Shikoku’s Distinctive Authentic Castle Heritage

It’s often noted that in all of Japan, there are twelve castles that remain as they were in the 1800s. Of these, four are in Shikoku, which means that Shikoku has a particularly rich castle heritage for visitors to enjoy.

Matsuyama Castle is one of Japan’s most elaborate fortifications

Matsuyama Castle stands on an imposing hill in the middle of Matsuyama. It was originally built by Kato Yoshiaki in 1603. Tōdō Takatora, the great castle engineer, is thought to have designed the defences. The approach to the castle involves 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 if they tried to storm the main gate. The current keep was finished in 1854.

Matsuyama castle

You can get to the castle on foot by one of several steep paths. There’s also a cable car and chairlift. The views from the top of the keep are extraordinary.

Matsuyama castles and walls

Location: 5 Marunouchi, Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture

Open: Dec-Jan/9:00-16:30 , Feb-Jul & Sep-Nov/9:00-17:00, Aug/9:00-17:30
Closed: The third Wednesday of December
Tel: 089-921-4873
Admission: Adults JPY510, Children JPY150
URL: http://www.matsuyamajo.jp/    (Japanese)

Uwajima Castle is small but beautifully proportioned

Another castle keep in its original state is at Uwajima in southern Ehime. This castle was also constructed by Tōdō Takatora.

Uwajima castle

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. The irregularity of the steps was a subtle aspect of the defensive structure of the fortifications, forcing attackers to mind their step, literally.

Uwajima castle wall

The tower is noted for its small size and elegance. One 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.

There’s a fantastic view from the top of the keep over Uwajima port and the dramatic mountain called Onigajō — Ogre’s Castle.

Location: 1 Marunouchi, Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture
Open: Apr-Sep/ 9:00-17:0 , Oct-Mar/ 9:00-16:00
Closed: Open year round
Tel: 0895-22-2832
Admission: Adults JPY200, Children JPY100
URL: https://www.city.uwajima.ehime.jp/site/uwajima-jo/ujoushiro.html (Japanese)

Ōzu Castle was rebuilt using authentic techniques and materials


Ozu castle

Ōzu Castle in southern Ehime stands on a hillock that extends into a bend in the river Hiji. The castle keep was destroyed at the end of the feudal period, but after careful research, it was decided to reconstruct the keep using authentic castle building techniques and materials – wood, plaster, tile, mud, straw rope and a few iron nails.

Ozu castle

Most reconstructed castles in Japan are made of concrete, and so Ōzu is unique in the effort that went into rediscovering the old techniques. Completed in 2004, the interior still has the rich smell of cut wood.

Location: Ōzu 903, Ōzu, Ehime Prefecture
Open: 9:00-17:00
Closed: Open year round
Tel: 0893-24-1146
Admission: Adults JPY500, Children JPY200
URL: http://www.ozucastle.jp/ (Japanese)

Imabari Castle is one of Shikoku’s ‘castles in the sea’

The tower of Imabari Castle is one of the concrete reconstructions. It’s classified as a flatland castle, and Tōdō Takatora built this one too. His horseback statue graces the approach to the keep.

Imabari castle

Imabari’s most distinctive feature is a wide moat fed by seawater from the nearby port. In the moat, you can see large seawater fish swimming and jumping, and watch the water level rise with the tide. The moat averages 60 m across, neutralizing the effects of arrows and the firearms of the time.

Imabari castle fish

The keep and watchtowers house an excellent collection of armour, weapons, and artefacts related to samurai life and culture. The view from the top of the keep is magnificent, encompassing the Kurushima Strait Bridge and an expanse of the Seto Inland Sea on one side, and Mt. Takanawa on the other.

Location: 3 -1-3 Tōrichō, Imabari, Ehime Prefecture

Open: 9:00-17:00
Closed: Dec 29-31
Tel: 0898-31-9233
Admission: Adults JPY500, Children JPY250
URL: http://museum.city.imabari.ehime.jp/imabarijo/ (Japanese)

Marugame Castle has massive, impressive walls

From the elevated tracks of JR Marugame Station, Marugame Castle in Kagawa Prefecture presents a slightly odd appearance — a small tower perched atop massive stone fortifications. This is because the walls were built for a grander edifice. Marugame Castle was originally constructed in 1602. But due to a new shogunal ruling that limited the number of castles in each province to one, Marugame Castle was dismantled 13 years after its completion. The castle was rebuilt in 1664 after the province was divided in two. Some of the stones in the walls are marked with symbols indicating which vassals provided them.

Marugame castle

The castle is located a short walk from the JR station. A bridge across the moat leads into a square enclosure, which would have been lethal to attackers. The magnificent gateway to the right is topped with a long guardroom that you’re free to enter. A series of concrete pathways lead up through a ziggurat of massive walls with various defensive features. You emerge in the honmaru at the top, which affords a 350-degree panorama of Marugame, including the distinctively-shaped Mt. Iinoyama.

Marugame castle mask

Location: 1 Marugame, Kagawa Prefecture
Open: 9:00-16:30
Closed: Open year round
Tel: 0877-25-3881
Admission: Adults JPY200, Children JPY100
URL:http://www.marugame-castle.jp/ (Japanese)

Takamatsu Castle has the sea for its moat

The name of the castle in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture is actually Tamamo Castle. It’s Shikoku’s other ‘castle in the sea’. Before the development of the Takamatsu waterfront, the castle would have appeared to be floating on the sea at high tide. Although the main tower was demolished in 1884, there are several beautiful watchtowers remaining. The walls of the castle enclose a well-kept garden with many shapely pines. The centrepiece of the park is an elegant Japanese-style government building dating from 1917.

Takamatsu castle

The tower of Takamatsu Castle is scheduled to be rebuilt in the next few years – an exciting prospect for castle lovers everywhere.

Takamatsu castle

Location: 2-1 Tamamo-chō, Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture
Open: 5:30-18:30 (Depends on season)
Closed: Dec 29-31
Tel: 087-851-1521
Admission: Adults JPY200, Children JPY100
URL: http://www.takamatsujyo.com/ (Japanese)

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Written by

Rod Walters

Rod Walters

Originally from England, I came to live in Ehime in 2001. I’m interested in the history of the Suigun, seagoing clans who dominated the Seto Inland Sea for two centuries. I find it very relaxing to photograph the beautiful scenery and the wildlife. I hope people will visit Setouchi and enjoy exploring this unique area. To help visitors make the most of their time here, I offer travel services at ShikokuTours.com. Be sure to try the excellent sake when you visit!


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