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Castle Sunpu Castle

This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
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Sunpu Castle (駿府城 Sunpu-jō) is a flatland castle (平城 hirajiro) located in the centre of modern-day Shizuoka City. It is famous for being Tokugawa Ieyasu's (徳川家康) place of retirement, from where he still yielded significant political influence as ōgosho (大御所, "retired shōgun ") after he had handed over the position of shōgun to his third son, Hidetada (秀忠).

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)


Sunpu was originally the base of the Imagawa clan (今川氏). The Imagawa clan began in 1337 when Imagawa Norikuni (今川範国, 1295-1384) was appointed shugo (守護, governor) of Suruga Province. The Imagawa eventually came to also serve as shugo of Ōmi Province and reached its peak during the reign of the ninth daimyō Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元, 1519-1560). As a young boy, Ieyasu spent twelve years as a hostage in Sunpu.

After Yoshimoto was killed in the Battle of Okehazama (桶狭間の戦い) in 1560 (Eiroku 3), Suruga came under the rule of the Takeda clan and later Tokugawa Ieyasu. During those conflicts, the area around Sunpu was severely devastated, so the exact location of the former Imagawa residence is unknown. After taking control over Suruga, Tokugawa Ieyasu completed Sunpu Castle between 1585 and 1589. In 1589, Ieyasu's wife, Lady Saigō (西郷局, aka Saigō no Tsubone 西郷の局, 1552-1589), died at Sunpu Castle.

Subsequently, Toyotomi Hideyoshi assigned Ieyasu the Kantō provinces, and Hideyoshi's vassal Nakamura Kazuuji (中村一氏, d, 1600) became the lord of Sunpu. However, after the victory in the Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) in 1600, Sunpu Castle again came under Ieyasu's rule. In 1606, Ieyasu relinquished the shogunate to Hidetada and retired to Sunpu. After moving to Sunpu, Ieyasu not only expanded Sunpu Castle but also worked to improve the castle town and rivers in the castle area. Daimyō from all over Japan were compelled to contribute to constructing the castle. When it burned down in 1610, it was again the daimyō who had to shoulder the reconstruction of the triple moat and the seven-storey donjon. Ieyasu died at Sunpu Castle in the second year of the Genna Era (1616).

In 1624, Tokugawa Tadanaga (徳川忠長), the younger brother of shōgun Iemitsu, became lord of the castle and was named Suruga Dainagon (駿河大納言). However, Tadanaga, estranged from his elder brother, Iemitsu, was placed under house arrest in Kōfu, accused of insanity, and stripped of all possessions and offices. He committed suicide in 1634. Sunpu Castle subsequently became tenryō (天領), shogunal land. The city of Sunpu, and with it the castle, burned down in 1635. By 1638, most structures, except for the donjon, had been rebuilt.

The castle was again destroyed during the Ansei Tōkai Earthquake (安政東海地震) in 1854. This time, it was not rebuilt. In 1868 (Keio 4), after Tokugawa Yoshinobu had surrendered Edo Castle and moved to Sunpu, Tokugawa Iesato (徳川家達, 1863-1940), the heir to the Tokugawa family, became lord of Sunpu Castle for a short period until the abolition of Shizuoka Domain in 1869. In the Meiji era, the Imperial Army requisitioned the castle grounds and turned them into an army headquarters just like Nagoya Castle. In 1949, the land was again handed over to the municipal government. In the late 1980s and the 1990s, several structures, such as the Tatsumi Yagura and the Higashigomon, were reconstructed.

The castle

The structure of Sunpu Castle was built on a so-called contour-type rope line, with the Honmaru at its centre and the Ninomaru and Sanomaru around it, each surrounded by a triple moat.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

Sunpu Castle Museum

The current Sunpu Castle Park was established on the site of a military camp built in the Meiji era by filling in the inner moat. It corresponds to the former Honmaru and Ninomaru.

The middle moat and its stone walls surrounding Ninomaru are almost entirely intact, and part of the outer moat also survived. All the buildings have been destroyed, but Higashi‐gomon and Tatsumi Yagura were restored, and Hitsujisaru Yagura is currently (2014) under restoration work.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

Aerial photographs were taken from GSI's Geographical Survey Institute maps. Locations are estimated.

Well, on this day, I walked from Shizuoka Station. Tokyo was having a hard time with heavy snowfall, but it was a warm sunny day in Shizuoka. First, I walked around the outer moat.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

① Ruins of the Ote‐gomon (大手御門跡)

This is the main entrance to Sunpu Castle. It is currently the entrance to the Shizuoka Prefectural Government building.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

② Ruins of the Yotsuashi‐gomon (四足御門跡)

Along with the Ote‐gomon, this was an essential gateway into the castle from the Tōkaidō route.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

③ Hitsujisaru Yagura (坤櫓)

Hitsujisaru means the direction of southwest. Currently under restoration, nearing completion.


④ Ruins of the Shimizu‐gomon (清水御門跡)

This is the western entrance to Ninomaru.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

⑤ Ruins of Kita-gomon (北御門跡)

This is the northern entrance to Ninomaru.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

⑥ Ruins of Kusabukamon (草深門跡)

It is located on the north-eastern side of the outer moat.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

Then enter Sunpu Castle Park from Higashi-gomon.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

⑦ Hihashi-gomon (東御門) and Tatsumi yagura (巽櫓)

Tatsumi means the direction of southeast.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

The second floor of Higashi-gomon is a museum. Volunteers were kind enough to explain various aspects of the castle.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

The shachihoko (鯱) that once sat on top of Higashi-gomon was unearthed during excavations. The other has not yet been discovered.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

The inner moat (内堀 uchibori) was once filled but has been partially restored.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

⑧ Remains of a canal

These are the remains of a canal set up to draw water into the inner moat. The jagged shape may have been to prevent the enemy from entering.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

⑨ Ruins of the donjon (天守跡)

The donjon was used as a military camp and has been removed. The earth-fill seen at the back is for construction.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

This is where the donjon once stood.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

⑩ Ruins of the former Honmaru (本丸跡) and the bronze statue of Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康銅像)

This is the site of the former Honmaru.


Photograph a stone wall that collapsed due to the earthquake and its restoration.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

Mount Fuji, the symbol of Shizuoka, peeks out.

Sunpu Castle (駿府城)

Well, this was an impressive 100 castles visited. Our immediate target is 500 castles, so we still have a long way to go. I will follow Ieyasu's example and do my best.

Date of visit: 16 February 2014


  • Address: 1-1 Sunpujokoen, Aoi Ward, Shizuoka, 420-0855
  • Access: a 15-minute walk from Shizuoka Station on the JR Tōkaidō Honsen Line, an 8-minute walk from Shin-Shizuoka Station on the Shizuoka Railway Line.
    Five kilometres from Shizuoka Interchange on Tomei Expressway via Prefectural Route 84.
  • Parking: Civic Cultural Centre car park
Next article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Koyama 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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〒420-0855 静岡県静岡市葵区駿府城公園1−1

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