Follow in the Footsteps of the Lady Warlord Ii Naotora in Her Native Hamamatsu City
Ii Naotora was the adoptive mother of Ii Naomasa, one of the Four Heavenly Kings of the Tokugawa, a name given to the four fiercest generals who fought for future shogun and unifier of Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu, during the Warring States Period (1467 – 1603). Naotora also left her own mark on Japanese history in Totomi (modern-day western Shizuoka Prefecture). Today, her name is so well known that she was even chosen as the rare, female subject of an NHK historical drama titled “Naotora: The Lady Warlord” (2017) starring Ko Shibasaki. In this article, we’ll talk about interesting places around Hamamatsu City connected to this real-life female feudal lord who saved and took control of the entire Ii family.
Feb 10 2023 (Feb 15 2023)
*This article was written in collaboration with Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Hamamatsu: The Birthplace of the Legendary Lady Warlord
Ii Naotora was born in the small inland valley of Iinoya in Totomi (currently in Inasa Town, Kita Ward, Hamamatsu City), a province neighboring Lake Hamana. As its name suggests, Iinoya (lit. “Ii Valley”) was the land of the Ii clan, where they had lived since the Heian period (794 – 1192) and the time of the first head of family, Ii Tomoyasu. During its millennium-long history, the Ii family has produced many historically important figures such as Ii Michimasa, Ii Naomasa, Ii Naosuke, and more.
Although many of those names have been lost in the torrents of history, Iinoya, the ancestral home of the Ii clan, has survived to modern times and today is located in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. Along with being the prefecture's largest city with a population of approximately 790,000, Hamamatsu is also an important industrial center where famous corporations like Suzuki, Honda, and Yamaha were created. The city is also home to many important historical sites, like those related to Naotora and more. Let’s take a look!
Historical Sites of the Ii Family
Ryotanji Temple and the Birth Well of Ii Tomoyasu
The most famous temple in Hamamatsu City is arguably Ryotanji, the family temple of the Ii family built in 733, nearly 1,300 years ago.
Ryotanji Temple enshrines the ancestral spirits of 40 generations of the Ii family, going all the way back to Tomoyasu. Naotora is also buried here, so those who want to make an offering to the great lady warlord can do so. After offering incense and other gifts to Naotora, visitors can view historical artifacts collected at the temple, including the crimson “Akazonae” armor of Ii Naomasa, the fierce warrior known on the battlefield as “The Red Devil.”
Located a short walk from the temple’s south gate is Ii Tomoyasu’s birth well where, according to legend, the first head of the Ii family was born. The site also inspired the clan’s crest consisting of a well curb and the "tachibana" orange plant. Next to the well there is a stone monument that says “Birth Well of Ii Tomoyasu, Ancestor of the Ii Clan, Governor of Bicchu in Service of the Fujiwara Family.”
The exact date of construction of the Kiga Checkpoint is unknown, but it’s estimated to have been built in 1601 as a barrier station along the Hime Kaido highway established here by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Checkpoints or barrier stations were facilities for inspecting travelers and making sure they weren’t smuggling dangerous goods like guns into Japan’s capital. They were set up at key transportation points and served as an important line of defense for Edo (modern-day Tokyo.)
The Kiga Checkpoint’s facilities, including the Kabuki Gate and the main guard house (pictured above) were reconstructed in 1990, although an original part of the latter has been preserved and designated as a cultural asset of Hamamatsu City. If you want a glimpse into what life was like during the Edo Period, then this is the place for you!
Iinoya Castle Ruins
Iinoya Castle was built on a hillside at an elevation of 115 meters and served as the residence of the Ii clan. It consisted of a keep, an outer citadel, and a tertiary compound. The Ii clan's headquarters were made up of the castle, a residence at the foot of the hill, as well as the Mitake Castle fortress that served as their last line of defense.
Today, the ruins are part of Shiroyama Park, where you can find the remains of earthen mounds and other surviving structures. If you get the chance, come see for yourself what’s left of the place that once protected the mighty Ii family.
Ryugashido Cavern is a limestone cave located in Hamamatsu’s Tabatake (Inasa Town, Kita Ward.) It’s a popular tourist attraction near the Iinoya valley where the “Naotora: The Lady Warlord” TV show takes place. It is one of the largest limestone caves in the Tokai Region, formed within a limestone stratum said to be about 250 million years old. The average annual temperature inside the cave is a comfortable 18°C, making it cool in the summer and warm during winter. As such, it’s a great place for exploration, play, and learning, especially for kids, thanks to all the introductions, explanations, and displays of the oddly shaped rocks found around Ryugashido.
There are many points of interest in the cavern, including rare stalactites and the Ogon no Otaki (Golden Great Falls) with a drop of about 30 meters. Visitors who are interested in learning more about limestone caves should definitely visit Ryugashido and take a walk around the cavern.
Okuyama Hokoji Temple is the head temple of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism and is associated with the Okuyama family, which produced Ii Naomasa’s biological mother, the daughter of Inaba Governor Okuyama Tomotoshi. Ii Naotora's great-grandfather Naohira is enshrined at Keiunji Temple while her grandmother has been put to rest at Nyoiin Temple, both of which are Hokoji’s branch temples. As such, Hokoji Temple is closely related to the history of the Ii clan.
Learn About Ii Naotora in Hamamatsu
If you’re interested in the story of Ii Naotora, why not follow in her footsteps and visit places closely associated with her in Hamamatsu? You can also talk about Naotora with the chief priest of the Ii family temple, as well as the Hamamatsu locals you meet along the way. Who knows, maybe you will end up learning something new and unexpected about the legendary “lady warlord.”
★Hamamatsu’s sightseeing info is regularly posted on the city’s official website and social media, so be sure to check them out!
Through Hamamatsu, Meet Japan: https://www.hamamatsu-japan.com/en/
Visit Hamamatsu: https://visit.hamamatsu-japan.com/
Experience Hamamatsu: https://experience.hamamatsu-japan.com/
If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you'd really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.