Uwajima Castle is a hilltop castle. In the pre-modern age, it lay within the borders of Iyo Province. It was in use from 1596 to 1871. With Matsuyama Castle it’s one of the two in Ehime with a keep that remains as it was in the 1800s, out of the twelve surviving in Japan.
This castle was constructed by Todo Takatora, the daimyo of a small fiefdom granted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1595. Todo moved to Imabari after the battle of Sekigahara. From 1615, Uwajima was the fief of the Date clan, who repaired and expanded it in 1671. Today, the moat has been filled in and the third ring of defenses has been obliterated, although what remains is quite imposing.
Access to the castle is through a small gateway, and a series of ferny, mossy steps that wind up the steep slope through dense woods. On the way up, you pass a deep well sunk into hillside. The steps up to the castle are as they were when it was in use, and their irregularity was a subtle aspect of the defensive structure of the fortifications, forcing attackers to mind their step, literally.
The tower is noted for its small size and elegance. It’s unusual in that its plaster walls aren’t flush with the stone base, creating a ledge where an attacker could potentially stand. Another unusual feature is the sliding ports at the very top of the tower which could be opened to let out the smoke from defensive musket fire. The steps and entrance porch were Meiji period additions.
There’s a fantastic view from the top of the keep over Uwajima port and the dramatic bulk of the mountain called Onigajo — Ogre’s Castle. During the Uwajima Festival, it’s fun to watch the movement of the Bull Devils from above from the castle tower.
Name in Japanese: 宇和島城
Pronunciation: uwajima jō
Address: Marunouchi, Uwajima, Ehime 798-0060, Japan