The colossal stones that built Edo Castle

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The first light of dawn hits a castle stone on the coast in Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture. Called the Motofunaishi, legend has it that one-third of it was shipped to Edo. On the top is a line of rectangular yaana holes, which were made when splitting rocks.

By Hisashi Kiyooka / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterITO/ATAMI, Shizuoka — Tokugawa Ieyasu began his reign as shogun in 1603, the eighth year of the Keicho era (1596-1615).

The next year, he ordered his daimyo feudal lords to bring stones to Edo to refurbish Edo Castle. He aimed to transform what had been a branch castle made of earth under the Hojo clan during the Sengoku warring period (from the late 15th to late 16th centuries) into a gigantic, modern citadel. Ieyasu also ordered them to prepare ships that would transport the stones.

With Edo lacking much in the way of quarries, stone had to be transported by ship from the Izu Peninsula. The standard stone was an andesite block measuring about 60 centimeters square by about one meter, and weighing about 840 kilograms. It is said almost 1 million of these were used to renovate Edo Castle.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    The characters carved into this boulder in the Chubarikubo quarry in the Shimotaga district of Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, indicate a quarrying area used by Arima Toyouji, lord of the Fukuchiyama domain.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

According to the description dated 1606 in “Tokugawa Jikki,” an official history of the shogunate compiled in the late Edo period (1603-1867), the daimyo sent their retainers to Izu to quarry stones and “transport them to Edo on more than 3,000 ships.” This “tenka bushin,” or state-mandated construction project, continued until the reign of the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu.

Standing on the coast of Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture, the fishing boats bobbing on the ultramarine waters of Sagami Bay look so tranquil, it’s hard to imagine that 400 years ago a fleet of ships came and went here loaded with giant stones.

One large stone about four meters high can be found on the coast in the city’s Futo district. Called the Motofunaishi, the stone faces Izu-Oshima island far across the water and has on its surface a line of rectangular yaana holes, which were made when splitting rocks.

Natural stones abandoned in the process of splitting them into rectangular pieces can be found here and there along the eastern coastline of Izu.

“The andesite around Futo came from a volcanic eruption about 100,000 years ago. Due to its whitish color, it’s believed to have been used in some particular points of the wall of Edo Castle, where appearance was important,” said Hiroyuki Kaneko, 58, chief officer of the city’s board of education.

Indicating a nearby stone carved with a mark representing a combination of a circle and a short horizontal line, Kaneko said: “This is said to be a simplified version of the Mori clan’s banner. To fill their stone quotas, the daimyo competed with each other to secure quarries.”

Not all quarries were on the coast. Many were located in the mountains. One of these is the Chubarikubo quarry in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture. Stones with yaana holes can be found all over the steep slope. One giant boulder has characters carved into it declaring that the land to the west is the quarry of Arima Toyouji, lord of the Fukuchiyama domain.

“The quarries were apparently sometimes divided among the daimyo by lottery,” Kaneko said. The characters and crests were not just used to mark off territory, but to identify which stones were whose when they arrived in Edo.

After the stones were loaded, the sea journey was never a sure thing. On May 25, 1606, the “Tokugawa Jikki” records a storm of “strong wind and rain” that caused flooding in Kyoto and capsized many ships carrying stones for the castle. It states, “One hundred and twenty ships loaded with stones from Zushu Province owned by Nabeshima Katsushige capsized and were damaged, as were 46 ships of Kato Yoshiaki and 30 ships of Kuroda Nagamasa.”

Daimyo were mobilized not only to build Edo Castle, but also Kyoto’s Nijo Castle and Osaka Castle.

A letter from Hosokawa Tadatoshi, lord of the Kumamoto domain, lamented, “Japan’s fatigue is never going to end.” It’s as if the stones remember exhaustion so severe it could not be concealed.


The Futo no Chikujoseki or the Futo Fortification Stone, is about a 20-minute walk from Futo Station on the Izu Kyuko Line. The Chubarikubo quarry is about a 50-minute walk from JR Izutaga Station. Speech

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