Japanese Castle Explorer

by Daniel O'Grady

Strongholds of the Samurai: Japanese Castles 250-1877 3d Himeji-jo 3D Puzzle

Tsurumaru Castle

Images: Daniel O'Grady


Satsuma Domain

1600 - 1869

Shimazu Clan

728,000 Koku

Tsurumaru Castle is classified as a hilltop castle, and is located in Kagoshima Prefecture. During the pre-modern age, it found itself within the borders of Satsuma Province. It is associated with the Shimazu clan. Dates in use: 1601 - 1872.

It's not so unusual that this castles be built without a main tower. What is highly unusual is that this castle was built in such a straightforward manner that it would have fallen easily in the event of a siege. Even more unusual is that it was one of Kyūshū’s most dominant clan who built it.

The Shimazu clan of Satsuma were reluctant to provoke the Tokugawa Shogunate since opposing & losing to them in the Battle of Sekigahara. Some attribute the defensively weak design of Tsurumaru castle as a deliberate attempt to sooth these frayed relations.

The Shimazu lands were dotted with over 100 small forts that seemed to fly in the face of a law enacted in 1615 limiting each domain to just one castle. It is said their collective defensive strength ensuring the protection of the domain.

This castle was the site of the Battle of Shiroyama, which saw the death of the last samurai, Saigō Takamori, and the end of the Seinan Rebellion.


1601 The castle was constructed by Shimazu Iehisa. Construction was completed the following year.
1606 The stone bridge leading to the main gate was completed.
1639 The first stonework repairs were undertaken.
1650 The second stonework repairs were undertaken.
1664 The third stonework repairs were undertaken.
1668 Reparation & cleaning of the moat was carried out.
1677 The Tōhoku gate...
1680 Major fire.
1683 Buildings of the Ni-no-maru were rebuilt.
1696 Another major fire. All buildings of the Honmaru were burnt down. Note: The Honmaru today is a heavily wooden mountain-top with a lookout & souvenir stands.
1703 More maintenance was carried out on the moat.
1873 All buildings of the castle were burnt down.
1877 All buidings in the Ni no maru were destroyed during the Seinan rebellion led by Saigo Takamori.

Historical recognition

SitePrefectural Historic Site