The Mysterious Connection Between Kagurazaka and Himeji Castle, a World Heritage Site

The Mysterious Connection Between Kagurazaka and Himeji Castle, a World Heritage Site


I have written several times in my blog that Kagurazaka was built by the 3rd Shogun of the Edo Shogunate, Tokugawa Iemitsu, as a path (Onari-dori) from Ushigome Gate of Edo Castle to the residence of Senior Minister (Tairō) Tadakatsu Sakai. Today, I would like to write about the connection between Kagurazaka and Himeji Castle, a World Heritage Site.


Kagurazaka and Himeji Connected by the Sakai Family

The Senior Minister (Tairō) was a top position temporarily placed above the Senior Councillor (Rōjū) to assist the Shogun. In other words, it was the No. 2 position in the Edo Shogunate. Only four families were eligible for the position of Senior Minister, who were close retainers of the first Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu: the Ii, Sakai (main branch of the Uemon-no-kami family), Doi, and Hotta families. However, the Sakai family was further divided into the main branch of the Himeji Domain (now Hyogo Prefecture) and the separate branch of the Obama Domain (now Fukui Prefecture), both of which had Senior Ministers, making it effectively five families.
The first lord of the Obama Domain was Tadakatsu Sakai, the fourth lord to hold the position of Senior Minister. On the other hand, the last Senior Minister of the Edo Shogunate was Tadashige Sakai of the Himeji Domain. In total, twelve individuals served as Senior Ministers of the Edo Shogunate, and four of them were from the Sakai family. Among them were Tadakatsu Sakai and Tadashige Sakai.

Himeji Castle Resembled Edo Castle

Himeji Castle, the castle of the Himeji Domain, is a World Heritage Site. Its grandeur and beauty are admired not only in Japan but by tourists worldwide. It is said that Himeji Castle closely resembled Edo Castle. Common features include 1) the white plaster castle, 2) the interconnected multi-layered keep, and 3) the spiral moats. 
The Mysterious Connection Between Kagurazaka and Himeji Castle, a World Heritage Site

Himeji Castle was built on the Sanyodo road to defend against the western daimyos, which the Edo Shogunate considered a threat. Himeji Castle stands 46.3 meters tall, and from the top floor, one can see the Seto Inland Sea. To travel to Edo, the western daimyos had to pass under the watchful eye of Himeji Castle, both by land and sea. The reason why successive lords of Himeji Castle, such as the Sakai family, were close retainers of the Tokugawa family was to strengthen Edo's defense.


The Connection between Kagurazaka and Himeji Castle

Thus, the connection between Kagurazaka and Himeji Castle is bridged by two Senior Ministers from the Sakai family: Tadakatsu Sakai from the early period and Tadashige Sakai from the later period. Understanding this connection and then walking through Kagurazaka after visiting Himeji Castle, a World Heritage Site that closely resembles Edo Castle, might help you vividly imagine the scenes of the Edo period. 

On a personal note, my father's ancestors are from Fukui Prefecture. I grew up in Himeji City, and I currently reside in Kagurazaka. Considering that Tadakatsu Sakai's Obama Domain is in Fukui Prefecture and Tadashige Sakai's Himeji Domain is in Himeji City, I feel a personal connection to these historical ties. 


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Kagurazaka Walking Tour

How to Access Kagurazaka

The Kagurazaka area is conveniently located within 30 minutes from any major station in Tokyo. This is because Kagurazaka is situated in the heart of Tokyo, at the center of the Yamanote Line. Please come and visit this convenient and charming Kagurazaka.


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