Tsukushi clan Mansion


Literally just down the road from where I live in Tosu, Saga Prefecture, sit the ruins of the Tsukushi clan mansion. Just as it would imply, it was once the residence of the heads of the Tsukushi clan.

While not overly fortified (going by the picture at least), it was in fact protected by Katsuo castle (勝尾城) and its branch castles. Those being:

  • Oniga Castle (鬼が城)
  • Takatori Castle (高取城)
  • Tsuzura Castle (葛籠城)
  • Kagami Castle (鏡城)
  • Wakayama Fort (若山砦)

Geographically speaking, their lands (and network of castles beyond those listed above) were situated on the Eastern side of a mountain range that extended into the province of Hizen (Saga & Nagasaki Prefectures). Further to the East and extending to the South-West were the Chikugo & Saga plains. (Google Earth view)

The Tsukushi (Chikushi) clan were in possession of these lands for most of the 1500’s. Things got a shake up in 1586 when the Shimazu clan, taking advantage of the weakened Ryuzōji & Ōtomo clans, took control of the Tsukushi castles and those of anyone else who stood in their way of taking complete control of the island of Kyūshū.

The Tsukushi were to reclaim their lands a short time later though when Toyotomi Hideyoshi put the Shimazu back in their box the following year. The Tsukushi then went on to serve under Hideyoshi in the Korean campaigns.

Anyway, back to the Tsukushi mansion. Between 1995 and 2004 the mansion & its related sites were excavated & research undertaken. The usual types of things were unearthed, ceramics, lacquer ware, etc… and the layout of the mansion became known.

As I walked around the site, there is precious little left. In fact, the only thing I was able to discern was the entrance (虎口 – こぐち) and only because there was a sign telling me so. This entrance cannot be passed through either because it is now some sort of drain/stream hybrid thing. Built atop the site is the (kinda plain looking) Chikushi shrine.

I am going to leave it there for now, but I shall return to the Tsukushi clan mansion ruins for some more exploring. Next time though, I’ll be making my way up to the ruins of Katsuo castle.

  • Toranosuke

    Neat. I really miss being in Japan and being able to visit sites like these. I wonder, what’s the connection between the Tsukushi clan, and Tsukushi/Chikushi, the old name for Kyushu as a whole? Were they prominent back in earlier periods, such that the placename might have come from the clan name (e.g. “Trade between the centre and [the] Tsukushi”)? Or maybe the more likely answer is that the clan took their name from the placename.


    Also, I hope they have traditional dances at Katsuo castle. They can call them かつお節。 ~笑~。

  • Anonymous

    You don’t miss a beat. But actually, the warriors of Katsuo castle was never known for their dances but for their sun-burnt skin, かつおたたき。 Bamm!

    Ok, I’ll settle.

    * The speculation blanket covers the following paragraph*

    I don’t believe the Tsukushi clan were ever that ancient or revered. It’s believed they once served the Shoni clan but that’s about it. Whether they took or were given the name I’m unsure, but I highly doubt a direct connection with Tsukushi-no-shima.

  • http://twitter.com/Tornadoes28 Jon L

    I would love to tour a site such as this even if there was relatively little left. Just to be at a location where famous samurai once fought. Excellent historical information provided by you about the background of this castle. Love it.

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