Matsuyama Castle in Ehime Prefecture is a hilltop castle. It stands on the summit of Mt. Katsuyama, an imposing hill in the middle of Matsuyama. In the pre-modern age, it lay within the borders of Iyo Province. It was in use from 1603 to 1873.
You can get to the castle on foot by one of several steep but pleasant paths that wind their way up the forested hillside. For those not inclined to walk, the cable car and chairlift are an attractive option.
Inside the castle, there’s a good collection of armour, weapons, historical artifacts, and displays explaining the construction of the castle. You can also try getting dressed up in a suit of armour at no extra cost. The views in all directions from the top of the tenshu are extraordinary.
The castle was originally built by Kato Yoshiaki in 1603. Todo Takatora is thought to have had a hand in the design of the defences. The castle had a large five-story tenshu (keep), but when Kato was transferred to Aizu in 1627, he took his tenshu with him to Aizu Castle. His successor in Matsuyama, Tadachika Gamoh, died in 1635, shortly after completing the ninomaru, the second ring of fortifications. He was followed by Matsudaira Sadayuki, who completed a new tenshu in 1642. His heirs continued to rule the castle after his death.
On New Year’s Day, 1784, the tenshu was struck by lightning and burned down. The current tenshu was built between 1820 and 1854. The castle survived the Meiji restoration, but parts of it were destroyed by American bombing during World War II. Since 1966, the city of Matsuyama has been working to restore the castle using traditional methods and materials.
Originally, Mt. Katsuyama had two peaks. The valley in between was filled in to create a plateau on which the castle stands. The approach to the castle involves a number of switchbacks and false approaches intended to confuse attackers. There’s also a hidden gate next to the main entrance to the honmaru, which allowed defenders to sally out and surprise attackers as they tried to storm the main gate. Once a distinctive feature, now hidden by trees, are the two long walls that link the ninomaru second defensive ring at the base of the hill with the honmaru inner ring at the top.
The Ninomaru Garden at the base of the hill is the site of the lord’s palace. The buildings are long gone, but their foundations are marked on the ground with flower beds and water features. The enclosure has an impressive well and an interesting museum in the gateway.
Name in Japanese: 松山城
Pronunciation: matsuyama jō
Address: 1 Marunouchi, Matsuyama, Ehime 790-0008