa, Dorui, &c.
Features water moats, trenches
Visitor Information
Access Kami-Kuno Bus Stop on Tōmei-Takatô Road (E1); 20 minute walk
Visitor Information 24/7 free; park
Time Required 60 minutes
Website https://www.city.fukuroi.shizuoka.jp/soshiki/27/2/bunkazai/shiteibunkazai/9949.html
Location Fukuroi, Shizuoka Prefecture
Coordinates 34° 45' 59.44" N, 137° 55' 46.24" E
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Added to Jcastle 2024
Contributor ART
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Ken's Storage
Jōkaku Hōrōki
Shiseki Yawa

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