Kakegawa Castle: Feudal Seat of Power

Japanese castles served a particular need in the 15th century, during the Warring States era in Japan, a time of chaos when many small independent states in the country fought each other. Japanese castles were built in strategic areas such as on top of a mountain for defense purposes. When a central authority was established by Oda Nobunaga in the latter part of the 16th century with Toyotomi Hideyoshi completing the reunification of Japan, larger castles were built across the country and became the region’s administrative and military headquarters.

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Kakegawa Castle (掛川城) in Kakegawa Shizuoka Prefecture (then known as Tōtōmi Province) was the seat of power of the various daimyos who ruled over the Kakegawa Domain.  The original castle was built by Asahina Yosihuro, a retainer of the warlord Imagawa Yoshitada (father of the famed Imagawa Ujichika and the 9th head of the Imagawa clan) during the Bunmei era (1469-1487).

Kakegawa Castle. | Izu navi

The castle stood for many succeeding generations of the Asahina clan. When the Imagawa clan was defeated at the Battle of Okehazama, the territories under Imagawa Yoshitada were divided among the victors, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Takeda Shingen. Kakegawa Castle was surrendered to the Tokugawa forces by Asahina Yasutomo in 1568 and remained under Tokugawa’s rule until the fall of the Takeda clan.

Kakegawa_castle_mikazukiboriToyotomi Hideyoshi’s rise to power after the Battle of Odawara in 1590 forced Tokugawa Ieyasu to trade his domains in the Tōkai region for the Kantō region. Kakegawa went to Toyotomi’s retainer Yamauchi Kazutoyo and became the center of 51,000 koku, later increased to a 59,000 koku domain. Yamauchi Kazutoyo rebuilt Kakegawa Castle completely using the latest contemporary architecture at the time, and the stone walls, moats, and layout have since remained the same.

Kakegawa Castle inner moat. | Monado

During the Tokugawa shogunate, the Tokugawa recovered most of the territories they lost, including Kakegawa Castle. The castle was assigned to many different daimyōs throughout the years, beginning with Hisamatsu Sadakatsu and ending with seven generations of the Ota clan.

The end of the feudal age saw many castles demolished as unwelcome reminders of the past.  Many structures of Kakegawa castle were destroyed in the Ansei Tōkai Earthquake in 1854 and even more were destroyed during World War II.  There are very few original castles left today that give us a glimpse of life in the old days and show us the remarkable culture and heritage of Japan. Kakegawa Castle remains a reminder of the tumultuous past and the glory days of daimyōs who once ruled over the lands.