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Matsuyama Castle

Map of Shikoku showing Matsuyama
The next day we took a leisurely walk of about 30 or 40 minutes from our hotel to Matsuyama Castle, a hilltop castle and one of the original castles in Shikoku.

The remaining castle grounds cover quite a large area, and the castle itself is located at the top of Mt. Katsuyama (132m). The
tenshukaku can be seen from and has a commanding view over most parts of Matsuyama city.

Matsuyama Castle from the park at the foot of Mt. Katsuyama
At the foot of Mt. Katsuyama is a park—Shiroyama Park— that’s been set out so that the original street and lane layout of the san-no-maru (third bailey) has been preserved. These streets are today either pathways, or clearly marked.

The area on both sides of this pathway/old street was Naka-no-machi, and samurai residences would have lined the street.

There are three way of getting to the castle from the bottom of Mt. Katsuyama: chairlift, ropeway, and by foot. We ate and drank far too much the night before (which tended to happen most days during our Japan trip this time), so we decided to work off some of the excess calories, and head up the Kuro-mon Trail, a winding trail taking roughly 40 mins to get to the castle at the top.

Map of Matsuyama Castle grounds showing Kuro-mon Trail and Kakure-mon Gate

Towards the top, we finally caught our first close-up glimpse of the castle.

Matsuyama Castle from the Kuro-mon Trail
The castle was built by Katō Yoshiaki, the first lord of the Matsuyama Domain, in 1603. In its original form, the tenshukaku was much grander than at present with five storeys. Katō was transferred to Aizu Province (part of present-day Fukushima Prefecture) in 1627, and had the tenshukaku moved there. The next lord completed the ni-no-maru area in the same year. The first of the Matsudaira clan to rule the Matsuyama Domain—Matsudaira Sadayuki—rebuilt the tenshukaku with three storeys in 1642. The Matsudaira clan would rule this area for the next nearly two and a half centuries until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. A lightning strike in 1784 started a fire in the tenshukaku, and it burnt to the ground. Rebuilding of the present structure started in 1820, and was completed in 1854.

hon-maru or main bailey covers the top of the hill, and consists of a series of fortified gates and turrets providing progressively stronger lines of defence leading to the tenshukaku.

One interesting structure was the Kakure-mon Gate (hidden gate). This gate was on the eastern side of the important defensive Tsutsui-mon Gate, and would be unseen by an attacking enemy. A surprise attack from the rear would be waiting for any enemy troops breaching the Tsutsui-mon Gate.

Diagram showing the Tsutsui-mon Gate and Kakure-mon Gate

The photo below is the Tsutsui-mon Gate. It is one of the more important defensive gates for the castle.

Tsutsui-mon Gate

To the east of this gate is the Kakure-mon Gate.

Kakure-mon Gate

The photo below shows the
tenshukaku, and to the left, the small tenshukaku. The turret of the small tenshukaku is the second most important turret after the main tenshukaku, hence the name.

Tenshukaku and small tenshukaku

The interior of the castle was just as impressive as the outside, with a vast range of historical information and displays. Many additional hours were spent inside, but unfortunately, no photos.

This is the kind of powerful view commanded by the castle over the surrounding area; both imposing and spectacular.

View from the top of Matsuyama Castle

This is the kind of wall that an attacking enemy would have had to face.
Matsuyama Castle wall

In all aspects, Matsuyama Castle is truly awe-inspiring. We spent a good part of the day there, and there was still much more we could have seen and taken in. The people of Matsuyama have every right to be very proud of their castle, and the city is doing everything it can to ensure it will be enjoyed by future generations.

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