Matsuyama Castle (松山城 Matsuyama-jō) is a hirayamajiro (平山城, flatland mountain castle) located in Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture. It was constructed between 1603 and 1614 by Katō Yoshiaki (加藤嘉明, 1563-1631) and was built on the 132-metre tall Mount Katsuyama. It is also known as Katsuyama Castle (勝山城 Katsuyama-jō) or Iyo Matsuyama Castle (伊予松山城) to distinguish it from other castles by the same name. It is considered one of the twelve "original castles" of Japan that have preserved much of their historical structures.


Yoshiaki, originally a retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, joined the forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Battle of Sekigahara (1600). He was transferred to Aizuwakamatsu in 1627 and replaced by the Gamō clan which was moved in turn to Matsuyama. Gamō Tadatomo (蒲生忠知, 1604-1634) completed the second bailey in the same year. Curiously, the five-storey donjon was moved to Aizuwakamatsu Castle.

When Tadatomo died without heir in 1634, Matsudaira Sadayuki (松平定行, 1587-1668) took over the castle and built a new three-storey tenshu (天守, main keep) in 1642. The donjon was destroyed by a fire in 1784 and later rebuilt. Sadayuki and his chief retainers moved their residences to town mansions and thereby expanded the castle town significantly.

The castle survived the Meiji Period as one of the few examples of original castle structures of feudal times. After the Satsuma Rebellion (1877), the second and the third bailey were acquired by the Imperial Army and used for parade ground and barracks. During the Meiji Period, several buildings burned down, in 1933 one of the auxiliary turrets was destroyed. The inner court of the castle has been restored, and the former castle grounds were turned into Ninomaru Park.

Mount Katsuyama offers a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding area and is densely covered in woods. Matsuyama Castle has a ring of earthworks halfway down the slope and at the foot of the hill. The outer walls of the inner bailey built by Yoshiaki are much higher than those found in other castles of that period, a feat that is typical for castles constructed by the Katō, for instance, Kumamoto Castle which was constructed by Yoshiaki's father, Kiyomasa (加藤清正,1562-1611). While the stones of the outer walls are much cruder than those of other castles, the stones of the donjon foundation display a perfect fit and use few smaller rocks used as wedges.


Access: Matsuyama Castle can be reached by chairlift and ropeway which are a five-minute walk from "Okaido" tramway station.

Hours and admission: daily from 09:00 to 17:00 (16:30 in December and January, 17:30 in August); admission: 520 JPY.

Address: 1 Marunouchi, Matsuyama, Ehime 790-0008; phone: 089-921-4873; fax: 089-934-3417 (Matsuyama Castle General Office)


Photo credit: イェンス
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