Japanese Castle Explorer

by Daniel O'Grady

       
Japanese Castles 1540-1640 Imjin War book cover

Kumamoto Castle

Images: Daniel O'Grady

熊本藩

Kumamoto Domain


加藤氏
1588 - 1632

Katō Clan

520,000 Koku

細川氏
1632 - 1871

Hosokawa Clan

540,000 Koku

熊本城
Kumamoto Castle is classified as a hilltop castle (its layout: Teikakushiki), and is located in Kumamoto Prefecture. During the pre-modern age, it found itself within the borders of Higo Province. It is associated with the Katō, Hosokawa clans. Dates in use: 1469 - 1874.

This castle was designed by Katō Kiyomasa; a man recognised as a master of castle construction. It possesses a similar sense of scale that exudes from Osaka Castle as well as the twisting & turning, maze-like walls of Himeji Castle. Kumamoto Castle is in the midst of a long term restoration but even now it inspires awe just as it once did.

A large reconstructed keep is the centerpiece of what is a largely complete Japanese castle. The large Uto Yagura (originally the keep of Uto castle & of Kiyomasa's rival, the Konishi clan) & several gates & turrets remain from the Edo period. Presently efforts are under way to rebuild further sections of this already large castle.

The smaller tower of Kumamoto was built sometime after the main tower. It had several facilities including a well & a kitchen. There was also enough space for all samurai to gather & defend the castle in a last stand.

Timeline

1467 Fortifications were established by Ideta Hidenobu.
1496 Additional fortifications were built on the other side of the mountain by Kanokogi Chikakazu.
1587 Fief awarded to Sasa Narimasa by Toyotomi Hideyoshi after the defeat of the Shimazu.
1588 Kato Kiyomasa was transferred to a former incarnation of Kumamoto Castle.
1601 Construction on a vastly expanded Kumamoto Castle commenced.
1607 Kumamoto castle completed. The original castle consisted of 49 turrets, 18 turret gates & 29 smaller gates.
1610 The Honmaru Goten Palace was completed.
1632 Fief transferred to the Hosokawa clan.
1640 The legendary swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi became a guest retainer of the Hosokawa clan.
1877 The main tower & half of the other structures burnt down in the Seinan war.
1960 The main tower was reconstructed using concrete.
1998 A major restoration of the castle began.
1999 Restoration of the Nishidemaru Enclosure started as did the rebuilding of the Minami Ote Yaguramon Gate (completed in 2002.)
2001 Rebuilding of the five-story Iida Turret began (completed in 2005.)
2004 All key buildings of the Nishidemaru & Bugyomaru Enclosures were completed.
2008 The Honmaru Goten Palace was completed.

Historical recognition

SiteSpecial National Historical Site
Uto TurretImportant Cultural Property
Tago TurretImportant Cultural Property
Shichiken TurretImportant Cultural Property
Juyonken TurretImportant Cultural Property
Yonken TurretImportant Cultural Property
Gennoshin TurretImportant Cultural Property
Higashi Juhachiken TurretImportant Cultural Property
Kita Juhachiken TurretImportant Cultural Property
Goken TurretImportant Cultural Property
Hira TurretImportant Cultural Property
Kenmotsu TurretImportant Cultural Property
Naga bei wallImportant Cultural Property
Akazunomon GateImportant Cultural Property