Inuyama castle

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  • Japanese:犬山城(Inuyama-jou)
  • Type:Flatland-Mountain
  • Founder:Oda Nobuyasu
  • Year:1537
  • Location:Owari province

Inuyama castle (also known as Hakutei castle) was originally built sometime between 1532 and 1555 by the Oda family, who at the time were vassals of the Shiba. It is traditionally attributed to Oda Nobuyasu. Located in Inuyama City in Aichi prefecture (the historical Owari province) about 20 miles north of Nagoya castle on the Nobi plain, Inuyama is perched on top of a small hill at a bend in the Kisogawa and has long been a favorite of castle goers in Japan. The castle took part in not one but two notable campaigns of the Sengoku period. The first was the Komaki-Nagakute campaign of 1584, which pitted Toyotomi Hideyoshi against Tokugawa Ieyasu. Hideyoshi’s vassal Ikeda Nobuteru, himself a former lord of Inuyama, used his knowledge of the castle’s defenses along with agents on the inside to cross the river and swampland surrounding the castle. Having bypassed this difficult terrain, Nobuteru’s troops overran the defenders (who were being commanded by a Zen priest) and the castle became Hideyoshi’s headquarters for the remainder of the campaign. Afterwards, it was given to Nobuteru and his son Terumasa. The castle subsequently was passed to Ishikawa Sadakiyo after the Siege of Odawara in 1590.

Inuyama again took its place in the history books during the Sekigahara campaign of 1600. It, along with Gifu castle and Takegahana castle, became the focus of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s early assaults against the forces of the west. All three castles fell to Ieyasu and the Battle Of Sekigahara took place about 30 miles west of Inuyama. Much of the castle’s construction and development remains a mystery. It was built on the site of an important shrine (Harigane Jinja) which was moved to Shirayamadaira to facilitate the construction of the castle. For many years it was believed that the keep had been moved here from Kanayama castle in 1599 by Ishikawa Mitsuyoshi but that theory has been disproved. A few years after Sekigahara the castle was given to Matsudaira Tadayoshi, who already being ensconced at Kiyosu castle delegated it to his vassal Ogasawara Yoshitsugu. In 1617 the castle was then turned over to Naruse Masanari, and was largely to remain controlled by the family until the early 21st century. The Meiji government took control of the castle from 1872-1895. Inuyama was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1892 when all of the buildings (not already torn down by the government) excepting the tenshu were destroyed. The Japanese government returned the castle to the Naruse family with the provision that they would restore and maintain the tenshu. The castle was also damaged during a typhoon in 1961, and repair work starting in 1962 uncovered some major flaws that required dismantling the castle (including the ishigaki). With financial aid from the government’s Ministry Of Education the tenshu was restored in 1965. The financial burdens involved in maintaining the castle proved to be too much for the Naruse, and they sold the castle to Inuyama City (who subsequently turned it over to Aichi prefecture) around the year 2003.

The castle has 3 exterior and 4 interior levels, plus an additional 2 basement levels. Much like Maruoka castle, it consists of a belvedere set into the roof of a two story building with a hip gable style roof and a banistered corridor around the belvedere. The repair work done when the castle was dismantled in 1962 showed that the lower two stories were much older than the top two (based on examination of the timbers). The original two story building was constructed in the style of a fire resistant storehouse, and the belvedere in a more ornate style that featured cusped windows and exposed wood. The belvedere was probably constructed by the Ishikawa in the years 1600-1601, while the lower two stories were from the mid-sixteenth century (making Inuyama, by some accounts, the oldest tenshu in Japan-although usually that honor is given to Maruoka castle). This discovery also proved that the tenshu was not moved from Kanayama castle, although some materials from Kanayama may have been used to construct the belvedere. Previously the belvedere was thought to had been built by the Naruse around 1619-1625, but it seems as if the extent of their work amounted to adding cusped gables on the north and south sides. The main room at the center of the castle’s first floor is notable for being built in an early shoin residential style that is free from the elaborate forms taken by many later castles. The main room’s ornamental alcove (tokonoma) and shelving (chigaidana) were added many years after the castle was constructed, suggesting that the original two story structure was extensively reworked by the Ishikawa as well. It also features wooden interior walls, a somewhat unusual feature (most castles used mud walls). When the castle was dismantled, many parts had to be refashioned, duplicating the original when possible. Overall, the tenshu is about 19 meters tall with the ishigaki adding another 5 meters. The ishigaki were also found to be in poor shape (resulting from the 1892 earthquake) during the renovation work of the 1960’s-they too were completely removed and inspected. There were over 2000 stones weighing up to 1700 pounds each. 200 had to be replaced, and most were taken from the Kisogawa.

The restoration of the 1960’s was troublesome because many other Japanese castles were being rebuilt and restored at the time (most notably Himeji castle), causing a shortage of materials and particularly skilled workers. There was a 1/50 scale model of the tenshu built to guide the reconstruction, but poor recordkeeping, lack of knowledge, and the fact that the burden of funding the repairs was borne primarily by the Naruse rather than the government led to many shortcuts and work stoppages. In particular, the reconstruction of the ishigaki was sloppy. Stones were not replaced in their original positions, resulting in having to use mortar to hold them together. The castle was the last in Japan to be held by a private family.



  • Kodama Kota & Tsuboi Kiyotari, editors Nihon Joukaku Taikei-20 Volumes Tokyo:Shinjimbutsu oraisha, 1981
  • Hinago Motoo Nihon No Bijutsu #54:Shiro Tokyo:Shibundo, 1970
  • Schmorleitz, Morton S Castles In Japan Tokyo:Charles E Tuttle Company Inc, 1974