Matsuyama Castle : The Impregnable Fortress with an Edo Period Keep!

One of Japan’s 12 surviving castle keeps that were constructed before the Edo period, Matsuyama Castle is situated right in the center of Matsuyama city.
Famous for being one of the few Japanese castles that closely retain their original form, the castle is made up of over 40 buildings (some original, some reproduction) including the keep, turrets (yagura) and gates.
Matsuyama castle stands atop Mt. Katsuyama, which is 132 meters above sea level. You can either ride the ropeway and lift to the mountaintop, or climb up the trail from the base of the mountain.

To understand just how impregnable Matsuyama Castle is, we recommend imagining you are a soldier attacking the castle while you climb up the mountain!
For example, there are passages surrounded by stone walls such as you can see below. On the walls, there were buildings where soldiers could hide, which allowed the enemy to be attacked with bows and arrows as well as stones, etc.


The enemy would have to find a detour around the stone walls, and break through several gates, as the structure would have made it difficult to get closer to the castle keep.

Like this, you pass through several gates, and finally you can see the castle keep. This is the Honmaru (Main) courtyard, but before making it to here the enemy would have definitely lost several men!


“Well then, all that is left is to attack the keep!” The enemy would lift their motivation, but the structure of the castle keep is made even stronger, and there are small towers and turrets (yagura) set in a way that they surround the main keep.  This kind of construction method is called renritsushiki tenshu (‘tower grouping’), and they make quite an impact when seen closeup.

Further on, even if the enemy tried to attack and enter the keep, they would have had trouble finding the entrance. High stone walls and gates would obstruct the passage and any attackers would receive a concentrated attack from the castle garrison.


Like this, we continue to go through several gates and finally make it to the keep’s entrance. Let’s go inside! (Picture text ‘Entrance’)

Within the castle keep and the turrets connected to it, you can find an exhibition displaying various historical materials and armor among other objects. The keep was built during the Edo period, and even the wood used in pillars and the ceiling among other parts is precious – you can really feel the weight of history here.


Finally, we reach the highest floor of the keep! Below is the view of the Honmaru (‘main’) courtyard on the south side of the castle. Of course, the townscape around the castle has changed, but if you think that this was the view seen by the feudal lords during the Edo period you may be deeply moved.

This is the west side. The buildings of the grouped towers are connected, and although it’s slightly misty, in the distance you have a view over the Seto Inland Sea.


Not only does the castle keep still exist, Matsuyama castle’s charm lies in the fact that you can experience the castle in almost perfect, original form! The 21 original buildings including the keep have been designated as important cultural properties of Japan. They have also been chosen among the top 100 castles in Japan.

Dear reader, how about taking a trip with a little imagination? Be a warrior climbing to conquer Matsuyama castle!

Location: Marunouchi, Matsuyama city, Ehime prefecture
Guide Homepage: (Japanese)
Matsuyama castle keep
Open: 9.00-16.30 (* Opening hours for December and January. There may be changes according to season. Entrance up until 30 minutes before closing time.)
Fee: Adults JPY500  / Children (elementary school students) JPY150

Ropeway and lift
Business hours: 8.30-17.00 (*Operating hours for December and January. There may be changes according to season.)
Fee: Adults round trip JPY510 / Children (elementary school students) round trip JPY260

Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Hironobu Matsuoka



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Written by

Hironobu Matsuoka

Hironobu Matsuoka

Hironobu Matsuoka / Photo-writer Born in 1974 in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and currently living there, Hironobu is the president of Mediapolis Inc. "I travel around the country in Solar King, an eco-camping car that has a solar power generator, and film the beautiful scenery of Japan in high-definition. I want to move around the country as much as possible and leave behind videos of precious Japanese nature and scenery for future generations to enjoy. Although I travel all over the country, I love my home area of Setouchi." 'Healing Japan TV' - Traveling virtually around the country through 'healing videos'.


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