I have often visited Matsuyama in my free time, and the best thing about it would have to be the beautiful Matsuyama castle sitting upon Mount Katsuyama in the middle of the city center of Ehime prefecture. This castle was built continuously since 1603 and is one of the twelve original castles in Japan that were built before the Edo era and is still intact till today.
As the castle is situated on a mountain, you can either hike your way up, or take the cable car to the top. I myself opted for the cable car, and was greeted by characters dressing up as samurais and girls wearing yukata along the way. A statue of Kato Yoshiaki, the first lord of Matsuyama Castle also stands proudly at the entrance of the cable car building, as if welcoming me, a mere wanderer into his compound.
The cable car was only a two-minute ride, so even if you decide to hike up, it shouldn’t be that far. The first thing I noticed would have to be the tall stone walls surrounding the castle. The walls are over ten meters high and have a concave curved surface which are said to be one of the defense features of the time. As the castle was a house to the feudal lords, one can only imagine that the defense must have been top notch if nothing else of course.
Another interesting feature of the castle were the gates. The first gate that I walked through to gain entry is known as the Doorless Gate (Tonanshi-mon). Although it has doors despite the given name, after careful inspection there were no visible markings of door hinges, and thus was assumed to be originally built without doors.
The following gates, Tsuitsui-mon and Kakure-mon are the strongest point of defense of the castle before entering the main bailey. Small holes used by archers back in the days can be seen within the wooden structure, as well as hidden turrets for surprise attacks.
Finally, after passing through the defenses, I arrived at the courtyard of the castle! Of course Yoshiaki-kun, the castle mascot was happily waiving at me, but he was a bit busy taking pictures with other visitors as well.
The main bailey (Hon-maru) is the last and strongest defense structure of the castle. It is surrounded by more stone walls which stretch to a length of 300 meters. There are many gates located within and only one entrance and one exit, with turrets in strategic locations, making it nearly impossible for trespassers to escape. Fortunately, for only 510 Yen, visitors can safely enter without any worries of flying arrows (phew).
A museum with Matsuyama castle’s history can be found inside. The steps were steep, and I was able to see various historical items on display, ranging from different types of armors to weapons like spears and katanas. Visitors can even try on a samurai’s armor in one of the sections for free!
Finally after three flights of very steep steps, I ascend to the highest point of the castle, granting me a magnificent bird’s eye view of Matsuyama city. So this must be what it felt like to be a feudal lord back in day, sitting in this beautiful tower, watching over the people.
The breath taking sight was a great way to end my journey into the castle. Of course not before stopping by the restaurant in the castle grounds for a hearty lunch. After all I was only a wanderer, making her way through the beautiful land of the rising sun. So, if you too wish to relive the days of feudal lords, then perhaps a visit to Matsuyama Castle would be just the place for you are looking for.