Kakegawa Castle was a familiar landmark for travelers on the old Tokaido, the major route connecting the samurai-era government center in Edo (Tokyo) with the capital, Kyoto. Along this highway, travelers would pass through 53 checkpoints and post towns, stopping only at government-approved inns.

Kakegawa served as the 26th stop from Edo's Nihonbashi, the renowned bridge used as the reference point for measuring national distances. Kakegawa also served as a stop on the salt road running through Shinano Province (Nagano Prefecture). Overseeing this important post town, the salt route, and the strategically vital Tokaido route was Kakegawa Castle. In fact, the Tokaido crossed through the eastern section of the castle grounds, requiring travelers to cross a moat, enter the castle grounds, and then exit again, ensuring the route's security.

The initial version of Kakegawa Castle was built around the 1470s by Asahina Yasuhiro, a samurai under the powerful Imagawa clan of Suruga (Shizuoka Prefecture). Following the fall of the Imagawa clan at the Battle of Okehazama in 1560 at the hands of Oda Nobunaga, the lands of the Imagawa were divided between the rival Tokugawa and Takeda clans. Although Kakegawa was within Takeda territory, it was peacefully surrendered to the Tokugawa in 1568. Tokugawa Ieyasu controlled the castle until 1590, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi, having gained control of most of the nation, forced Ieyasu to accept domains in the Kanto region, based in Edo, and cede his other provinces.

Kakegawa was then commanded by Toyotomi retainer Yamanouchi Kazutoyo (Yamauchi Katsutomo), who completely redesigned and improved the castle. The remaining stone walls, moats, and the basic layout of the castle date from Yamanouchi’s time. The keep built by Yamanouchi was destroyed by an earthquake in 1604 and was not rebuilt until 1621.

The Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 saw control of the nation fall into the hands of the victorious Tokugawa Ieyasu. Yamanouchi was transferred to Kochi in Shikoku, and Hisamatsu Sadakatsu, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s half-brother, became the first in a line of mostly Tokugawa-related lords who ruled until 1746.The Ota clan then held the fortress for seven generations until the end of the Edo period.

The castle was well maintained until the great Ansei Earthquakes of 1854 caused extensive damage. Apart from the keep, many of the buildings were repaired by 1861, and following the end of Tokugawa rule, were used as regional administrative offices.

The original Otemon guardhouse still stands, although in a different location, as Kakegawa City Hall was built on the site of the Otemon Yagura, which was relocated to its current position. Six gates once guarded the central precinct. The Otemon has been reconstructed, although about 50 meters west of its original position. The third gate, Fuki-no-Mon, is now part of Enman-ji Temple. The gate was transferred there at the beginning of the Meiji Period but was lowered by 70 cm. Likewise, the Ote-San-Mon was given to the nearby Yusan-ji Temple in Fukuroi, where it remains.

The Ni-no-Maru Goten, a simple yet elegant palace on the flatlands below the hill, remains intact to this day. Built by Daimyo Ota Sukekatsu after the 1854 earthquake and before the collapse of the shogunate, it is among the last truly original Edo period castle structures and is registered as a National Important Property. The land and a substantial amount of money to finance the castle's rebuilding were left to the city by a wealthy resident. With local donations, the keep, some yagura watchtowers, and walled sections were rebuilt in 1994 in the traditional manner, making Kakegawa the first post-war castle to be constructed in wood.


See also 

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