Hikone Castle (National Treasure)

by Kazuhiko

Around the 16th century many feudal lords were fighting to rule this country. Finally Hideyoshi Toyotomi came to rule Japan. However, after his death, Ieyasu Tokugawa attempted to overthrow the Toyotomi family and rule over the country. Moreover, confrontations between a group whose leader was Ieyasu Tokugawa and another group that wanted to maintain the Toyotomi family escalated. They fought against each other in the battle of Sekigahara.

Ieyasu Tokugawa won the battle and established the Tokugawa Shogunate. This was the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868) and was the time when unique Japanese culture flourished. Naomasa Ii of the Ii family who was serving Ieyasu Tokugawa was transferred to Hikone as the first lord of the Hikone domain. After his death, his successor of the Ii family started building Hikone Castle and constructing the Hikone castle town. It took about 20 years to complete.

The main purpose of this castle was to keep track of the movements of the Toyotomi family and other feudal lords who still continued to show loyalty to the Toyotomi family, and to protect the Emperor. Therefore, the castle was built as a base of the Tokugawa Shogunate and was well-prepared for a battle with the Toyotomi family. It had excellent military facilities for defense and offense. The castle is now a National Treasure and is located in Hikone town in Shiga Prefecture. Hikone faces Lake Biwa, which is the biggest lake in Japan.

The most famous feudal lord among the Ii family was Naosuke Ii who was the 13th feudal lord of the Hikone domain. He was Tairo or chief minister of the Tokugawa Shogunate as well as a feudal lord. In 1853, the United States Fleet sailed into Japan. The commander, Matthew Perry, asked Japan to open the door to the United States. It was Ii Naosuke who signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan without the Emperor's permission. Therefore, discontent grew in the Imperial Court and among some feudal lords. Moreover, Ii Naosuke punished over 100 people who opposed his foreign trade policies.

As a result, on March 3, 1860, the Sakuradamon Incident occurred and he was assassinated by masterless samurais outside the Sakuradamon gate of the Edo Castle (Tokyo).

It is believed that Ii Naosuke played an important role in Japanese history. The Ii family has been popular among ordinary people in this area and there are many temples and historic sites related to Ii family.

13 Jul 2015


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