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Castle Tonokoori Castle

This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
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Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城 Tonokoori-jō), also known as Ukifune Castle (浮船城), is a former mountain castle (山城 yamajiro) located at Saito City (西都市), Miyazaki Prefecture. It was designated a National Historic Site (国の史跡 Kuni no shiseki) in 2000 and is one of the famous 48 castles of the Itō (伊東四十八城 Itō shitoya-jō).

Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城) 01


In 1335, Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏, 1305-1358), the founder of the Ashikaga shogunate, granted Itō Sukemochi (伊東祐持) the land of Tonokoori. Sukemochi's son Sukeshige (祐重) constructed Tonokoori Castle in 1337, establishing the base from where the Itō would expand their territories. The castle was destroyed by fire on four occasions, either in war or accidents; in 1504, a fire broke out and destroyed most buildings and furniture.

Later, Itō Yoshisuke (伊東義祐, 1512-1585) subjugated most of Hyūga Province (日向国) but was defeated by Shimazu Yoshihiro (島津義弘, 1535-1619) in the Battle of Kizaki (1572) despite Yoshisuke's tenfold superiority in warriors. After the battle, the fortune of the Itō clan began to wane: Tonokoori Castle fell in 1577, and the family fled to the territory of the neighbouring Ōtomo clan. Shimazu Yoshihisa took over the castle and used it as a frontline base in the Battle of Takajō (1587). Yoshihisa was defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the Battle of Nejirozaka (根白坂の戦い) and finally expelled from Hyūga. Tonokoori Castle was abandoned after the war. In 1615, under the Edo Shogunate's "One Country, One Castle" decree (一国一城令), the castle was officially given up.

The castle

The castle is situated on an 80-metre-high plateau surrounded by the Sanzai River (三財川). The castle perimeter comprised five enclosures: the main enclosure (本丸 honmaru), the second enclosure (二ノ丸 ninomaru), the third enclosure (三ノ丸 sannomaru), Okunojō (奥ノ城) and Nishinojō (西ノ城) located at the northwestern edge of the plateau. There are several subcastles such as Hikage Castle (日影城), Eastern Castle (東ノ城), Mukai Castle (向ノ城), Nanno Castle (南ノ城), and Nakao Castle (中尾城) around the inner enclosures. As we can see on the map below, the enclosures and outer fortifications transformed the whole plateau into a large fortress.

Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城) 02

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

The main castle has been converted into a park with a large parking lot. However, the parking is a little far from the castle.

Below the stairs that lead towards the Honmaru.

Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城) 03

The park is well-maintained, and the entire plateau and the hill with the five subcastles five castles are covered with lawn. I was quite surprised as most of the other castles we visited in southern Kyūshū were untended.

Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城) 04

Itō Mancio (伊東マンショ, 1569-1612), born Itō Sukemasu (伊東 祐益) at Tonokoori Castle, was a member of the Tenshōken'ōshōnenshisetsu (天正遣欧少年使節, "Tenshō Embassy to Europe"). He was a grandson of Yoshisuke and converted to Christianity after the Itō clan had escaped to the Christian daimyō Ōtomo Sōrin (大友宗麟, 1530-1587). He studied theology and Latin at the seminary in Nagasaki.

Tenshō Embassy to Europe

Itō Mancio, by Italian painter Domenico Tintoretto (late 16th century)
The idea of sending a Japanese legation to Europe was originally conceived by the Jesuit Alessandro Valignano and supported by the three Christian daimyōs Ōmura Sumitada, Ōtomo Sōrin and Arima Harunobu. Itō Mancio was chosen to act as the head of the group selected by Ōtomo Sōrin, the most powerful daimyō in Bungo Province and a close relative of Mancio's father, Itō Shurinosuke (伊東 祐青).

On 20 February 1582, Itō left Nagasaki accompanied by three other nobles: Miguel Chijiwa (千々石 ミゲル Chijiwa Migeru), Julião Nakaura (中浦 ジュリアン Nakaura Jurian) and Martinão Hara (原 マルチノ Hara Maruchino). They were accompanied by two servants and their tutor and translator Diego de Mesquita. Their mentor Valignano accompanied them only as far as Goa in India, where he took on new tasks. On their way to Lisbon, where they arrived in August 1584, they spent nine months visiting Macao, Cochin and Goa. From Lisbon, the ambassadors travelled to Rome, the main destination of their journey. There, Itō Mancio was made an honorary citizen and admitted to the ranks of European nobility with the title of Cavaliere di speron d'oro ("Knight of the Golden Spur"). During their stay in Europe, they met King Philip II of Spain, Francesco I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pope Gregory XIII and his successor Pope Sixtus V.

The ambassadors arrived back in Japan on 21 July 1590. They had been instructed to chronicle their eight-year journey. These formed the basis for De Missione Legatorum Iaponensium ad Romanam Curiam ("On the Mission of the Japanese Legates to the Roman Curia"), published in Macao by the Jesuit Duarte de Sande in 1590. Alessandro Valignano subsequently ordained the four as the first-ever Japanese Jesuit padres.

Itō Mancio later worked as a missionary and was exiled to Nagasaki, where he became a teacher at the seminary. He died of disease in 1612.

Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城) 05

Okunojō (奥ノ城)

The lonely tree in the centre was impressive.

Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城) 06

Below, the moat between the Honmaru and Okunojō.

Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城) 07

Ninomaru (二ノ丸)

The vegetation had just been cut, so its prominent shape was apparent.

Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城) 08

Remains of the earthworks around the Ninomaru.

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The view of Sannomaru (三ノ丸) and Nishinojō (西ノ城)

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Sannomaru is located at the western edge of the plateau. It served as an observation platform.

Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城) 11

Nishinojō (西ノ城)

As the forest area behind the hill holds freshwater facilities, it is off-limits.

Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城) 12

A birdie taking a break, a Daurian redstart or jōbitaki (ジョウビタキ).

Tonokoori Castle (都於郡城) 13

Date of visit: 22 October 2013


  • Address: Kanoda, Saito, Miyazaki 881-0104
  • Access: 6 kilometres from Higashi-Kyushu Expressway Saito Interchange via National Route 18
  • Parking: on the castle site (free: Spot 'P' on the map above)
  • Other sights: Sadowara Castle
Next article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Taka Castle
Previous article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Sadowara 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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4 min read
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〒881-0104 宮崎県西都市鹿野田

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