country of Japan has a very, long history.
To understand the warlords of Japan, you need to
understand why they even existed.
You see, castles in Japan, known as Nihon Shoki,
were first mentioned in historical documents, showing
them as being constructed sometime around 720 AD.
Consisting of a simple stone wall, these castles
became most popular during the 16th century
at which time the societal, technological, and political
conditions had undergone significant role changes.
This role would continue to change until 1615.
recent years, two types of fortification remains were
discovered, showing the age to be around the 6th
or 7th century.
One such structure was called Chashi, which was
located on the country’s northernmost island of
Hokkaido and Honshu, the northeastern most area.
The second structure was called Kogo-Ishi, which
was found in Kyushu, a south island on the mainland.
At first, historians believed Kogi-Ishi was
stones surrounded by various scared sights.
However, it is not believed that the stones were
actually apart of the mountain fortification, which were
comprised of rows of stone that ran along the side of
small hills. It
is also believed that these fortifications were
constructed in response to ongoing threats from China
during the Heian era, which ran from 794 to 1185,
Samurai became increasingly known, building strong armed
forces that would fight for autonomy.
The samurai families wanted to become a part of
the court so they moved to Kyoto, the capital city where
they began fighting for power and control.
Soon, territorial warlords and samurai fought for
overall power, working to conquer specific domains.
This era became known as the Medieval era.
that time, warfare was limited so battles were fought
briefly, usually consisting of fighting between 24 to 30
men or possible 100 to 200 mounted warriors.
The primary weapon was the sword or arrows being
these battles, defensive fortification and castles was
not the hub of the battle as they were in other
fact, with the exception of a few castles in northern
Kyushu, they were not constructed to be strong and
sturdy because they were under constant attack. Therefore, these structures were never built as a permanent
while stone walls were uncommon, these structures were
built on steep mountain ridges where the people could
see the enemy coming.
the latter part of the 14th century, dispute
began over the Imperial succession and national leaders
showed up in the 16th century, which meant
fighting in Japan became worse.
In fact, the fighting was so bad that during the
Muromachi period from 1336 to 1576, the reference was
“war years”. Because
of this, Japanese warlords became more prominent,
building permanent fortifications and residences with
rooftop towers. It
is estimated that as many as 1,000 castles were built
during this time.
of a change in style of warfare and the growth in power
of the Japanese warlords, the castle underwent many
physical changes. Then
in the early 17th century, swords were
replaced by firearms.
This meant the way in which battles were fought
also changed from infantry to Calvary battles. This also meant that stronger fortification was required.
As the desire for power among the Japanese
warlords increased, the battles during the Sengoku
period from 1467 to 1603 were horrific.
To provide protection to the larger territories,
the Japanese warlords had to build more complex and
Azuchi-jo, which translates to “castle”, was built
in 1576 by Oda Nobunaga, which was the beginning of a
new generation of castles.
Moving forward, technology in construction also
advanced. These newer castles were often associated with government and
commerce, making the steep hillside locations no longer
a viable option. Therefore,
castles were now built on low-lying plateaus, making the
Hirayama-jo, translating to “plain mountain”, the
However, since guns were now used, this was not a
larger and stronger stone walls were erected and a new
defense mechanism put in place, moats, and spikes, among
other things. At
this time, the Japanese warlord was the master of his
personal space, now able to establish and run taxation
rates, laws, and measure/weight systems.
Many castles were constructed in the center of
the warlord’s domain, meaning the castles were now
used for more than a defensive tool.
In addition, the Japanese warlords were now using
these castles as their homes.
Because there was an abundance of work to be
done, people came from near and far.
new towns were created such as Jokamachi.
With the growing number of castles, many major
cities still standing today was formed, one being Tokyo.
Influencing the building styles and techniques
for building castles were influenced by three primary
warlords known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Leyasu, and Oda
Nobunaga. Of the three, Hideyoshi build the Osaka castle in 1582.
This castle was the most incredible of all built,
massive in size with five towers and standing nine
stories high. Interestingly,
it took a full three years and 100,000 men to complete.
Sadly, this castle was completely, destroyed in
1615 during a long battle.
there were many additional castles built and destroyed,
the Japanese warlord played a major role in how well
they survived. While
the warlord also faded eventually, they hold a special
place in history, which surely would have been much
different without them.