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The castle town closest to Edo Castle - Iwatsuki JUL, 2024

The former Iwatsuki City was merged into Saitama City (Urawa, Omiya, and Yono cities were already merged in 2001) in 2005, and is now Iwatsuki Ward, Saitama City. Since the abolition of feudal domains and the establishment of prefectures after the Meiji Restoration, many of the prefecture names that were established in place of the old provinces have adopted the names of the old counties, but within Saitama City, only Iwatsuki Ward belongs to the old Saitama County, and the rest are within the former Adachi County. I have no objection to the rational consolidation and abolition of administrative districts, but am I the only one who feels uncomfortable with the idea of giving the merged city, which has no sense of culture or history, a fancy name?

After Hidetada, Tokugawa Shoguns made 19 visits to Nikko, and the first place they stayed after leaving Edo Castle was Iwatsuki (castle). The road joins the Nikko Kaido near Satte City, Saitama Prefecture, but the Shogun could not stay in a private home, so a bypass (Nikko Onari-do) was built in the Edo period that went north via Iwatsuki, where the castle was located.


There are various theories about the construction of Iwatsuki Castle, including that it was either the father and son Ota (Michizane and Dokan), the head retainer of the Ogigaya Uesugi clan, or the Narita clan, who served the Koga kubo and were enemies of the Ogigaya Uesugi clan, but it was an important strategic base located in the center of the Kanto Plain. As I wrote in a separate article ("Be careful in the bathroom"), Ota Dokan was assassinated by his subordinate Uesugi Sadamasa, and his nephew Sukemasa, who inherited Iwatsuki Castle, was betrayed by his son (Ujisuke). After Ujisuke's death, the son of Hojo Ujimasa took over and the castle became the property of the Later Hojo clan. The Uesugi clan was divided into the Yamanouchi clan and the Ogigaya clan, and they fought each other for many years, but the Yamaunochi Uesugi clan destroyed the Ota clan, the head retainer of the Ogigaya clan, and as a result, they invited an even stronger enemy (the Later Hojo clan) into southern Kanto.


Hojo Ujiyasu stationed his sons at each base, but as a subsidiary castle of Odawara Castle, he stationed the largest force here. Enemy soldiers attacking from the north would be blocked by the flow of the old Arakawa River, and even if they managed to cross it, the castle, surrounded by wide wetlands and swamps, would not easily fall. The swamp has now shrunk, but a stylish bridge has been built over it and it has become a famous cherry blossom viewing spot. The Shoji moat has been excavated, and traces of work by the later Hojo clan can be seen.

I visited Horin-ji Temple, the family temple of the Ota clan, but unfortunately the gate was closed and I couldn't go inside. It was a sunny weekday during the rainy season, and I only managed to take pictures of what I could see from the outside, but I was able to see the magnificent statue of Ota Dokan on horseback.


Hisaizu Shrine is located on the northern edge of the castle, on the site of the Shinshoji Kuruwa, and has been the guardian deity of Iwatsuki Castle, but its founding dates back to the time of Emperor Kinmei (about 1,400 years ago). The deity worshipped is Okuninushi-no-Mikoto, the god of Izumo Province. There are several similar Hisaizu Shrines in the vicinity, and they seem to correspond to the sphere of influence of the きKisaichi and Noyo parties, two of the Musashi Seven Parties that were active from the Heian to the Middle Ages. Depending on how you count, there can be as many as nine parties, and there are still many mysteries surrounding the seven parties, but some of them originate from the Kanmu Heishi clan or have Ono no Takamura as their ancestor, and it is interesting to see how the diverse warrior groups converged during the Nanboku-cho and Sengoku periods and were incorporated under the control of powerful daimyo.

Iwatsuki Domain saw eight families change hands as lords over the course of about 150 years since the first lord, Koriki Kiyonaga. Later, Ooka Tadamitsu, a relative of the famous "Ooka Echizen", became the lord of the domain, and the Ooka family continued to be lords until the Meiji Restoration. The domain school, Senkyokan, built in 1799 (Kansei 12), has been completely disassembled and repaired and is now open to the public free of charge. Although it was a small domain with only 20,000 koku of land, the school also had a martial arts training hall, and although it was small, I could sense the school's commitment to nurturing human resources.

The castle town atmosphere has faded amid rapid urbanization and residential development, but it is still fun to trace the few remaining vestiges of the castle town. If Kawagoe is Little Edo, then Iwatsuki, being Nearest Edo, may deserve a little more attention.



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