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Castle Sadowara Castle

This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
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Sadowara Castle (佐土原城 Sadowara-jō) is located in the former town of Sadowara (nowadays a part of Miyazaki City) south of the Hitotsusegawa River (一ツ瀬川). It is a hirayamajirō, a lowland castle built on a hill. It is not known when the castle was built, but it is assumed that the Tajima (田島家), a branch family of the Itō clan (伊東), constructed it in the Kemmu era (1334-1336).

Sadowara Castle (佐土原城) 01


In 1536, Itō Yoshisuke (伊東義祐, 1512-1585) moved to Sadowara from Tonokōri Castle (都於郡城) but had to relocate to Miyazaki Castle (宮崎城) when the castle burned down the following year. Yoshisuke repaired the castle around 1542 and temporarily ruled over the whole province of Hyūga, but was defeated by the Tajima in 1577 and fled to Bungo.

Shimazu Iehisa (島津家久, 1547-1587), the younger brother of Shimazu Yoshihisa (島津義久, 1533-1611), took over the castle next. In 1587, after Toyotomi Hideyoshi's conquest of Kyūshū , Shimazu Toyohisa (島津豊久, 1570-1600), Iehisa's son, became lord of the castle. Toyohisa died in the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), and the castle was temporarily taken over by the Tokugawa. In 1603, Shimazu Yukihisa (島津征久, 1550-1610), moved to Sadowara from Ōsumitarumizu (大隅垂水), and in 1625, Shimazu Tadaoki (島津忠興; 1599-1637) followed. He demolished the castle tower (天守閣 tenshukaku) and several other structures and built a new residence on the north-eastern edge of the hill.

In 1869, Shimazu Tadahiro (島津忠寛, 1828-1896) moved the domain administration to Hirose (広瀬) and abandoned the castle the following year. In 1993, the residence along with the entrance, the reception hall (大広間 ōhiroma), the lord's private rooms, the shoin (書院), the garden, the upper gate and the earthen ramparts, as well as the moats were restored. The building also houses the Sadowara Castle Museum of History (佐土原城址歴史資料館 Sadoawarajō-ato rekishi shiryōkan). Several earthen ramparts and dry ditches are preserved on the castle hill.

Sadowara Castle (佐土原城) 02

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

The castle

The castle design is typical for the Sengoku Period: the castle was protected on three sides by earthen ramparts and ditches, but its individual buildings were scattered over the terrain, separated only by dry ditches. When the residence was rebuilt at the beginning of the 17th century, the actual castle fell into disrepair. Today, hardly any structures remain.

There is a free parking lot in front of the Sadowara Museum of History.

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① The museum's building was a former palace called Kakusho-kan (鶴松館) that has been restored. Admission is free. The exhibits relate to the history of Sadowara and the imperial family as the Shimazu were close to the Emperor after the Meiji Restoration.​

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Behind Kakusho-kan and surrounded by the mountains were the offices of the domain administration.​

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From there, I explored the castle hill.

② Entrance​

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The access to the castle was dug into the mountain. The guideboard looked like this:​

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The illustrated guideboards on the site were drawn by the famous cartoonist Mitsuru Sugaya.

③ Next, I visited Matsuomaru (松尾丸), the southern defence perimeter. It was quite challenging to reach the enclosure, as the footboards had disintegrated.​

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The next obstacle: fallen bamboo obstructing the path.​

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Then narrow path along the ridge.​

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At last, I arrived at Matsuomaru. However, no ramparts or earthworks remained.​

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Taking heart, I went on to the Honmaru (本丸).

④ This is the koguchi (entrance) of Minami-no-jō (南の城), in front of Honmaru. This enclosure played a significant role in the last defence of the castle.​

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⑤ Finally, I arrived at the Honmaru (本丸), which was quite large.​

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⑥ The base of the two or three-storied Tenshukaku is still visible.​

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I returned on the opposite side of the U-shaped ridge.

⑦ This is the other entrance.

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I returned to the foot of the mountain. This is where the stables and the horse-riding grounds (御馬繋場) were located.

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Having a break...

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Date of visit: 22 October 2013


  • Address: Kamitajima-8227 Sadowarachō, Miyazaki, 880-0301
  • Access: 4 kilometres from Higashi-kyushu Expressway Saito Interchange via National Route 219
  • Parking: Kakusho-kan Parking (free: see spot 'P' in the map above)
Next article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Tonokoori Castle
Previous article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Mukasa Castle
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Hiroto Uehara
Hiroto is an ordinary Japanese office worker, but his true mission is searching for castles on the weekend.


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Hiroto Uehara
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3 min read
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〒880-0301 宮崎県宮崎市佐土原町上田島 8227-1

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