Yoshida Castle is renowned worldwide, particularly through the intricate woodblock prints by Edo Period artist Hiroshige. His famous series, depicting the 53 stages of the Tokaido—the historic route between Kyoto and Edo (modern-day Tokyo)—includes the 34th print, which shows workmen repairing a castle overlooking a wooden bridge crossing a wide river. This scene captures the Toyokawa River at Toyohashi in southeast Aichi Prefecture, and the castle is Yoshida Castle.

Constructed in 1505 on the western bank of the Toyokawa, Yoshida Castle was strategically placed to guard an important river crossing along the vital Tokaido highway. It was designed to protect the eastern Mikawa (now central Aichi Prefecture) lands of warlord Imagawa Ujichika from the encroachments of the Matsudaira Clan of western Mikawa Province. Utilizing the river as a natural defense, the castle’s main citadel, or Honmaru, was enclosed by a moat. Unlike many Japanese castles that feature a large multi-story tower donjon, Yoshida Castle boasted three three-story yagura (watchtowers), a single two-story yagura, and three large fortified gates. The second and third citadels were also encircled by moats and fortified with smaller yagura and robust gates.

Due to its strategic importance, Yoshida Castle was the site of numerous battles and sieges during the civil war period. One notable siege occurred in 1575, led by Takeda Katsuyori before the Battle of Nagashino. Despite being besieged by over 15,000 Takeda forces, the castle’s small garrison of 500 samurai held out, causing Katsuyori to abandon the siege and attack nearby Nagashino Castle instead. This delay allowed the allied forces of the Tokugawa and Oda clans to prepare for the decisive battle that led to the Takeda clan's downfall.

From 1600 onwards, under Tokugawa rule, Yoshida Castle remained a significant stronghold and a key sentinel over the Tokaido. Throughout the Edo Period, various daimyo oversaw the castle, many of whom expanded and fortified its structure. However, with the fall of the Shogunate in 1868 and the abolition of feudalism, Japan returned to imperial rule. The castle was peacefully surrendered to the new Meiji government but was destroyed by fire in 1873 after being handed over to the Imperial army.

After World War II, the castle site was transformed into a park. Toyohashi City Hall was constructed on part of the old castle grounds, beside the main citadel. In 1954, the three-story Kurogane Yagura, one of the original larger turrets, was rebuilt. The castle walls surrounding the inner bailey remain in good condition, giving visitors a sense of the castle's original size. However, many of the old moat systems have been filled in to make way for roadways. An art gallery and a sports complex now occupy the site of the second and third citadels. One of the best views of the castle is from the opposite (eastern) riverbank, where the reconstructed turret and riverside stone walls can be fully appreciated.

Despite its small size, Yoshida Castle played a significant role in Japan's turbulent history. Today, it stands as a picturesque reminder of the past, offering visitors a glimpse into its storied legacy.


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