Mōri Terumoto, one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's council of Five Elders, established Hiroshima castle in 1589 at the delta of the Otagawa river. There was no Hiroshima city or town at the time, and the area was called Gokamura, meaning 'five villages.' Beginning in 1591, Mōri governed nine provinces from this castle, including much of what is now Shimane, Yamaguchi, Tottori, Okayama and Hiroshima Prefectures.
When construction on the castle began, Gokamura was renamed Hiroshima, as a more impressive name was called for. "Hiro" was taken from Ōe no Hiromoto, an ancestor of the Mōri family, and "Shima" was taken from Fukushima Motonaga who helped Mōri Terumoto choose the castle site. Some accounts state that the name 'Hiroshima', meaning literally 'wide island', comes from the existence of several large islands in the delta of the Otagawa, near the castle's site.
Following the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Mōri was forced out of the castle, retreating to Hagi in today's Yamaguchi prefecture. Fukushima Masanori became the lord of Aki and Bingo provinces (which today comprise Hiroshima prefecture, and of Hiroshima castle). However, the new Tokugawa shogunate forbade any castle construction without permission from Edo; this was part of how the shogunate kept the daimyō from gaining power and overthrowing the shogunate. When Fukushima repaired the castle following a flood in 1619, he was dispatched to Kawanakajima in today's Nagano prefecture. Asano Nagaakira became lord of the castle.
From 1619 until the abolition of the feudal system during the Meiji Restoration (1869), the Asano family were lords of Aki and Bingo provinces.
After the Meiji Restoration, the castle came to serve as a military facility, and the Imperial General Headquarters was based there during the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894-1895. The foundations of several of the GHQ outbuildings, just a few hundred paces from the castle's main tower, remain today.
The castle was destroyed in the atomic bomb blast of August 6, 1945. The present tower, constructed largely of concrete, was completed in 1958.
Daimyō of Hiroshima
- Mōri Terumoto (1591-1600)*; 1,120,000 koku
- Fukushima Masanori (1600-1619); 498,223 koku
- Asano Nagaakira (1619-1632); 426,500 koku**
- Asano Mitsuakira (1632-1672)
- Asano Tsunaakira (1672-1673)
- Asano Tsunanaga (1673-1708)
- Asano Yoshinaga (1708-1752)
- Asano Munetsune (1752-1763)
- Asano Shigeakira (1763-1799)
- Asano Narikata (1799-1830)
- Asano Naritaka (1831-1858)
- Asano Yoshiteru (1858-1858)
- Asano Nagamichi (1858-1869)
- Asano Nagakoto (1869-1869)
*The years listed are those in which the lord occupied Hiroshima castle, not the years of his life.
**All of the lords after Asano Nagaakira enjoyed the same 426,500 koku.
The castle was originally constructed in wood, pine primarily, and had attached wings to the east and to the south. It was completed sometime between 1592 and 1599, and was designated a National Treasure in 1931. The reconstructed castle features the main tower (tenshu) only, which is made primarily of reinforced concrete. Its five floors stand 26.6 meters above the stone foundation which, in turn, is 12.4 meters high off the ground. However, in recent years, a gate and a yagura in the ninomaru have been re-constructed out of wood using the original methods.
An excellent example of a hirajiro or flatlands (plains) castle, Hiroshima castle once had three concentric moats in addition to the Otagawa river to the west (now called the Hongawa), which provided an additional natural barrier. The two outer moats were filled in during the late 19th & early 20th centuries, and much of what was once within the castle grounds is now modern urban areas, including homes, schools, offices and shops. A number of secondary castle buildings, towers and turrets once stood, and a Shinto shrine called Hiroshima Gokoku Jinja is located within the innermost moat, having been moved there after 1945.
Also located inside the honmaru is the concrete bunker from which the first radio broadcast out of Hiroshima following the atomic bombing was made.
- Japanese castle
- Hiroshima Castle tourist brochure obtained at the castle.