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Remnants of the castle found in Kyoto

Remains of castle built by powerful Japanese feudal leader unearthed in Kyoto

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Archaeologists believe they have found the remnants of a powerful Japanese feudal leader's heavily fortified “phantom castle,” so-called because historians thought it had been destroyed in an earthquake soon after it was built.

Some of the roof tiles of Shigetsu Castle, which was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1592, were covered in gold gilt. Archaeologists excavated a moat and about 36 meters (118 feet) of a ruined wall. The moat was 5 to 7 meters (16.4 to 23 feet) across and 2 meters (6.5 feet) deep. The wall is one-half to 1 meter (1.6 to 3.3 feet) high and 2 meters across.

Hideyoshi, said to be one of Japan’s three Great Unifiers, commissioned the construction of the castle in 1592, one year after the end of his regency.

A portrait of Toyotomi Hideyoshi

A portrait of Toyotomi Hideyoshi ( Wikimedia Commons )

“I was very surprised because we believed the stone walls of Shigetsu Castle had collapsed and had been totally lost,” Nara University President Yoshihiro Senda, an expert on the archaeology of castles, told  The Japan Times. “The long stone walls found this time show that the castle was large and luxurious, and we can easily imagine the great power of Hideyoshi.”

After the castle came down in an earthquake in 1596, Hideyoshi ordered another built at Fushimi. He died there in 1598.

The construction method of Shigetsu castle and another built by Hideyoshi, Jurakudai, was the same—workers piled large blocks of 1 meter on each side to make the walls and then put smaller stones between the larger stones to fill in the space and give the walls support. The gold roofing tiles were similar to those at yet another castle he built, Osaka Castle.

Osaka Castle, also built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Osaka Castle, also built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Photo by Linux EXR Mania /Wikimedia Commons )

“The remains show the characteristics of construction ordered by Hideyoshi, who had a great influence on castle-building in Japan,” said Hitoshi Nakai, a professor in the University of Shiga Prefecture. “The fact that the location of the castle was made clear is a significant discovery.”

The castle remnants were uncovered during construction of an apartment complex, The Japan Times reported.

Historians say Hideyoshi is one of the most remarkable people in Japanese history. He was born in 1536, the son of a peasant, who died when the boy was just 7. His mother remarried a daimyo or feudal leader under the shogun. His parents sent him away to be educated, but AsianHistory.about.com says he ran away to have an adventure.

He later joined the service of another family, but soon returned to the family his father served. In 1560 his home turf was being invaded by an army of 40,000 soldiers. Hideyoshi, with just 2,000 men, ambushed the larger force in a rainstorm. His small force prevailed. Six years later, he captured Inabayama Castle for the Oda family he served, and he was made general as a reward.

Eventually Hideyoshi went on to more victories, with an occasional defeat, and unified Japan as one state. He did not take the title of shogun because some said a farmer' son could not be shogun. He took the title of kampaku or regent.

In 1592 and 1597 he invaded Korea, intending to conquer China and India. His imperial designs ended September 18, 1598, when he died. He regretted sending his army to the ‘quagmire’ in Korea, saying on his deathbed, “Don't let my soldiers become spirits in a foreign land.”

A Muromachi ship with samurai; in the 1590s Hideyoshi ordered two invasions of Korea to gain access to China and India, where he hoped to build an empire

A Muromachi ship with samurai; in the 1590s Hideyoshi ordered two invasions of Korea to gain access to China and India, where he hoped to build an empire ( Wikimedia Commons )

Although his lineage did not survive, Hideyoshi's influence on Japanese culture and politics was enormous.” About.com says. “He solidified the class structure, unified the nation under central control, and popularized cultural practices such as the tea ceremony. Hideyoshi finished the unification begun by his lord, Oda Nobunaga, setting the stage for the peace and stability of the Tokugawa Era.

Featured image: Remnants of the castle found in Kyoto ( The Japan Times )

By Mark Miller

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