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update:October 5, 2017

 

Kofu's history

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In Kofu in 1519, Takeda Nobutora moved his clan's palace to an area called Tsutsujigasaki, and began construction of a castle town. It was then that the city came to be called “Kofu,” an abbreviation of “Kai no Fuchu (Capital of Kai Province).” Thus, in 2019 Kofu will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of its establishment. The history of Kofu, which will soon be arriving at this 500-year milestone, is introduced below.

Start of Kofu: three generations of the Takeda clan

In Kai Province of medieval times, the political and economic center was the region that is now Isawa, Fuefuki City. For three generations, the Takeda clan, the protectors of Isawa, oversaw the territory from their castle in adjacent Kawada (Kawada-machi, Kofu City).
Takeda Shingen became famous nationwide as a general during the Sengoku period when there were rivalries between local warlords. His father Takeda Nobutora moved his clan's palace to an area called Tsutsujigasaki (currently Takeda-jinja Shrine) in 1519, and had his vassals live in the surrounding area. He then started development of a large castle town, establishing towns for merchants and craftsmen, founding temples and shrines, and opening marketplaces, etc. This is when the capital of Kai Province “Kofu” was born.
In 1521, Nobutora's eldest son Harunobu (later “Shingen”) was born, and he became the protector of Kai in 1541. He made various achievements in the area of civil affairs, including building Shingen-tsutsumi Embankment along Kamanashigawa River, moving forward with the development of new rice fields and gold mines, and establishing transportation networks. Furthermore, he built a firm stronghold as a feudal warlord, aiming for the expansion of his clan's territory.
Shingen's fourth child Katsuyori took over the Takeda clan after his death. Katsuyori made various military gains, including capturing Takatenjin Castle, something even his father couldn't achieve. Nevertheless, with Katsuyori's defeat against the allied Oda-Tokugawa army in the Battle of Nagashino as a turning point, the Takeda clan collapsed.

Development of Kofu Castle and the surrounding castle town

Kofu Castle was built on Ichijo-koyama Hill about 400 years ago by Toyotomi Hideyoshi follower Asano Nagamasa, his son Asano Yoshinaga, and others, and the historic Kofu Castle district of today was constructed in the surrounding area.
When Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, a close aide of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, became the lord of Kofu Castle, he proactively moved ahead with redevelopment of the castle and the surrounding castle town. The castle town of Kofu was at the height of prosperity throughout the Edo period, so much so that Ogyu Sorai, who visited the town during Yanagisawa's reign, wrote, “The houses are thriving, the streets are well-arranged, there are rows of many goods in the stores, and people's behavior is hardly any different from that in Edo.”
Later, in 1724, Yanagisawa's territory was changed to Yamatokoriyama (Nara Prefecture), and as a result, Kai became an area under direct control of the shogunate, and Kofu Castle came to be controlled by a series of temporarily-stationed retainers.
The culture of Edo was brought to the area by this series of temporarily-stationed retainers and others, and the kabuki entertainment business—particularly at Kameya-za Theater—thrived to such an extent that it would be said, “The plays that become popular in Kofu also become popular in Edo.”

Proclamation of Kofu City as a municipality

On July 1, 1889, Kofu City became the 34th city in Japan to be proclaimed a municipality, and the fourth in the Kanto area after Yokohama, Mito, and Tokyo.
Kofu of this era is depicted in Osamu Dazai's novella Shinju no Kotoba (Words of Newly Green Trees), and apparently sophisticated Western-style culture had taken root here in a rich natural setting.
In July 1945, close to the end of the Pacific War, 74% of Kofu's urban area was reduced to ashes in an air raid, and vestiges of Kofu's good old days were destroyed and many lives were lost. Nevertheless, immediately after the war, a bureau of war-damage reconstruction was established, and the citizens fervently worked together to rebuild their hometown. Ongoing work was done in order to develop the infrastructure for a modern city, and this included constructing Heiwa-dori Street and a square in front of the train station.
In 1971, during Japan's high economic growth period, the Chuo Line was given multiple tracks and the Kofu Bypass was opened. In 1982, the development of transportation networks was progressing rapidly as part of a national project for responding to the arrival of the motorization society, and this included the opening of all lanes of the Chuo Expressway. Amid this situation, Kofu City proactively worked on initiatives such as the vitalization of its industrial economy, and as part of this, an industrial park for companies in advanced technology industries was constructed. As a result, Kofu City developed into the core city of its region. In 1989, the city celebrated the 100th anniversary of its establishment as a municipality.
In 2000, in order to respond to the trend of decentralization and promote autonomous administrative management and more proactive urban development, Kofu City received designation as a special city of Japan. In 2006, an effort was put into administrative management responding to the trends of the times and changes in the social environment surrounding local governments, and this included merging the town of Nakamichi and the northern part of the village of Kamikuishiki.
Kofu City will commemorate the historic milestone of the 500th anniversary of its establishment in 2019, and this is also the year when it is scheduled to receive designation as a core city of Japan.

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