Yamanaka Castle (Mino)
Yamanaka castle-mount is the site of the battle camp of Ohtani Yoshitsugu. Also, since the name 'Yamanakajō' predates the battle, there may have been a pre-existing medieval fort at the location to help guard the mountainous pass between Mino and Oumi.
Ohtani who, by the time of the Battle of Sekigahara, was blind and lame, committed (heavily assisted) suicide following the betrayal by Kobayakawa Hideaki. Yuasa Gosuke acted as kaishakunin (the second in ritual disembowelment who severs the head of he falling on his blade). He then had to hide the head of his master so that the enemy couldn’t take it as a prize (and what a ghoulish trophy the diseased head of Ohtani Yoshitsugu would’ve made). It was when he was burying the head (our guide that day, supposes from one source that this was likely near the river), that Yuasa was found by Tōdō Takanori, the nephew of Tōdō Takatora. Yuasa offered his own head in exchange for Takanori keeping the secret of the resting place of his master’s head (his own head for his master's). Of course, the head of the general would’ve made a much worthier prize, and a dishonourable man could’ve claimed both, but Takanori accepted Yuasa’s proposal; he slew him and left the head of Ohtani undisturbed. When Tokugawa Ieyasu, by now no doubt informed of what had transpired, asked Takanori to reveal the location of Ohtani Yoshitsugu’s head, Tōdō Takanori refused to say, honouring the promise he had made to Yuasa Gosuke. Telling the new (barely) undisputed boss of all Japan ‘no’ was a gutsy thing to do, but Takanori’s exemplary deportment is said to have impressed the generalissimo. The head was never found.
Ohtani Yoshitsugu apparently had been preparing his camp some ten days before the actual battle, and the camp had dry moat and earthwork defences on both sides, thus earning the moniker Yamanaka Castle (Matsuo Castle is the only other encampment referred to as a ‘castle’ at Sekigahara, but this had formerly been the site of a medieval castle). It has been said that the castle mount was fortified in such a way as to anticipate Kobayakawa Hideaki's betrayal.
On the way to Yamanakajō there is also a marker for Hiratsuka Tamehiro, the brave commander. Chris Glenn provided the explanation on the signboard: ‘Under the jurisdiction of his ally, Ōtani Yoshitsugu, Hiratsuka Tamehiro, lord of Tarui Castle (Tarui-cho, Fuwa-gun) and Toda Katsushige were positioned in Fujikawadai with approximately 600 troops. As Yoshitsugu was ill, he appointed Hiratsuka Tamehiro as front line commander, where he fought bravely against Tōdō Takatora, Kyōgoku Takatomo and others. Tamehiro defied Kobayakawa Hideaki when he turned traitor around midday, but was unable to withstand Wakisaka Yasuhara and others also changing sides. He composed a final poem for Yoshitsugu before being killed in action’.
The history of Sekigahara is replete with romantic tales.
豪谷 stopped the car in a dark forest and we crossed a dam over the Fujiko River to reach the Yamanaka castle mount which was the site of the battle camp of Ohtani Yoshitsugu. Going through a forest plantation which ominously had some kind of tape criss-crossing the trees in the gloom, we came to the grave of Ohtani Yoshitsugu which the Tōdō Clan erected some months after the battle out of respect for the deceased leper general. The headstone is a small gorin (‘five circle’) stone stupa.
Finally we came to the site of the encampment itself. There is a curious ditch-like structure that straddles the mountain, made by embanking the earth downslope. The trench isn’t wide, and wouldn’t make a good barrier therefore. In one place it cuts across a ridge, but in another follows a ridge along its length, and in yet another cuts down a hillside. 豪谷 floated the idea that it was used as a small trench for gunners to fire from with cover. The trench appears to face toward Matsuojō where Kobayakawa Hideaki was encamped. But Ohtani and Kobayakawa were allied, no? Did Ohtani have the trench built because he suspected Kobayakawa would turn? We discussed the possibilities on top of the mountain, in a forest away from a trail, whilst it rained. What a strange meeting. As for the trench, it could’ve been dug later for other purposes, such as pest control, and so we can’t make any conclusions without more data. There are no other ruins it seems, but part of the hilltop has been flattened.
|Yamanaka Castle (Mino)
|Sengoku Period; 1600
|Pre Edo Period
|Sekigahara Station on the Tōkaidō Main Line; 25 minute walk to dam short-cut, or 30 minute walk to Tanehiro monument with trail opposite
|24/7 free; mountain
|Sekigahara, Gifu Prefecture
|35° 21' 43.70" N, 136° 26' 58.27" E
|Added to Jcastle
|Admin Year Visited
|Friends of JCastle
|Jōshi Meguri Bibiroku