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Castle Sagara Castle

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Sagara Castle (相良城 Sagara-jō) is a flatland castle (平城 hirajiro) built along the Hagima River (萩間川) in Sagara, Makinohara, Shizuoka Prefecture.

Sagara Castle (相良城)

Sagara Manor was located here during the Heian period (794-1185). Around 1112, Kudō Kaneyori (工藤周頼), a descendant of the Fujiwara clan, moved to Sagara and adopted the name of the locality. After ruling the area for about 80 years, the Sagara clan moved to Kuma in Higo Province (肥後国, modern-day Kumamoto Prefecture) at the end of the 12th century and became the lord of Hitoyoshi Castle (人吉城主).

Sagara then came under the power of the Katsumata clan (勝間田氏), a powerful clan that rose to prominence in the eastern Totoumi Province (遠江国). However, the Katsumata clan was destroyed around 1476 by the provincial governors of Suruga, the Imagawa, who planned to extend his power into the distant provinces. The castle buildings of this period were located at Takisakai (滝堺). Takeda Shingen, who eventually brought the area under his control, also built a castle in Takisakai. To defend Sagara Minato, Takeda Katsuyori built a castle near the mouth of the Hagima River in 1576, thought to be on the site of the present Sagara Junior High School.

The times changed, and in 1710, in the middle of the Edo period, Honda Tadaharu (本多忠晴, 1641-1715) became the first lord of the Sagara clan. Tanuma Okitsugu (田沼意次, 1719-1788) was responsible for the subsequent significant development of the Sagara clan. Originally from a family of 300 koku hatamoto, Okitsugu began his rise to prominence after the 8th shōgun , Tokugawa Yoshimune, recognised his talents. In 1758, at the age of 39, he became lord of the Sagara domain, and in 1772, he was selected by the 10th Shogun Ienari as a senior lieutenant. Under the shōgun's trust, Ietsugu wielded his power and built a magnificent castle, which was likened to a 'dragon's palace' (竜宮城 ryūgūjō). However, he focused not only on the construction of his castle but also on the clan's development, including the construction of highways and harbours and the fostering of industry.

However, although Okitsugu promoted reforms to the shogunate administration, such as the introduction of an aggressive financial policy and the relaxation of national seclusion, he was ousted in 1787 due to strong resistance from the conservative faction, which was also jealous of his exceptional success in office, in addition to opposition to his innovative policies. The Tanuma clan was not only forced to move to the Shimomura domain in Oshu by a reduced number of stones, but the remaining Sagara Castle was also thoroughly destroyed. Thirty-six years later, in 1823, the Tanuma clan was restored as the lord of the Sagara clan and remained until the Meiji Restoration.

The site of Sagara Castle, built by Okitsugu, is now home to Sagara Primary, Middle and High Schools. There are few remains of the castle as it was thoroughly destroyed, but earthworks and moat ruins can be seen.

Sagara Castle (相良城)

Aerial photographs taken from Geographical Survey Institute maps. The location of the enclosures is estimated.

When visiting Sagara Castle Ruins by car, use the parking lot of the Makinohara City Sagara Town Hall (former Sagara Town Hall).

① Sagara Museum (相良資料館)

Sagara Museum, located in a corner of the town hall, is shaped like a castle and stands on the ruins of the honmaru.

Sagara Castle (相良城)

Sagara Castle (相良城)

After gaining general knowledge of Sagara Castle at the Sagara Museum, the museum staff showed us where the remains were located, and we went around.

② Ruins of Ninomaru earthworks (二ノ丸土塁跡)

Sagara Castle (相良城)

The foundations of the pine trees at the back of the ground are also said to be the remains of earthworks.

Sagara Castle (相良城)

③ The remains of the moats (堀跡)

Only a few moats remain in the residential area.

Sagara Castle (相良城)

④ Sendai Riverbank (仙台河岸)

Built in 1767 with donations from Date Shigemura (伊達重村), daimyō of Sendai, hence the name Sendai. The moat is said to have served as a landing place for boats with a military role, connecting the castle to the open sea and allowing Sengoku boats (千石船) to lay alongside. Today, it serves as the foundation for the town's factories.

Sagara Castle (相良城)

⑤ The starting point of the Tanuma Highway (田沼街道起点)

Sagara Castle (相良城)

The ruins of the castle seen from the Hagima River (萩間川). The school's large playing field barely reminds us of what it looked like in those days.

Sagara Castle (相良城)

Tanuma Okitsugu (田沼意次, 1719-1788)

Tanuma Okitsugu (田沼意次, 1719-1788)

Although Tanuma Okitsugu is generally depicted as a power-hungry plutocrat, there is also the opinion that he was a reformer who tried to convert shogunal politics, which had fallen into stagnation. He was probably both a plutocrat and a reformer. Still, his policy of easing the isolationist policy and emphasising economic stimulus was a progressive one that can be applied today and should be more highly regarded. There is much more to say, but as this is an introduction to the castle, I will leave it at that. I was impressed by the receptionist at the Sagara Museum, who hesitantly handed me materials on Okitsugu's achievements, saying that I could read these if I wanted.

Date of visit: 16 February 2014


  • Address: 283 Sagara, Makinohara, Shizuoka 421-0522
  • Access: twelve kilometres from Tomei Expressway Sagara Makinohara Interchange via Route 473
  • Parking: Makinohara City Hall Sagara Government Building Parking Lot (free: see point 'P' on the map above)
  • Nearby sights: Koyama Castle - Ryugenzan Castle
Next article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Tanaka Castle (Shizuoka)
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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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〒421-0522 静岡県牧之原市相良283

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