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Remains of destroyed Toyotomi Hideyoshi castle in Kyoto uncovered for first time

Excavated stone walls and other remains from the Kyoto Shinjo castle are seen on the grounds of the Kyoto Sento Imperial Palace in Kyoto's Kamigyo Ward on May 12, 2020. (Mainichi/Ai Kawahira)
A tile featuring the Toyotomi family's goshichinokiri crest that was found in the dig at Kyoto Sento Imperial Palace is seen in this photo. (Mainichi/Ai Kawahira)

KYOTO -- The remains of a stone wall and moat belonging to Kyoto Shinjo, a castle built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Japan's unifying daimyos, have been discovered in this western Japan city for the first time.

The find was announced on May 12 by the Kyoto City Archaeological Research Institute, which said that the discovery was made on the grounds of the Kyoto Sento Imperial Palace, which is itself based in the Kyoto Gyoen National Garden in the city's Kamigyo Ward.

The existence of Kyoto Shinjo had been known to researchers due to it being mentioned in contemporary written documents and other sources, but no physical trace of it had been found until now. One researcher told the Mainichi Shimbun, "To have the stone walls and other remains actually confirmed (as part of Kyoto Shinjo) is hugely significant."

Kyoto Shinjo was constructed in the second year of Keicho (1597), and built to connect to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Its grounds comprised about 320,000 square meters, and measured some 400 meters east to west and 800 meters north to south.

In 1595, Toyotomi Hideyoshi drove out his nephew Toyotomi Hidetsugu after suspecting him of plotting a rebellion, and tore down the Jurakudai estate he had allowed him to live in. In 1597 Hideyoshi entered Kyoto Shinjo with his son Toyotomi Hideyori, and it is believed a coming-of-age ceremony was held for him at the palace.

The following year, Hideyoshi died in Fushimi Castle, located in what is now the ward of the same name in Kyoto. In keeping with his father's wishes, Hideyori relocated to Osaka Castle, and Hideyoshi's official wife Kita no Mandokoro lived at Kyoto Shinjo.

But just before the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, the castle walls, gates and other parts were destroyed, and in 1627 Kyoto Sento Imperial Palace was constructed over its remains for Emperor Go-Mizunoo to live in after his abdication.

In Tokitsunekyoki, a diary by Yamashina Tokitsune, a Kuge court attendant, there is a reference to "Taiko Oyashiki," which indicated the existence of Kyoto Shinjo, but due to a lack of historical records the remains of its structure had never been found.

The investigation into the castle this time was carried out in conjunction with works to install a fire cistern, and traces of its walls and moat were found. The stone wall appears to be the part of it constructed by the moat west of the keep, and measures 8 meters north to south in the investigated area.

The stone wall is 1.6 meters at its highest, but the upper parts have collapsed and variations in the stratification plane for the building and other structures suggest that the walls were originally about 2.4 meters high. In the area where the moat remains were found, a gold-leaf tile featuring the Toyotomi family's goshichinokiri crest was excavated.

Tetsuya Tani, an associate professor of early modern Japanese history at Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University, touched on the Shinjo being built close to the Imperial Palace by saying, "Because it was a structure that invoked the authority of the royal court, perhaps the aim was to stabilize the young Toyotomi Hideyori's administration with him at the top."

Because large-scale stone walls and moats similar to those found at the Jurakudai estate were found, Tani said, "Rather than being an estate, it seems really like this was a castle." He added, "It matches written accounts that the stone walls were destroyed before the Battle of Sekigahara. It is of particular value that the contemporary shape remains."

An explanatory meeting in the area on the find will not be held due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Odanaka, Kyoto Bureau)

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