Legend of the castle built in just one night

Not in myth, the one-night castle story actually happened in Japan in the mid-16th century.

Today, this structure is one of the tourist attractions thanks to the legends surrounding it.

Sunomata Castle is located at the confluence of the Sai River and Nagara River, in Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture. This is a typical Japanese stronghold with many wooden floors, topped with gable roofs and decorated eaves, built on solid stone foundations.

Legend of the castle built in just one night
Sunomata Castle today.

Sunomata is a very small castle, but related to it is a big story. Legend has it that this building was built in just one night.

The Sunomata Building , also known as Ichiya Castle (or “one-night castle”) was built around the mid-16th century by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Toyotomi Hideyoshi was one of the generals of the powerful feudal lord, Oda Nobunaga, during the siege of Inabayama Castle in 1567 with his army.

Oda Nobunaga’s biggest rival was the Saito clan in neighboring Mino Province, although he was married to the daughter of Saito Dosan, the leader of the opposing faction. In fact, his marriage was a political arrangement his father had arranged in hopes of ending the long-running rivalry between the two clans.

Originally, Saito Dosan intended to empower his eldest son, Saito Yoshitatsu, like any other powerful lord.

But when he saw Oda Nobunaga’s talent in managing his domain, he began to think that perhaps his son-in-law would be a more worthy candidate than his son in inheriting power. When Yoshitatsu learned that his father had deposed him, he staged a coup d’etat in 1556, murdered his father and younger brothers, and took power.

In 1561, Yoshitatsu died after a long illness and his son, Saito Tatsuoki, inherited the leadership of the clan. However, Tatsuoki was young and did not prove capable of leading the domain. He was looked down upon by his subordinates and not even respected by the local peasant class.

Taking advantage of this situation, Nobunaga persuaded many of Saito’s subordinates in the Mino area to abandon their incompetent master, defecting to the growing alliance under the Oda clan. He promises they will receive the rewards they deserve.

Legend of the castle built in just one night
Lord Oda Nobunaga.

Preparing for the upcoming campaign, Nobunaga entrusted Toyotomi Hideyoshi, his trusted subordinate who would later become one of the most powerful figures in Japan, to build a castle at the confluence of the Sai and Sai Rivers. Nagara River, where both converge at Sunomata.

This new castle would act as a stronghold to gather Oda’s forces from which to launch an attack on Inabayama stronghold. However, Sunomata is in enemy territory and any construction work can be hindered by Saito’s forces. But Hideyoshi had a plan.

First, he had his troops cut down trees on the opposite bank of the Nagara River and sawed them, arranging them into prefabricated sections of the castle’s walls and towers. These parts are then placed on rafts floating in the river and collected and kept at Sunomata. After having enough materials, he mobilized soldiers to erect the castle in just one night.

Early the next morning, when Saito Tatsuoki looked down from the Inabayama castle to see a new fortress towering over what had been his territory yesterday, a chill ran down his spine.

In fact, this “fortress” is just a “framework” with a facade assembled with wooden planks, intended to psychologically scare, surprise and demoralize the enemy. In fact, Saito Tatsuoki’s forces were bewildered and hesitant to attack, so Hideyoshi’s men quickly turned this fragile stronghold into a sturdy fortress and then a complete castle.

In 1567, with Hideyoshi’s support, Nobunaga launched a decisive attack on the stronghold of Inabayama. His army of about 5,000 men crossed the Kiso River and headed straight for Inoguchi Castle (now Gifu City).

Along the way, he recruited many of Saito’s subordinates. The defenders of Saito’s stronghold were dismayed when they saw Saito’s subordinate’s flag fluttering in the midst of the attacking army. However, the castle on the top of the mountain remained in an almost impregnable position.

At the end of a siege that lasted about two weeks, Hideyoshi led a small group of soldiers up the steep cliffs of Mount Kinka, attacked the castle from the unguarded rear, and opened the front gate to the attacking forces. enter. After Tatsuoki was defeated, Nobunaga claimed Inabayama Castle as his own and renamed it Gifu Castle.

The current castle in Sunomata is a 1991 reconstruction, modeled after the nearby Ogaki Castle, which serves as a museum, highlighting its historical role and importance. Inside, one can see the actual castle model along with the armor and weapons of the samurai of the time. The castle is also one of the best places to see cherry blossoms in spring.