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Castle Kagoshima Castle

Kagoshima Castle (鹿児島城, Kagoshima-jō), also known as Tsurumaru Castle (鶴丸城), is located in Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Prefecture, and was the headquarters of the Shimazu clan.

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In 1601, one year after the Battle of Sekigahara, the 18th head of the Shimazu clan, Tadatsune (島津忠恒, 1576-1638), transferred his base from Ueyama Castle (Shiroyama), a hilltop castle, to the foot of the mountain where he began to construct a new residence against his father Yoshihiro’s objections that it was too close to the sea. He also developed the castle town as a new political and economic centre.

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Shimazu Tadatsune, also known as Matsudaira Iehisa.

Tadatsune's father Yoshihiro (島津義弘, 1535-1619) had supported the Western alliance against Tokugawa Ieyasu and was defeated in Sekigahara. In 1602, Tadatsune submitted to Ieyasu who rewarded him by allowing him to take Ieyasu's former family name Matsudaira and the "Ie" of his first name. Matsudaira Iehisa became the first daimyō of the Satsuma domain.

Although the castle was the new base of the powerful Shimazu, it had no castle tower. This was due to the Shimazu belief that a castle was not a guardian, but a person was the castle: 城をもって守りと成さず、人をもって城と成す (Shiro o motte mamori to nasazu, hito o motte shiro to nasu). The Shimazu set up many tojō (外城, outer castles) defended by soldiers and peasants in every corner of their territory. This strategy of not relying on a strong central castle but a network of smaller fortifications resembled that of Takeda Shingen. It is believed that another reason for keeping the central fortress small was not to trigger Ieyasu's wrath.

A castle town of more than 5,000 townspeople grew around Tsurumaru Castle, surrounded by samurai mansions and the residential area of townspeople: six districts in Uemachi (上町, "high city"), twelve in Shitamachi (下町, "low city"), and four in Nishidamachi (西田町, the western districts), and more than 5,000 townspeople were gathered. After the Meiji Restoration, the castle was used as a military camp, but it burned down in 1873. Only the stone walls and bridges remained. The former honmaru (本丸) gave way to the Reimeikan (黎明館), the Kagoshima Prefectural Historical Centre (鹿児島県歴史資料センター) the former ninomaru houses a library and a museum.

Although the structure was simple, the castle perimeter was large. The steep, rugged Shiroyama (108 metres above sea level) was rising behind the castle so that they could retreat to the mountain in the case of an emergency. As a matter of fact, in the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877, Saigo Takamori (西郷隆盛, 1828-1877) was finally defeated at Shiroyama.

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Based on a map of the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. The location of the enclosures is estimated.

① Ōte Entrance (大手口)
Ōtemon is a rectangular gate. There used to be a Tower Gate in the past. The holes in some places on the stone wall looked like gun marks. Ōtemon was reconstructed in 2018.

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② Remains of a corner turret (御隅櫓 Osumiyagura).

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③ (北東入口 Hokutō iriguchi): The gate at the northeast side of the honmaru: the mountain backside is Shiroyama (城山).

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④ 隅おとし Sumi otoshi

The northeast side of the stone wall was cut off because northeast was believed to be an inauspicious direction (鬼門 kimon, the demon's gate); cutting the corner was supposed to ward off misfortune.

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Kagoshima Prefecture Library (鹿児島県立図書館 Kagoshima-ken Ritsutoshokan) is located in a part of the former ninomaru.

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⑤ Tanshō-en (探勝園), once the Ninomaru Garden is now in the corner of the park.

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⑥ 城山

Shiroyama (城山): view from a parking lot of Reimeikan Museum (黎明館).

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In the Nanboku-chō period (1336-1392), the Ueyama clan built Ueyama Castle (上山城) on Mt. Shiroyama. However, it is nearly impossible to find remains of that ancient structure.

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Sakurajima (桜島), the symbol of Kagoshima as seen from Shiroyama Observatory.

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Date of visit: 20 October 2013

Access:

  • Address: Shiroyama-cho, Kagoshima-shi, Kagoshima
  • Access: a 5-minute walk from Kagoshima City Tram, City Office Station; 5 kilometres from Kyushu Expressway Kagoshima-Kita Interchange via National Route 3
  • Parking: at Reimeikan Museum Parking (free for visitors)
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About author
Hiroto Uehara
Hiroto is an ordinary Japanese office worker, but his true mission is searching for castles on the weekend.

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