Iyo Matsuyama Castle 伊予松山城
Founder Kato Yoshiakira
Mituaoi
Year 1603
Type Hilltop
Condition Original
Structure 3 levels, 3 stories
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Historical Site National Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles, Important Cultural Properties
Historical Artifacts Important Cultural Properties:
Tonashimon Gate, Shikirimon Gate Walls, Sujiganemon Gate East wall, Ichinomon East Wall, Ninomon East Wall, Sannomon East Wall, Shichikumon East Wall, Shichikumon West Wall, tenshu, Ichinomon South Yagura, Ninomon South Yagura, Sannomon South Yagura, Ichinomon, Ninomon, Sannomon Gate, Shikirimon Gate, Shichikumon, Inui Yagura, Nohara Yagura, Kakushimon, Kakushimon Tsuzukiyagura
Location Matsuyama, Ehime prefecture
Map Google Map
Access Matsuyama Station (15 minutes by city bus)
Website Matsuyama City Website
Visited October 18, 2001; February 26, 2016
Visitor Info. The main keep compound is 510 yen, the ropeway is 270 one way, and the Ninomaru Historical Park is 200 yen. Operating hours are 9am-5pm except August (~5:30pm) and December - January (~4:30pm). | Time Required: 3 hrs
Notes This is one of the best castles in Japan to visit, second only to Himeji and in some ways it far exceeds Himeji. There are very few places with such a complete design where you understand so much of the layout and what it may have been like in it's prime. Some people who visit will skip the Ninomaru Historical Park but this is one of the most important parts to understanding this castle. The gates, the long yagura, some interior walls and the layout of the palace really help you to imagine what it was like and the role it played in the castle. Additionally, there are some great stone walls and nice views of the main keep.

The Climbing Stone Wall (nobori ishigaki) from the Ninomaru to the Honmaru is another must see location at the castle. The technique was developed in the Korean Campaigns and there are very few in Japan much less in such fantastic condition.

History

The original castle was built here in 1603 by Kato Yoshiakira. It had a large 5 story main keep that was actually moved to Aizu when Kato was transferred there in 1627. Tadachika Gamoh became the new lord of Matsuyama castle and completed construction of the Ninomaru before he died in 1635, leaving no heirs.

In 1635, Matsudaira Sadayuki moved into Matsuyama Castle and the Matsudaira family ruled over the area until the end of feudalism. Sadayuki rebuilt the main keep with three stories in 1642. This main keep was struck by lightning and burned down on New Year's day in 1784. The construction of the current main keep was not begun until 1820 and not completed until 1854. From 1926 on, many of the yagura, gates and other structures were destroyed by arson and bombings in WWII.

As a relative of the Tokugawa shogun, Matsudaira Sadaaki naturally fought for the Tokugawa in several battles at the Meiji Restoration. Once the emperor regained political power, Sadaaki was a wanted man and considered an enemy of the emperor. In order to avoid attack, he decided to submit and allow Tosa soldiers into the castle while he sought penance and refuge in Joshinji temple in Matsuyama. His sincerity was accepted and thus Sadaaki and Matsuyama Castle were saved from attack.

The Matsudaira family eventually gave the castle to the city of Matsuyama in 1923. The city has been working since 1966 to repair the original structures and rebuild those that were destroyed.

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Viewer Comments

Comment on this castle
  • ART    November 01, 2016 at 06:43 PM
    Iyo-Matsuyama Castle is a gem of a castle with a vast complex of structures and defensive works. Taking the winding route into the Tenshukaku (main keep) was an exhilarating experience in a scene unchanged in 400 years! I stayed in a hotel opposite the castle moat and could see the Tenshukaku and other structures (Bagū Yagura & Inui Yagura) from my room. Going up (I climbed but there is also a ropeway) in the morning I waited for the gates to the tower to open. Each morning there is an opening ceremony where a drum is beat and general uproar is made, a castle guard announcing the gates opening.
  • Gary    July 21, 2015 at 10:02 AM
    Fantastic castle. Spent several hours walking around. I was impressed with the whole lay out of it, so well kept. I could spend hours looking at it and taking photographs.
  • hirom46    April 01, 2015 at 01:50 AM
    There are very nice trap of Gates! Link is Matsuyama castle report! https://youtu.be/Rp2ln5yhKBA
  • DiegoDeManila    October 22, 2014 at 09:10 PM
    Visited 12 Feb 2014 (http://withinstrikingdistance.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/field-report-matsuyama-12-february-2014-part-23/). Always a thrill to visit an intact castle, and I'm actually disappointed that I didn't spend more time there - hoping to go back the next time I'm in Shikoku. There was some restoration work underway during my visit, which meant that one of the gates was shrouded in scaffolding and out of view; on the other hand I took it as a positive sign that things are being kept in tip-top shape.
  • kiddus_i2003 on My Page    April 04, 2014 at 10:48 PM
    Spectacular on a grand scale. Spent half a day here just walking taking photos as the light changed , one of my favorites.
  • RaymondW on My Page    September 14, 2013 at 02:25 PM
    This is one of the twelve original castles left from the Edo Period. It is a magnificent castle which is often overlooked compared to some more famous extant castles like Himeji Castle, Hikone Castle, and the photogenic Matsumoto Castle. This was the last castle that I visited in my Ehime castle tour last month. It was the third time that I have been to this castle. The first time was back in 2002 when I took the cable car (aka Ropeway) up to the top of the hill and then did a quick squiz around the Honmaru (Main Bailey) before hitting the castle keep and then heading straight back down the same way like the majority of visitors. My second visit in 2010 was a bit more comprehensive as I started from the Ninomaru (Second Bailey) down at the base of the hill near the Ehime Prefectural Office and worked my way up, but I still had missed a few parts of the castle like the Ushitora Gatehouse, the Kuromon (Kuromon Gate) Ruins, and the kokuins (carved insignias) found on the some of the stone walls of the Honmaru and Ninomaru. This time I decided I wasn’t going to miss anything and devoted a lot more time over two sunny days to suss out this wonderful castle properly. It is possible to visit this castle (the main bailey and castle keep up on the hill only) in about two hours like I did back in 2002, but you will miss out a lot of what this castle has to offer. The castle has retained a significant portion of the original castle land which has not been built over, unlike many other castle sites in Japan. From the massive Sannomaru (Third Bailey), which has been converted into a park, there is a panoramic view of the extensive layout of the castle with the Ninomaru ishigaki (Second Bailey stone walls) and its long tamon yagura (covered wooden gallery similar to a hoarding for European castles) in the foreground while some of the castle towers and keep are visibly perched on top of the hill in the background. The impressive thing about this castle is the number of original and reconstructed fortifications. With the exception of the Bagu Yagura (Bagu Tower), nearly 30 structures such as towers and gatehouses around the Honmaru have been reconstructed using wood in the traditional manner. Despite not being one of Tokugawa Shogunate’s “Tenkafushin” castles, Iyo-Matsuyama Castle has kokuins galore. They can be found in the Ninomaru as well as mainly on a northeastern section of the Honmaru ishigaki. On one of the corner stones, near the Inuiichinomon Gate Ruin and Inui (Northwest) Tower, there are three kokuins on a single stone, something that I rarely see. Iyo-Matsuyama Castle also claims to have the longest curtain wall in Japanese castles at 230 metres in length, running up the hill from Ninomaru to near the Otemon (Otemon Gate) Ruin. Iyo-Matsuyama Castle is one of the very few castles in Japan which has retained some of its original structures other than the castle keep and so extensively rebuilt a lot of its towers and gates using traditional building materials. Check out the castle keep from near the Nohara Yagura as the stone wall is higher on this side and looks more imposing than from near the Bagu Yagura, where most tourists take their photos. The site is well signposted with bilingual signs in English and Japanese. There are volunteer guides, and their office is next to the cable car station. Some of the towers and gatehouses such as the Inui Yagura, Nohara Yagura, and Ushitoramon are not open to the public. I wonder if there is a special day or days when they are opened to the public. This is definitely a gem of a castle to visit if you are a Japanese castle fan. For me, this great castle ranks equal second with Hikone Castle behind Himeji Castle.
  • furinkazan on My Page    April 21, 2012 at 05:49 PM
    This is a wonderful site to visit : alot of ishigaki and original buildings. I used the ropeway up the hill(260yen) and walked down trough the ninomaru garden. At the castle i encountered an english speaking guide who proposed me to make the visit together. He was astonished by my knowledge about japanese castle. We walked almost 3 hours on the site. I have to say that the buildings are very nice. In the taikoyagura(drumturret) you may play on the drum and on the first floor of the tenshukaku you may put on a complete armor(all the parts are present, but a little bit weared off). When i arrived there 2 japanese men were adossing the armors(there are 2 actually). I noticed to 1 of them that he had put the dou(torso) in the wrong direction. The backplate was at his front. I own a replica armor at home, in metal, which i put on on some occasions like the Japan-Expo or the kodomohi in the japanese garden in Hasselt(Belgium). I saw that they didn't know how to put the kote on. I decided to put one of the armors on. Apart from the sode(shoulderprotcections) and sashimono(backflag) i don't need help to put on an armor. I was going faster than the guy next to me who was helped by 4 friends. It was really funny and they laughed alot because they had to look at a gaijin how to put on a japanese tousei gusoku. This castle for its buildings, ishigaki and outstanding views from it mertis at large its 5 stars. If you are visiting Shikoku, surely don't miss this one.
  • Frank T. on My Page    October 11, 2011 at 11:04 PM
    If Himeji is the best original Japanese castle site, this is a contender for the number two spot. Like Himeji, it attracts its fair share of crowds to deal with. The town is nice, and there are other attractions in the area. For example, Ozu Castle, a wooden reconstruction, is not too far away.
  • rebolforces on My Page    June 09, 2011 at 12:26 AM
    A lot of stone, curved and sloped walls. Being on a plateau above the town and sea the views are worth the trip on a clear day. Walk, Chairlift or Ropeway gondalla to the top of the hill.
  • Usagi on My Page    January 08, 2011 at 07:42 PM
    Tremendous views from a magnificent castle and surroundings. Access is easy, with ropeway (from Marunouchi car park area), and many interesting walls, mon, and paths. Local town is interesting with period buildings, onsen, and chin-chin-sha. Worth the trip to Ehime alone.
  • Admin    April 05, 2010 at 09:29 AM
    Any castle built before the end of the Edo Period is original. It was built and active during feudal times. Many of the 12 main keeps called original were rebuilt or moved at some point. I would prefer to call them "extant" but few casual readers of this site probably know what it means.
  • Risu    April 02, 2010 at 08:45 PM
    I visited Matusyama-jô last year. I wouldn't say the condition is "original" since the tenshu had been reconstructed as a 3 stories building although the original one had 5.
  • none given    December 02, 2008 at 07:16 AM
    The story goes ... in order to have a castle built, the lord had to have permission granted. It was known at the time, that in order to limit the power of the clans, first request for locations were generally refused. So the family put in a request to build a castle on a different hill in Matsuyama first, placing the hill the current castle is built on second. The ploy worked and they got what they wanted. The castle is actually built across two small hilltop with a spring, the middle joined together and spring made into a well. The hills around it were originally bare but are now heavily wooded. The castle has an relatively esplanade which is just sand and gravel and cultivated with cherry trees. In spring it is particularly attractive and many parties come to socialise under their blossoms. At the bottom of the hill there is a large flat moated and earth walled area which was once living quarters for the samurai families. There have been some explorative digs there, foundations, a large wall and some reconstruction have followed. It is current the site of a concert hall, art gallery and is being made into a park. During its restoration, which my father-in-law was an architect in, traditional methods were used, wood, bamboo wattle and earth plaster were used instead of the ferro-concrete that many of Japan's "wedding cake" castles are made of. In comparison to the heaviness and brutality of many of Europe's great castles, it has a far more or a wonderland-like fantasy. A castle for ceremonial purposes rather than defense. It is hard to imagine its wooden walls and gates lasting more than a few minutes of European feudal wars but this all adds up to give a feel of the difference between the cultures. The castle came to late to be of any use in proper war. At the foot of the hill there is an attractive street of small shops and cafes called The Ropeway on which there is an inexpensive and hospitable guest house, with perfect access to the castle, called "The Matsuyama Guesthouse" which is strongly recommended. Once a year there is a historical parade of individuals dressed up in period costume and at a different time, the local geishas of which there are only two left, put on a performance that would otherwise cost you thousands to watch.
  • Tony    April 14, 2008 at 11:09 PM
    I was at the castle during restoration and after restoration. It is a beautiful castle and has a breath taking view of the city. Inside the castle artifacts, there is a board with grafitti on it. The grafitti is a self portait of someone involved in the original construction of the castle. The castle is one of three in Japan built on a hill. The path up to the top is certainly trying. No invading army could make it up to the top and not be tired from the walk. The castle is very inspiring and is the symbol of Matsuyama.
  • MM    March 16, 2008 at 07:27 AM
    I was unlucky enough to arrive at Iyo Matsuyamajo just as the Tenshu was undergoing repair work. Even so, it was highly enjoyable. I could easily see how hard it would be to assault this fortification. Also, it had quite a few historical items.
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Matsuyama, Ehime prefecture
Iyo Matsuyama Castle views
Main Keep Tatsumi Yagura
Kakushimon Tsuzukiyagura South Honmaru stone wall
Corridor from the Otemon Gate to the Honmaru Otemon gate ruins
Stone wall corridor to the Tsutsui Gate Stone wall of the Tonashimon Gate
Otemon Gate stone walls Taiko Yagura
Tsutsui Gate Kakushimon Gate
Tsutsui Gate Taiko Yagura and wall beyond the Tsutsui Gate
Taiko Gate Taiko Gate
Taiko Gate Baguyagura and honmaru stone walls
Taiko Yagura Honmaru stone walls, the Baguyagura and Taiko Yagura
Hondan entrance Ninomon South Yagura
Shichikumon Gate East Wall Main keep
Ichinomon Gate Ichinomon Gate
Ichinomon Masugata Gate Wall of the main keep compound
Ninomon and Sannomon Ninomon Gate yagura and walls
Sannomon Gate Sannomon Gate
Sannomon Gate, yagura and walls Sujigane Gate
View into the Ichinomon Gate South Yagura
Main Keep, Sujigane Gate, Uchimon gate Sujigane Gate
Uchimon Gate Interior of the Uchimon Gate.
Nohara Yagura Main keep interior
Main keep interior Main keep interior
Main keep interior Main keep compound
Honmaru bailey View form the main keep
Shikirimon Gate and Uchimon Gate Shikirimon Gate.
Shikirimon Gate Uchimon Gate
Main Keep, Sannnomon, Shikirimon Ninomon South Yagura
North courtyard of the Honmaru Bailey South and North Yagura
Inui Gate and Inui Yagura Inui Gate and South and North Yagura
Inui Yagura Inui Gate
Climbing Stone Wall Nohara Yagura and stone walls.
Inui Yagura Honmaru stone walls
Baguyagura Taiko Yagura
Stone walls Otemon Gate stone walls
Ninomaru Palace area Stone walled entrance
Okumon Gate Ninomaru stone walls
Ninomaru and Keyaki Gate stone walls Tsuga Gate stone walls
Rice storehouse Ninomaru stone walls and Keyaki Gate
Ninomaru map Tamon yagura
South Gate Yaguramon Gate to the Ninomaru
Walls of the Ninomaru entrance Model of the Ninomaru compound.
Walls and gate of the Ninomaru Large well
Ninomaru Palace area Looking towards the rice storehouse
Eastern climbing stone wall Climbing stone wall
Climbing stone wall Climbing stone wall
Ninomaru stone walls Map
Map