Tanabe Castle Maizuru

Tanabe Castle, Maizuru 吉田城

Jake Davies

Located in east Maizuru on the northern coast of Kyoto Prefecture, little of the original Tanabe Castle remains today, though some parts of the castle have been rebuilt.

Reconstructed wall and Yagura Gate at Tanabe Castle.
Reconstructed wall and yagura gate at Tanabe Castle
A reconstructed turret (yagura) at Tanabe Castle.
Reconstructed yagura gate at Tanabe Castle in Maizuru

Tanabe Castle History

Tanabe Castle in the form that survived until its dismantling in the early years of the Meiji era was built by Hosokawa Fujitaka in 1579, though a castle of sorts had been here much earlier.

The location, between two rivers, meant there was not much space and so a somewhat unusual spiral layout was used. In 1600, as the campaign to decide who was to rule Japan between the heirs of Hideyoshi, the Toyotomi loyalists from the west, and the forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu from the east, the Hosokawa allied with the Tokugawa forces.

Hosokawa Fujitaka had retired and passed on the domain to his son Tadaoka who was away taking part in the campaign now known as the Battle of Sekigahara, and Fujitaka burned down his castle in nearby Miyazu and took refuge inside Tanabe Castle with just 500 samurai, and so began the Siege of Tanabe Castle.

Gatehouse and corner turret at Tanabe Castle.
Gatehouse and corner turret at Tanabe Castle
Remains of the inner moat and inner castle walls at Tanabe Castle.
Remains of the inner moat and inner castle walls at Tanabe Castle

Outnumbered 30 to 1, the besieged castle held out for two months, though it seems the attacking forces were less than enthusiastic in their attack. Fujitaka was a renowned scholar and many in the attacking army were former students of his who remembered him fondly.

The siege ended eventually with the intercession of the emperor who arranged the surrender of Fujitaka to protect him and the teachings on ancient poetry that only Fujitaka had possession of.

In the meantime the Battle of Sekigahara took place and the 15,000 troops attacking Tanabe were unable to fight against the Tokugawa. Ieyasu gave the castle to the Takamoto clan, and a few decades later in 1668 the domain and castle passed to the Makino clan, who held it until the domains were abolished at the onset of the Meiji Period.

After the castle was dismantled, all of the outer castle area became developed, but the stonework and some of the moat of the inner castle area remained. Three of the castle gates were reassembled at nearby temples and can still be found there.

The area around the ruins of the inner castle was turned into a park (Maizuru Park) with part of the inner moat being made into a pond. The park today is especially pleasant during the fall colors season. In 1940 a corner turret (yagura) was rebuilt, and then in 1997 a version of the main gate was reconstructed. Both the turret and the gatehouse contain a museum displaying artifacts and models of the castle's history, and though small is quite informative and is free to enter.

Tanabe Castle, Kyoto Prefecture.
The inner moat is now a pond in Tanabe Castle Park
Tanabe Castle, Kyoto Prefecture.
Scale model of Tanabe Castle in Tanabe Castle Museum

Tanabe Castle
15-22 Minamitanabe
Kyoto 624-0853
Tel: 0773 76 7211

Admission: Free

Tanabe Castle, Kyoto Prefecture.
Interior of Tanabe Castle Museum

Access To Tanabe - how to get to Tanabe Castle

The ruins of Tanabe Castle and Maizuru Park are always open, but the museum is open from 9am-5pm and is usually closed on Mondays and over the New Near.

Tanabe Castle and Maizuru Park are about bout a 5 minute walk from Nishi Maizuru Station on the JR Maizuru Line

From Kyoto Station, Nishi Maizuru Station is around 1 hour 30 minutes on a direct Limited Express Maizuru train. Alternatively take a Limited Express Hashidate to Ayabe (66 minutes) and then change to a train on the Maizuru Line (22 minutes).

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