Usui Castle (臼井城) is a hilltop castle near present-day Sakura City, Chiba Prefecture. Its ruins are now part of Usui Castle Park.
The castle is located on a plateau overlooking Lake Imbanuma to the north-east.
According to legend Usui Tsuneyasu (臼井常安, 1106-1168) founded the castle. The Usui were descendants of the Chiba clan and ruled over the manor until 1561. In that year, Masaki Tokishige (正木時茂, 1513-1561), a retainer of Satomi Yoshitaka, who came to support Uesugi Kenshin in his siege of Odawara, attacked and put Usui Hisatane (臼井久胤) to rout. The castle was then taken over by Hara Tanesada (原胤貞, 1507-1569 or 1575). In 1564, it was attacked by Uesugi Kenshin, whose forces were eventually driven back by a coalition of the Hara, the Chiba and the Hōjō. During Toyotomi Hideyoshi's siege of Odawara Sakai Ietsugu (酒井家次, 1564–1619), a retainer of the Tokugawa, took Usui Castle and became its new lord. In 1604, he was transferred to another domain by Tokugawa Ieyasu, and the castle was abandoned.
I arrived at Keisei-Usui Station (京成臼井駅). As I walked away from the station, the urban environment soon turned rural. There were several old temples and shrines along the way. One of them, Hoshi Shrine (星神社), also known as Usui-myōken-sha (臼井妙見社), is quite interesting to explore. It houses Myōken-bosatsu (妙見菩薩), a bodhisattva representing a deification of Polaris and the Plough (Big Dipper). This deity was a fusion of Buddhism and Taoism because the worship of star constellations originated in Taoism. The Chiba clan believed in the Myōken-bosatsu as their guardian deity, and their impressive family crest was based on those constellations:
There was also the grave of a famous Edo-era sumo wrestler by the name of Raiden Tameemon (雷電爲右衞門, 1767-1825).
Suddenly I reached something that looked like a ravine, an old moat, as it turned out. Looking to the other side, I discovered Usui Castle.
I entered and found myself in the centre of the second enclosure (二の丸 ni-no-maru), a big open field children must love.
An earthen bridge connected the inner bailey (本丸 honmaru) with the second enclosure. A lot of original earthwork and moats were preserved throughout the castle grounds, so I got an impression about how well-fortified Usui Castle was.
Then I arrived at the inner bailey.
From the inner bailey, I could overlook the surroundings including Lake Imbanuma. The hill seemed to be about 20 meters high. I imagined the spectacular scene of the brave Uesugi Kenshin attacking the castle.
Date of visit: 19 May 2013
- Address: Usuida, Sakura-shi, Chiba (Map)
- Transportation: 20 minutes from Keisei Main line Keisei-Usui station on foot