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An evening at Kiyosu Castle
Today we went to explore one of the hidden gems of Japanese heritage located about 6 km northwest of Nagoya station. I am talking about Kiyosu Castle 清須城, a small castle that warlord Oda Nobunaga once called home.
Kiyosu Castle played an important part in Nobunaga’s initiative for the unification of Japan. Nobunaga Oda, one of the famous warlords in Japanese history moved from Nagoya Castle to here in 1555. He renovated the castle as his main base and used this castle as base in his war of conquest to unify the country.
During his reign, the castle town prospered as an economic and cultural center of the Owari province (western part of modern-day Aichi Prefecture) until 1610, when the capital moved to Nagoya.
We were coming in from Nagoya Station, where we had spent the afternoon meandering around Nagoya Castle grounds. Its just a 25 minute ride from Nagoya Station to Kiyosu Station using the JR line. The ride is free if you are carrying JR Passes. You can also take the Meitetsu Line but the walking time is more on that route.
Note: Meitetsu Line does not allow JR Pass.
The train dropped us off at Kiyosu station at around 3.30 pm.
From the station, the castle is just a 20 minute leisurely walk along quiet town roads.
On the way we were pleasantly surprised to see a winter Sakura tree. Generally Sakura blooms in Spring between the months of March to April. Winter sakuras, otherwise known as Fuyuzakuras (冬桜), as its name suggests, blooms in late autumn. It is rare to see one around these parts.
A brief history of Kiyosu Castle
There was still some daylight by the time we reached in front of the Castle. The southern half of Kiyosu Castle is now a park featuring a rather handsome statue of Oda Nobunaga in full armor, with his wife, Princess No-Hime.
Kiyosu Castle was first built around 1405 by Shiba Yoshishige, the Governor of Owari, as a major strategic defense. In due time it became the seat of power for the Owari (present western Aichi Prefecture) region. The present castle tower was reconstructed in 1989 based on the appearance and scale of the original.
Kiyosu Castle was the starting point for many of the historically significant samurai battles that took place in the violent Sengoku or Warring States Period (1450-1615). The major battles of Okehazama, (1560) Anegawa, (1570), Nagashino(1575) and Sekigahara (1600) were initially launched from Kiyosu.
Oda Nobunaga and Kiyosu Castle
In 1555, after his father’s death, Oda Nobunaga enlisted the help of his uncle, Oda Nobumitsu, and together they attacked and killed Oda Nobutomo, the clan leader at Kiyosu Castle. Nobunaga then moved from Nagoya Castle to Kiyosu using it as his base for years to come.
Two years later, Nobunaga’s younger brother Nobuyuki is believed to have conspired against him. Nobunaga discovered his brothers’ plot to oust him, and faked an illness to draw his brother close. When Nobuyuki came to pay his respects to his “ill” brother, Nobunaga is said to have assassinated him within Kiyosu Castle, eliminating his only opposition.
Kiyosu remained his base for many years. During that time, Kiyosu grew to be a vibrant city. The castle grounds once extended 1.6 kilometers east-west, and 2.8 kilometers north- south, having an outer, central and inner moat system.
The castle was closed by 4.15 pm. We walked outside to the bridge and waited. The magic hour as I refer to the sunset time when the skies light up like a dream was gradually upon us. I set up my tripod over the bridge to catch the lovely castle in the shimmering light.
Shades of Kiyosu Castle
Within minutes hues of blue and purple surrounded the castle.
The rot of Kiyosu Castle
Ieyasu Tokugawa, the founder of Edo Government, built Nagoya castle. He moved the seat of power back to Nagoya Castle sometime between 1610 to 1613. The old tower of the Kiyosu castle was dismantled in 1609 and the materials were used for the construction of the northwest yagura of the Nagoya castle, which survived in its original form until today, being known as the Kiyosu Yagura. The distance from Kiyosu Castle to Nagoya Castle is just about 6 km. After that, Kiyosu Castle was abandoned.
Kiyosu Castle Today
Kiyosu Castle was reconstructed in concrete in 1989 across the small river from where the actual castle stood.
Since the original plans were lost it was built by using the model of the Inuyama castle, which is representative for the castles built in that period. The rebuilt tower, made of concrete, looks indeed like the Inuyama castle, except for the absence of the small connected donjon and the karahafu undulated gable at the third floor. Currently a museum resides inside the castle. The site of the actual keep now has the “Kiyosu Furusato no Yakata” a small rest area and souvenir stall on it.
It was time for us to head back to the glistening lights of Nagoya. Kiyosu is a lovely castle and anyone interested in capturing a beautiful piece of heritage should not give it a miss. Once the capital of the powerful Owari domain, Kiyosu Castle’s influence may have waned, but its importance to history has not.
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