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Gifu Castle, once known as Inabayama Castle, has stood as a symbol of Gifu City and a hallmark of the tumultuous Sengoku period for over eight centuries. Initially constructed by the Nikaido clan around 1201, it underwent expansions and fortifications by influential daimyo such as the Saito clan of Mino and the Oda clan of Owari.

Perched atop the formidable Mt. Kinka, formerly Mt. Inaba, the castle's strategic location, standing 329 meters tall, commanded a view over the surrounding landscape, with the Nagara River flowing below, serving as a natural moat. Despite its reputation as an impregnable fortress, Gifu Castle fell to a mere sixteen samurai in a surprising turn of events.

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The mastermind behind this audacious conquest was Takenaka Hanbei, military advisor to the castle lord, Saito Tatsuoki. Despite his frail appearance, Hanbei's tactical genius proved formidable. Incensed by a humiliating incident where a samurai of Gifu Castle insulted him, Hanbei orchestrated a clever ruse, leading to Tatsuoki's panicked retreat and the castle's swift capture.

Subsequently, Oda Nobunaga, having heard of Hanbei's feat, requested possession of the castle, but Hanbei, loyal to his lord, returned control to Tatsuoki before departing from service. However, Gifu's fortunes continued to fluctuate. Nobunaga later seized the castle in 1567, reinforcing it as a pivotal stronghold in his quest to unify Japan.

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Under Nobunaga's rule, Gifu Castle underwent significant renovations, boasting the nation's first official castle tower, or tenshu. While the mountain peak housed a watchtower, the main castle complex sprawled at the base, featuring a grand four-story golden palace and expansive gardens, a testament to Nobunaga's opulence and power.

Portuguese Jesuit Missionary Fr. Louis Frois praised Gifu's prosperity, dubbing it a "bustling Babylon" and highlighting its significance in trade and commerce. However, Gifu's glory was short-lived. Damaged in the lead-up to the Battle of Sekigahara, the castle faced further destruction at the hands of Tokugawa forces, culminating in its dismantlement by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1601 to deter dissent.

Despite successive reconstructions, including a concrete replica built in 1956, Gifu Castle's legacy endures through ongoing research and restoration efforts. Recent discoveries shed light on its architectural intricacies, offering insights into Nobunaga's vision and strategic prowess, ensuring that the castle's story remains a captivating chapter in Japanese history.


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