By Chris Glenn
Aichi Prefecture is rich in history, particularly the history of Japan’s turbulent Period of Warring States, where samurai daimyo landowners fought for land amongst themselves. It was a period of bitter civil war. Many of the major battles that took place happened in and around Aichi Prefecture.
One castle that played a major role in these ongoing battles is Iwasaki Castle. Mostly forgotten by the history books and the tourist information sites, the castle sits in modern day Nisshin City, some 15 kilometers south east of Nagoya City. It's sited on a hill providing a clear view of the surrounding plain.
The castle is believed to have been built by Oda Nobuhide, father of Oda Nobunaga to protect his eastern borders in the early 16th Century in support of his base castle at the time, nearby Shobata Castle. Tokugawa Ieyasu’s grandfather, Matsudaira Kiyoyasu took the castle by force in 1529. Six years later, Kiyoyasu was killed by one of his own retainers during a misunderstanding, and his son, Matsudaira Hidetada, Ieyasu’s father, placed the castle in the care of Niwa Ujikiyo.
Iwasaki Castle played a major role in the Battle of Komaki and Nagakute in 1584, when Ikeda Tsuneoki lead the Toyotomi Forces against the Tokugawa-held castle. The Toyotomi plans for the battle were to make short, sharp strikes at any small castles along the route in order to keep them within their confines, then quickly move on. In the case of Iwasaki, however, the rules were abandoned when Ikeda’s forces were fired upon, and the lord himself was shot, causing him to fall from his horse. Angered and embarrassed, he ordered a full scale assault on Iwasaki. Despite a fine defense, the castle fell suffering many casualties and over 300 dead.
The Niwa clan held the castle for nearly 60 years until the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, when the Niwa were awarded a castle in present day Toyota City, and Iwasaki was abandoned. The castle was reconstructed in concrete in 1987, and the surrounding two hectares have been preserved as a park. An excavation dig some years ago revealed the remains of a well and one of the lookout towers. The castle keep is now a museum dedicated to the history of the castle, the battle and the Niwa clan. For travelers interested in Japanese history, samurai battles and castles, this is a must see!
Getting to the castle is a little difficult, as it really is out in the ‘burbs. Traveling by car or taxi is recommended, otherwise from the Higashiyama Subway Line, Hoshigaoka or Fujigaoka, take the Meitetsu Bus to Iwasaki Ontakeguchi bus stop. Buses run a few times an hour, and so it may be best to check times in advance.
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Chris Glenn is an Australian born radio DJ, TV presenter, helicopter pilot, and advertising copywriter. A follower of samurai culture , he is a member of the Japan Armor and Weapons Research and Preservation Society, has black-belt in Kendo, 2nd black-belt in Chanbara sword fighting disciplines, and currently studies Shinkage and Enmei Ryu techniques. A long term resident of Japan, he is extremely passionate about preserving and promoting Japanese history and culture.