Bansuisō is a large villa, built in the style of a 19th century Gothic French château. It sits in manicured grounds at the base of the hill where Matsuyama Castle stands. The Earl Sadakoto Hisamatsu, a descendant of the Matsuyama clan, built Bansuisō in 1922 as a second home. Having lived in France, Hisamatsu wanted to impress with Western style, and he spent an enormous amount of money to achieve it. The building was designed by renowned architect Shichirō Giko. The villa was a social mecca for the elite of that time, including the Imperial family.
Now Bansuisō is an annex of the Museum of Art Ehime, which holds exhibitions of mixed quality here. Perhaps the best piece of art in the building is the painting of Hisamitsu himself. Concerts and talks are also held regularly, many of which are free.
Unlike similar buildings in France, the size of each room is quite modest, but the moldings, chandeliers, fireplaces, and other details are very attractive. Bansuisō is often used for weddings and photo shoots where retro glamour is at a premium. You can also spot visitors eagerly looking for the best angle to frame their own mobile-phone shot. For an interesting contrast to the finery upstairs, visit the toilets in the basement. Go down the stairs past the antique Asahi beer looking glass, and you find yourself in a simple but beautifully appointed Victorian restroom, sensitively updated with every modern comfort.
The first floor and basement are free to enter, but there’s a 300-yen charge to go up the wooden staircase to the second floor. The photographic possibilities on the balcony are worth the price of admission.
For a fine view of Bansuisō and its gatehouse, visit the nearby Saka no Ue no Kumo Museum. From its enormous windows, Bansuisō looks just like a doll’s house.
Name in Japanese: 萬翠荘
Address: 3−3−7 Ichibancho, Matsuyama, Ehime 790-0001