The grandeur-oozing Sunomata castle stands tall at the confluence of the Sai and Nagara Rivers in the Gifu province of Ogaki city in Japan. The castle with a strong foundation of stone and a wooden structure has the trademark of a traditional Japanese palatial building.
Though the Sunomata castle is comparatively small, there are many stories surrounding the palace, and one legend goes that it was built in one night. As the castle was constructed in a single night, it has another moniker - Ichiya castle.
The castle as everyone sees today was reconstructed in 1991 on the lines of the neighbouring Ogaki castle. Presently, the Sunomata castle is housing a museum that boasts of age-old samurai armours and weapons, and receives travellers from across the globe. Hundreds of small trees embrace the castle and it is a feast for your eyes to see these trees in full bloom during spring season.
Take a Meihan Kintensu bus from the J R Ogaki station, get down at the Sunomata bus stop and walk for five minutes to reach this beautiful castle. The visitors’ time is from 9am to 5pm and the facility would be open on all days except on Mondays and public holidays. Entry for those under the age of 18 is free and for others the ticket rate is 200 Yen.
Tales behind the castle
The palace was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the generals of the powerful feudal lord Oda Nobunaga, in the 16th century. Oda Nobunaga’s greatest rival was the Saito clan, residents of the neighbouring Mino Province, though he was married to the daughter of Saito Dosan, the leader of the clan. The wedding was a political accord engineered by Oda Nobunaga’s father in a bid to find lasting peace between the two warring clans.
As was the usual practice, Saito Dosan initially decided to choose his eldest son Saito Yoshitatsu as his successor and heir. But after knowing the potential and skill set of Oda Nobunaga, Saito Dosan started thinking of making his son-in-law his successor instead of his sons. When Saito Yoshitatsu got wind of Saito Dosan’s intentions, he captured power in a coup d’etat and killed his father and younger brothers in 1556.
Yoshitatsu died of illness 1561 and his son Saito Tatsuoki succeeded his father as the leader of the clan. But Tatsuoki’s leadership qualities were found wanting and his officers along with farmers only had great disdain for him. Sensing an opportunity, Oda Nobunaga began efforts to convince the Saito supporters and warlords in the Mino region to reject their incompetent leader and be part of the Oda clan.
As part of the plan, Oda Nobunaga decided to build a castle, which would the clan’s strong pillar, at the confluence of the Sai and Nagara Rivers, and for that he deputed his man Friday Toyotomi Hideyoshi to successfully execute the project. According to legend, Toyotomi Hideyoshi had cut down the trees on the opposite side of the Nagara River and built a castle during the course of one night.
It is believed that the adversaries were wonder-struck by the castle, which was put in place in one night, and in the coming days Oda Nobunaga mounted attacks and defeated his enemies.