Japanese Castle Explorer

by Daniel O'Grady

       
The Baur Collection: Japanese Sword-Fittings and Associated Metalwork Japanese Castles 1540-1640

Ōzu Castle

Images: Daniel O'Grady

大洲藩

Ōzu Domain


脇坂氏
1608 - 1617

Wakisaka Clan

53,000 Koku

加藤氏
1617 - 1871

Katō Clan

60,000 Koku

大洲城
Ōzu Castle is classified as a hilltop castle (its layout: Teikakushiki), and is located in Ehime Prefecture. During the pre-modern age, it found itself within the borders of Iyo Province. It is associated with the Katō clan. Dates in use: 1331 - 1871.

Fortifications were first built in Ōzu in the 1300's. It wasn't until the Warring-states period (approx mid - late 1500's) that things really heated up with the loss of the castle to the Kono clan. Lordship of the castle would then change several more times before the castle and its environs became a domain in their own right in 1608. The structures of the castle managed to stay more-or-less intact throughout the Edo period. Turrets & gates were periodically restored here & there, but this can be considered to be a fairly standard practice.

Four lucky turrets have managed to escape being torn down following the decommissioning of the castle in the late 1800's. All four still stand to this day. Two turrets flank the main tower just as they did in the past, and the other two are located a very short distance from the main enclosure of the castle. All four turrets have received complete restorations.

There isn's a great deal of things on display within the main tower, but what is there is well presented, as are the buildings & grounds themselves. The staff are super friendly & helpful too.

Ōzu castle's main tower

There are several aspects about the main tower of Ōzu castle that set it apart from all others, the first being its four layers. This was due to the fact that the number four had come to represent death, perhaps due to their identical pronunciation. I guess when people were living on the knife's edge, they'd consider any advantage, even hocus pocus. Certainly this is no different in the West where the 13th floor of some buildings are omitted due to its apparent connection to bad luck.

The current main tower is a very recent reconstruction. In an highly irregular move, it was decided that it would be rebuilt 100% authentic & faithful to the original tower. This meant it would not comply with modern building standards.

Timeline

1331 The castle was built by Utsunomiya Toyofusa.
1568 The Kono & Mōri clan came together to defeat the Utsunomiya clan. Ono Naoshige, a samurai of the Kono clan, became lord.
1585 Toyotomi Hideyoshi's armies conquered the island of Shikoku and the province of Iyo including its castles were awarded to Kobayakawa Takakage.
1595 The Tōdō clan were stationed here.
1608 The Wakisaka clan were stationed here. During their reign, the whole castle was renovated & a four-layered main tower was built.
1617 The Kato clan were stationed here.
1722 The Sannomaru Minami Turret burnt down.
1766 The Sannomaru Minami Turret was reconstructed.
1859 The Daidokoro Turret was rebuilt.
1860 The Kōran Turret was reconstructed.
1872 The castle was abandoned.
1888 The main tower was torn down.
1953 The site became recognised as an Prefectural Historical site.
1957 The four remaining two-story turrets that had survived from the Edo period became recognised as Important Cultural Properties.
1959 The Owata Turret was restored and its base was raised 2.6 metres.
1965 The Minami Sumi Turret was restored.
1970 The Daidokoro & Kōran Turrets were restored.
2002 Reconstruction commenced on the four-story main tower.
2004 The main tower was completed.

Historical recognition

SitePrefectural Historic Site
Daidokoro TurretImportant Cultural Property
Kōran TurretImportant Cultural Property
Owata TurretImportant Cultural Property
San-no Maru Minami TurretImportant Cultural Property