Bitchu Matsuyama Castle 備中松山城
Founder Mizunoya Sakyonosuke Katsumune
Year 1683
Type Mountaintop
Condition Original
Alternate Name Takahashi Castle
Structure 2 levels, 2 stories
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Historical Site National Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles, Important Cultural Properties
Historical Artifacts Important Cultural Properties:
tenshu, Nijuu Yagura, San no Hirayagura East Wall
Location Takahashi, Okayama Pref.
Map Google Map
Access Bitchu Takahashi Station (Hakubi Line); 1260 taxi
Website Takahashi City Tourism Organization
Visited November 20, 2010
Notes Bitchu Matsuyama is a fairly small castle with only a few buildings, but the great stone walls and views make this 5 Stars. I took the taxi to the parking lot near the castle but walked back down. The mountain is fairly steep so I would recommend walking back rather than up. There are some ruins farther in the mountain but due to heavy rains in 2010, some of the stone walls and paths from just behind the main keep have been badly damaged and you cannot go all the back to the farther ruins.

Bitchu Matsuyama Castle is well know as being the highest altitude castle in Japan at 480 meters. This was viewed as a strategic location was also viewed as valuable territory for a castle. Akiba Shigenobu built the first castle on a nearby mountain in 1240. In 1331 Takahashi Muneyasu built the first Matsuyama Castle on this site. The main keep and yagura you see today were built by Mizunoya in 1683. This was one of very few 2 level main keep, but being on top of the mountain, there was little need to build a high vantage point. After the Mizunoya there were several different lords until Itakura Katsuyoshi in 1744. His descendents continued to rule until the Meiji restoration.

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Comment on this castle
  • furinkazan    January 14, 2017 at 07:39 AM
    Mit_souko, you're referring to Iyo Matsuyamajô on Shikoku.
  • mit_souko    January 14, 2017 at 03:58 AM
    snoworion says this is a difficult castle to get to. O don't understand: There is a cable car and a chair lift. and yes, it's a great place to visit. If you are looking for souvenirs, best option is to take the street car to Dogo Onsen [worth a visit too]
  • snoworion on My Page    September 20, 2016 at 05:35 PM
    Visited on 6 September 2016. Very difficult castle to get to but worth the effort if you want to visit a very well preserved and terrific specimen of a Japanese castle. However disappointed that the city of Takahashi did not do more to promote the castle. As a typical tourist it was comparatively hard to find a route to and from the castle. Also, as a typical tourist, I was looking out for typical tourist traps like souvenirs from where I could fish for memories of my hard trek. There isn't any remotely near the castle or even in the town below. In fact there isn't even a decent rest stop on the journey up to or down from the castle where one can catch a refresher, not even in the town below. Maybe that is a good thing as it preserves the overall integrity of the site but I couldn't help wanting more of a reason to stay longer than I did.
  • findlayjamie on My Page    January 29, 2016 at 10:41 AM
    Such a wonderful site, and no photo can ever do it justice. I loved the feeling of complete surprise, going up that mountain and finding that castle there. A real gem, but probably the most inconvenient I've ever been to.
  • kiddus_i2003 on My Page    June 07, 2015 at 02:56 AM
    A great day out, lots of repair work happening at the back of this castle. Very nice castle.
  • Anonymous    December 28, 2014 at 05:44 PM
    Have done this castle three now and it's one of the one I try to get to each time I go to Japan. The only thing I would say is get the taxi up to the car park, 1250 yen covers that, and when returning, at the back of the car park by the seating area and vending machines is a little path leading up and down. go to the path and follow it down to your left, it takes you back to the town. It is about 1500 metres through the wooded mountain side and is really nice. Watch your step in winter and autumn. It's mainly rocky steps but very rough places. It end by a Japanese farmhouse and is about 15 metres from the road up to the castle. Follow the road with a little stream next to it with some walkways along it (my kid loved that), until you get near the railway line, then go left and just follow that to you get to the station, passing samurai houses on the way. Should take about an hour to two hours depending on how many times you stop to look at stuff.
  • RaymondW    August 02, 2014 at 05:25 PM
    I visited this castle again with my wife last weekend. Since it was a sauna-like 37C day in Bitchu-Takahashi, we decided to take the taxi up to the carpark halfway up the mountain from JR Bitchu-Takahashi Station (1,270 yen going up and 1,760yen back to the train station, which included a 500yen call-out fee). It was my wife’s first visit to this castle, and she commented that in some ways, it reminded her of Iwamura Castle, another mountaintop castle in Gifu Prefecture. This time round, I was able to visit the “back part” of this castle. If you go past the two-storey yagura and through the Mizunote Gate Ruin down the hill, there is the Bansho Bailey, which is linked by a wooden bridge and has stone walls on two sides of the bailey. Further along the trail from the Bansho Bailey is a set of terraced baileys called the Aihatakekido Ruins, but it would be more aptly named “Mosquito Terraces” in summer. The whole area was swarming with mozzies, and we were bitten a number of times despite having insect repellent on. Aihatakekido has some terraced baileys with ishigaki (stone walls), and they lead uphill to the Tenjin Baileys, an outlying fort ruin on top of Mount Gagyu. This had formed part of Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle’s northern defences. Another 200 metres pass the Tenjin Baileys is a small stone-lined reservoir called the Ooike, which translates as Big Pond. Overlooking this pond is a much older mountaintop castle ruin called Oomatsuyama Castle, built in 1240. There isn’t much left to see here apart from a disused well and some earthwork remnants including several ditches dividing the baileys and earthen ramparts forming the sides of the baileys. Despite the lack of surviving structures, it is worth spending an extra hour or so checking out all these ruins, which had protected the northern approaches to Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle.
  • DiegoDeManila    April 12, 2014 at 06:58 PM
    Visited 03 April 2013. Small, and not the easiest place to reach on foot, but for all that still one of my favourite castles in Japan. The fortifications are simply impressive; makes one wonder how anyone could have possibly taken the castle by force if this were ever attempted. Nice attractions in the old castle town as well. pretty much a complete package and a good day tour option from Okayama (especially for JR Pass users).
  • Paulo    June 12, 2013 at 07:56 PM
    Wow! This is beautiful, I hope I'd be able to go here someday...
  • furinkazan on My Page    April 11, 2012 at 07:16 PM
    I went today to this castle. Really a nice castle to go, even with bad weather, like i had. The castIe was surrounded by a cloud and from time to time i had to wait that the wind blowed a little bit to take a photo. I took a taxi up to the castle(1250yen). I didn't go to the ruins behind the castle, because the paths were too muddy and slippery. When i wanted to walk back, it was really heavily downpouring. I was actually fortune. A visitor(i saw 4 on the site) asked me where i was heading. He took me to the bukeyashiki, where i started a walk at the Old Orii residence to end at the Shorinji. The Orii home has very nice buildings with the one in the backyard having some arms and armors on display. This little town is a 'must go'.
  • bryanbaier on My Page    February 13, 2012 at 10:05 PM
    Really cool. Definitely worth the hike
  • Michelle    October 24, 2011 at 06:40 PM
    We went today to visit this castle and really enjoyed the whole experience. A small castle compared with others like Osaka Castle, but worth the climb up the mountainside. I recommend others take the time to visit this castle.
  • Frank T. on My Page    September 21, 2011 at 11:36 AM
    This site is not as convenient as most of the other original castle sites, but it's worth a visit because of that. It was not at all crowded either time I visited. In fact, there were few other people. From that point of view, I would rather go to sites like this than the more popular ones that get the crowds.
  • RaymondW on My Page    April 02, 2011 at 02:57 PM
    I went to this castle in the afternoon after going to Kinojo Castle earlier in the day. You can get in both Kinojo and Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle in one day, but you will have to either have a folding bike or use the taxi. Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle is a very nice castle to visit. It’s remote location and a lack of visitor means that you can really enjoy this little original castle in peace and quiet. When I went in March, part of the back section was still closed and so was the trail up to the Ohmatsu Castle Ruin (大松城跡) a further 500m or so up the trail.
  • Steve Skubinna    February 22, 2011 at 06:13 AM
    Yamashiro literally means "mountain fortress" and as such applies to a specific early type of Japanese castle. However, the Imperial Japanese Navy named battleships after prefectures, some of which had obsolete, poetic names (as with Yamato). Yamashiro was one such name, not in use today.
  • alicemacgee on My Page    November 07, 2010 at 05:18 PM
    This is the castle I simply fell in love with at first site. Great placement, good job done on the reconstruction department, and not so crowded with visitors, which makes a plus when you go there on some hot August day like me. Maybe, not so grand-looking like some of the bigger castles, but thanks to the height of the mountain, it gives a feeling of transferring to the old times and some kind of isolation from the outer world. Which is a good thing for an modern urban dweller, I think. Also, on my way back I took the footpath that meanders through the mountain forest instead of a taxi ride, and I think it adds immensly to the whole experience. So if you have time, I would recommend to take it as a must-do :) You'll be literally one with nature, just watch your steps!
  • John    June 14, 2010 at 12:11 AM
    I have been in many european castles, and I can tell you that they are on a whole, not even CLOSE to as interesting as the Japanese kind! the Japanese might have been more primitive during that era, but they certainly made cooler looking buildings. PS: the Japanese named a WWII battleship Yamashiro, if that's what you were wondering about, Yasmina.
  • Yasmina Ip    May 25, 2010 at 07:01 AM
    John, what are you talking about? Bitchu Matsuyama Castle is one of Japan's few original castles! I'm not a big fan of voting for the best castles. I enjoy seeing the nominees, but none of the interesting ones ever get enough votes. There's just too much of a European bias (many people don't even know that there are castles outside of Europe). Bitchu Matsuyama Castle has the charm that the large, flashy castles lack, because they are so touristy. The surrounding area of this castle is beautiful, as well. For those who just want to see BIG castles, then Japanese castles are not worth it as a whole, especially if they want authentic castles. Even Himeji Castle's interior is non-impressive compared to the decorated European castles, but making these comparisons bars one from really appreciating Japanese castles and perhaps even Japan itself. I think Bitchu Matsuyama Castle is worth the visit for any traveller to Japan who is able to fit it into their schedule. It's unique and charming; gaudiness, flamboyancy, and massive monuments are really not attune to Japanese aesthetics anyway.
  • John    May 23, 2010 at 09:53 PM
    Yamashiro?!! NOW I Know what they named that ship after! But changing the subject, one can't help but wonder why they can't reconstruct the castles out of the same type of materials they were originally made out of
  • Raymond    October 03, 2009 at 11:20 PM of the world's best castles. That's putting this castle onto the premier league stage comparing it to some outstanding castles around the world like the Alcazar in Segovia, Tower of London, Alcazaba / Alhambra in Granada, Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria etc. I don't think Bitchu-Masayama is in the same class in terms of size, fortifications, and photogenicity as the castles above. Don't get me wrong. It is not a bad castle, I highly recommend that people visit this castle if you are in the Okayama area. Within Japan, I would say that this is one of the must-visit castles because it is a great original yamashiro castle, and only one of the twelve original castles left in Japan. However, when compared to some of the grander castles in Japan and worldwide, I don't think it is quite in the same league. My two yens' worth.
  • Jane    September 26, 2009 at 05:22 PM
    Truly one of the world's best castles! Support it by voting it as the world's best:
  • Raymond    August 07, 2008 at 04:40 PM
    This castle rocks. I was there around noon on a weekday in August, and I had the whole castle to myself for about 20 minutes before another two more visitors turned up. I went there from the Kansai area using the Japan Rail Seishun 18 (special discounted tickets on sale during the school holidays in early spring and summer) Bitchu-Takahashi Station on the JR Hakubi Line is about 52 minutes from Okayama Station via Kurashiki. I took a taxi from the station to the parking lot. It cost 1,250yen. On the return trip, I walked back down the hill to the station. It took around 50 minutes from the castle to get back to the station. Just a tip, I noticed that most few visitors just go to up the main castle keep, pop inside and then leave. Don't forget to walk around the back and suss out the rest of the fortifications.
  • MM    March 16, 2008 at 07:10 AM
    This castle is a must, as it is the only surviving Yamashiro. It is also interesting to view the way in which the walls were built in successive levels.
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Takahashi, Okayama Pref.
Bitchu Matsuyama Castle views
main keep and honmaru gate main keep
main keep and honmaru compound foundation of the former Naka Taiko Yagura
Stone walls Otemon Stone Walls
Stone walls of the Otemon Gate, Sannomaru Bailey and Umaya Bailey. Path to the Ninomaru
Ruins of the Otemon Gate Stone walls of the Umaya Bailey
Stone walls of the Umaya Bailey Honmaru Bailey
East Gate main keep interior
Inside the main keep ruins of the Karamete Gate
original 2 level yagura 2 level yagura foundation
North Gate East Gate and Honmaru stone walls
Gate to the Orii Home Interior of the samurai home
Entranceway to the Orii Home Garden of the Orii Home
Haibara Family Home map