Sunomata Castle

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SunomatajouMogiTenshuART.jpg

History

Oda Nobunaga wanted a castle built in the Sunomata area as a bridgehead for his final assault on Saito’s main castle, Inabayama (Gifu) Castle. It was a marshy region between Ogaki Castle, which was held by Oda forces, and Saito’s stronghold, Inabayama Castle. Previous attempts to build a castle in the area by Oda generals, Sakuma Nobumori and Shibata Katsuie, had failed. Kinoshita Tokichiro (later Toyotomi Hideyoshi) was ordered to try again. The construction materials were obtained by felling trees upstream and then floating the logs down the Sunomata River and tributaries of other rivers to the castle site. By cleverly pre-assembling some sections of defensive structures and hiding them before the final steps in the construction of this fortified site, Tokichiro was able to build his first castle ever and do it “overnight”. In reality, it took at least two to three days to put up the basic defensive structures and longer to dig the moats around the castle. As Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he was to repeat this clever psychological ploy on a grander scale with the construction of Ishigakiyama Ichiya Castle to demoralize the Odawara Castle defenders. In comparison, Sunomata Castle was more akin to a border fort with some simple watchtowers, wooden palisades, and dry moats. There is a good model of what the castle may have looked like inside the Sunomata History Museum. After the successful conquest of Mino, and its integration into the growing Nobunaga empire, Sunomata Castle was decommissioned.


Visit Notes

I went to Sunomata Castle after visiting Takenaka Jinya and Ogaki Castle. I took my folding bike with me and rode to Sunomata Castle from JR Ogaki Station in around 20 minutes. There are buses to Sunomata Castle from either Ogaki Station or Gifu Station, but I am not sure of their schedules. The land where the original Sunomata Castle stood has changed as a result of the changes in the course of the local rivers. A map inside the Sunomata Castle Museum clearly shows this. Also, the present concrete Sunomata Castle is nothing like what was built by Tokichiro, but it does house a pretty decent museum about the history of the castle and the conflict between Nobunaga and the Saito Clan of Mino. From Sunomata Castle, you can clearly see Gifu Castle perched on Mt. Kinka in the distance on a clear day.


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Gallery
  • Mogi-tenshu (faux reconstructed keep)
  • Mogi-tenshu (faux reconstructed keep)
  • "Toyotomi Hideyoshi's cheval de frise"
  • Depictions of the fort from the Bukō Yawa (see comment below)
  • Depictions of the fort from the Bukō Yawa (see comment below)
  • Map from the Bukō Yawa (see comment below)
  • "Toyotomi's Well of Success"
  • Gourds are associated with Toyotomi Hideyoshi's earlier career


Castle Profile
English Name Sunomata Castle
Japanese Name 墨俣城
Alternate Names Ichiya Castle, Sunomata Ichiya Castle
Founder Kinoshita Tokichiro (Toyotomi Hideyoshi)
Year Founded 1566
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition Reconstructed main keep
Designations Local Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features main keep, water moats, stone walls, walls
Visitor Information
Access Ogaki Sta.; Bus
Visitor Information 9:00am-5:00pm / 200yen
Time Required 45 minutes
Website http://www.city.ogaki.lg.jp/0000000723.html
Location Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 22' 1.63" N, 136° 41' 15.72" E
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Admin
Added to Jcastle 2012
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Admin Visits Viewer Donated


1.67
(6 votes)
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avatar

ARTShogun

24 days ago
Score 1++

Part of an article I wrote "debunking" this castle:

I re-visited Sunomata Castle after realising it was very close to a motel I was staying at. Well, it's a mogi-heavy site with virtually no actual ruins to speak of. However, there are some mock cheval de frise fences, called 'Tōkichirō no Umasaku', erected around the rear of the small island on which the mogi tenshu (faux reconstructed castle tower) sits, and these are probably a more accurate representation of the kind of fort famously built in "one night" by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1567.

I visited in the morning before the mogi opened. I noticed prayer boards - the site hosts a shrine - in the shape of gourds. Gourds were used as containers and Toyotomi Hideyoshi famously carried one up Mount Inaba when he snuck into Inabayamajō to start fires -- it is said. The Sunomata Castle mogi, located in Sunomata Township, Ôgaki Municipality, serves as a local history museum. The folly is based on the appearance of the donjon at Ôgaki Castle nearby. The castle is one of a handful of castles with the nickname 'Ichiyajō ("One Night Castle")' because Toyotomi Hideyoshi is said to have built the fort by pre-assembling much of it and floating it into position downriver. Sunomatajō sits at the confluence of the Tennō, Nagara and Sai rivers.

I noticed some old style pictures of structures used at the fort on a display board. I was interested in these clues as to what the real castle would've looked like. It turns out they come from a historical document, or a collection of documents, called the Bukō Yawa (武功夜話). There is an entry for this work on jisho.org, an online dictionary, which reads 'chronicle covering the Warring States to Momoyama periods, probably bogus'. Probably bogus! Haha. Well, the title is a sort of clue of that to be fair - 'Nighttime Tales of Military Exploits', as it sounds like stuff samurai of more peaceful times made up around campfires. Gunki, 'war chronicles', are a type of literature in Japan that used real historical figures and events as set pieces for works of mostly fiction. However, Bukō Yawa, supposedly compiled in the early Edo period, has proven to be much more dubious than even samurai campfire tales.

Bukō Yawa, purportedly uncovered in 1959 when a typhoon damaged an old storehouse, has been heavily criticised, and its validity as a historical source has been called into question. Access to the original document is tightly controlled by the Maeno family, and no full academic survey has yet to be completed. Bukō Yawa contains descriptions and drawings of the fort built hastily by Toyotomi Hideyoshi known to us as Sunomatajō. But some researchers have called their authenticity into question.

In the past I may have bored some of you with sudden explanations about municipal mergers in Japan, a passing interest of mine. They rarely relate directly to castles, being a modern phenomenon - though sometimes modern municipalities expand and retain exclaves like a feudal domain! However, there's something important you should know about municipal mergers that relates to Bukō Yawa.

In order to accomplish a municipal merger that makes all residents happy, sometimes rather than call the new municipality after a single existing settlement, a new name is created by combining kanji and parts of the name of each significant settlement contributing to the merger. For example, in 1954, in Kamo County, Gifu Prefecture, the villages of Tomida and Kajita merged into a new township called Tomika.

Yet the village name of Tomika, created only in 1954, appears in Bukō Yawa. Bukō Yawa contains multiple such errors regarding modern place names. The name of the township Yaotsu also appears, but that only existed from 1889. Whilst the Bukō Yawa is claimed to have been re-discovered in 1959, it was not disseminated to the public until the 1980s, so it seems somebody unfamiliar with the history of local municipal mergers may have been writing or adding to Bukō Yawa no earlier than the 1960s.

The description of how Sunomata Castle was built has also drawn a lot of scrutiny. It's hard to explain without maps, but it appears the author of the Bukō Yawa based the description on the modern flow of rivers which have altered since the 16th century. Some have questioned the strategic logic of the claim of the castle's origins, and also noted that the names of its builders seem to have been lifted from a description of the construction of nearby Fuseyajō (which I visited the day prior to Sunomatajō). There are many other problems besides, such as the appearance of Meiji period terminology, and maps depicting rivers flowing along their modern rather than historic courses and even a 20th century drainage channel.

I want to clarify that the fort of Sunomatajō appears to have indeed existed based on historical accounts and some ruins which were said to have remained as late even as the construction of the mogi tenshu. Indeed, in the Shinchō Kōki, Oda Nobunaga is mentioned as constructing / occupying and using Sunomatajō as early as 1561, even though the Bukō Yawa claims Toyotomi Hideyoshi didn't build it until 1569 -- remember, in a single night. The last mention of the castle is attested in 1584. So, Sunomatajō did exist, but Toyotomi Hideyoshi may not have built it, and the story of it being constructed 'in a single night' is probably apocryphal.

Unfortunately, the Sunomata Castle museum does not mention any of this when presenting information from the Bukō Yawa which it presents uncritically. Whilst Bukō Yawa also has its supporters, without free access to the original documents research cannot progress. The tradition of a "one night castle" at Sunomata does not, I should clarify, begin with the Bukō Yawa, and is suspected by some researchers to have its genesis in a 1703 gunki about Oda Nobunaga called the Sōkenki (総見記), from which various other works and re-tellings developed gradually into the basic tale we know today.
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Matthew WardGunshi

12 months ago
Score 0++
It's a cute little mogi, and was less underwhelming inside than many reconstructed castles. Also, the riverside location is nice. Worth 2 stars for the attractiveness and the museum.
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ARTShogun

93 months ago
Score 1++
The mock reconstructed keep is built on the flood embankment at a convergence of multiple waterways, and despite modern infrastructural works surrounding the site, because in fact those great barriers against the river waters seem like walls protecting the castle, it has an interesting atmosphere. From the keep one can see both Ōgakijō to the west and Gifujō to the east. Thankfully exhibits included in the museum show the true state of the castle and nearby landscape as it existed originally. I twin Sunomatajō with Sekiyadojō due to the close similarity in setting, albeit of the two Sekiyadojō is most historically accurate.
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Jcastle.oldHatamoto

104 months ago
Score 0++
Oops, now corrected. Thank you !
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ARTShogun

104 months ago
Score 0++
This castle is BLUE on the MAP, but I see a reconstructed keep in the picture here. Is that a mistake? It seems so.
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JthaasPeasant

106 months ago
Score 0++
I took the bus from Ogaki station to this castle in September 2015. The helpful people at the bus information booth outside the station will give you a paper timetable and, as the bus generally only runs once per hour, it's worth picking up the timetable before walking down the road to Ogaki Castle. I took a 12:10 bus (370 yen) that arrived at the Sunomata stop at 12:32, so it's not that far from Ogaki but just a bit too far to walk. The castle itself looks just like the photos above and the museum is small but reasonably interesting. There were only 2 other people there on the perfect, sunny day I visited, so it was easy to get some great photos! It's not a \must see"castle by any means but if you're in Ogaki anyway it's certainly worth the extra effort"