Matsuyama Castle was voted as Japan’s 2nd best castle by Trip Advisor in 2014 and my recent visit confirms that its still awesome! I flew into Matsuyama to meet my college buddy Andrew who’s been teaching in Japan for the last 4 years. Matsuyama boasts to be the oldest original castle in Japan with original construction beginning in 1603.
Getting to Matsuyama Castle
Go to Matsuyama and then head to Okaido near Dogo Onsen
Hike to the Main Gate – 510 yen entrance fee (this is only for entering the main keep)
Cable Car – 1020 yen round trip (Includes entrance fee)
Chair Lift – 1020 yen round trip (Includes entrance fee)
The castle has been upgraded and rebuilt few times over the last 4 centuries. Starting in 1603 it was first completed in 1627 It burned down after being struck by lightning and was rebuilt in 1854. Matsuyama Castle is one of 12 original castles left in Japan after many of them were purged at the end of the Feudal Age in 1868.
Japan’s Oldest Castle
The layout is incredibly strategic with multiple gates and choke points to fend off intruders. At the top you’ll find a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding city, hills and islands. On a clear day you can even see all the way to mainland Japan!
Its optional to pay the 510 yen to enter the main keep but I think its well worth it. Once inside you’ll find a few displays of samurai swords, outfits and medieval weaponry. There are plenty of English signs detailing the history of the castle and the region and even a chance for you to try on a samurai outfit! You will need to take off your shoes and wear public slippers though so make sure you plan accordingly.
I visited Matsuyama late December and happily discovered that the fall colors were still lingering. The region is quite mild and rarely gets snow so anytime of year will be enjoyable to visit. If you can time it right the castle grounds are covered in cherry trees and I’m sure it would be stunning to see with cherry blossoms!
Looking for another off the beaten path Japanese destination? Check out the Share Hotels Kanazawa!