Matsuyama castle (Iyo)

From SamuraiWiki
Jump to navigationJump to search
  • Type: Flatland-Mountain
  • Founder: Katô Yoshiaki
  • Built:
  • Japanese: 伊予松山城 (Iyo Matsuyama-jou)

Matsuyama castle in Iyo province is one of two extant castles in Japan bearing the name, the other being Matsuyama castle in Bitchû province. Iyo-Matsuyama is located in Matsuyama City in Ehime prefecture on the northern coast of Shikoku. During the Edo period, it was the chief castle of the 150,000 koku[1] Iyo-Matsuyama han, which was controlled by the Hisamatsu clan, a branch family of the Matsudaira clan, from 1635 on.


The area had a history of fortifications dating back to the Kamakura era when the Kawano family built Yuzuki castle on the Dôgo plains. Late in the sixteenth century the Kawano were defeated by Chôsokabe Motochika who in turn was eclipsed by the Kobayakawa, Fukushima, and Toda clans.

Construction started on Matsuyama castle in 1602 when Katô Yoshiaki moved his headquarters there from Masaki castle. Katô had been established at Masaki since 1585 but had his fief increased by Tokugawa Ieyasu after the Battle of Sekigahara. Located in his new holdings was the hill of Katsuyama (about 130 meters high) which he thought would be a more secure location for his seat of power. In 1627 Katô was transferred to another fief (likely because of suspicions over the large scale he planned for the fortifications) and it fell to Gamô Tadatomo to continue work on the partially completed tenshu. Gamô died without an heir and the fief was given to Hisamatsu Sadayuki in 1635. The Hisamatsu were one of a group of families descended from the three brothers of Tokugawa Ieyasu, and were granted the right to use his former name of Matsudaira as their family name sometime after the original keep was completed (they were also known as the Kumatsu in some accounts).

The tenshu was completed under Sadayuki’s supervision in 1645. It ended up being three stories instead of five, this decision having been made in 1642. There are other accounts or explanations of this point, but these have been disproved over the years. One is that the five storied tenshu was built as planned and was remodeled down to three by the Hisamatsu. Another was that Katô not only completed the 5-story tenshu but also had it moved to Aizu when he was transferred - given the size of the structure, the distance between Aizu and Shikoku, the expense involved, and the lack of any records of a 5-story tenshu appearing in Aizu, this also seems to be little more than local myth. In any case, the tenshu was struck by lightning in 1784 and burned down.

The existing tower complex was begun in 1820 and finished in 1854. According to some sources, Matsudaira Sadaaki, the Lord of Kuwana and a Shogunate loyalist, sought refuge at Matsuyama castle after the end of the Boshin War. He is said to have surrendered to Imperial representatives here, subsequently entering the priesthood at Joshin-ji.

While some buildings were destroyed by fire during the Meiji era, the castle was in excellent overall condition even into the 20th century. The Matsudaira family turned over the land to the government in 1923. In 1933, a fire broke out in the honmaru complex and destroyed all the structures therein, sparing only the main tenshu. The complex was further damaged when an American bombing raid in 1945 destroyed 11 more towers and gateways. Finally, another fire started by an arsonist in 1949 claimed the Tsutsuimon.

Even with this run of misfortune, Iyo-Matsuyama castle is second only to Himeji in the number of extant original buildings. Of the 21 extant structures on the site, seven are buildings proper, with the remainder being gates (including the Ichinomon, Shichikumon, and Kintetsumon), towers (such as the Inuiyagura and Noharayagura), and parapets. All of these structures have been designated Important Cultural Properties by the Japanese government. A project to restore the smaller towers and galleries of the tenshu complex was begun in 1966 and completed in 1969 (with the Tsutsuimon being rebuilt as well). The castle was designed as a hirayamajiro. The honmaru was located on the summit of the hill with the ninomaru, sannomaru, and other fortifications laid out below. Katô’s structure was laid out to take full advantage of the natural formations of the landscape and would have been extremely difficult to attack. There is a ring of earthworks and ishigaki (stone walls) halfway down the hill and also at the bottom. The main tenshu has three exterior and four interior stories, including a basement. It uses traditional tile roofing and has striking black wooden walls. The layout of the rectangular tenshu complex somewhat resembles that of Himeji castle, albeit on a reduced scale. It has the main tenshu along with three other towers at the remaining corners. Typical of late Edo period castles, it uses a very straightforward and functional design with little enhancement or ornamentation. The tenshu ishigaki (stone walls of the main keep) are built using the uchikomihagi method with the outer ishigaki using the ransekizumi method. The outer stone walls are much higher than the norm for a castle of this size, being similar to the walls built at other castles by another famous Katô, Katô Kiyomasa (no relation to Katô Yoshiaki). The castle now functions as a public park.


  • Kodama Kota & Tsuboi Kiyotari, editors Nihon Joukaku Taikei-20 Volumes Tokyo:Shinjimbutsu oraisha, 1981
  • Hinago Motoo Nihon No Bijutsu #54:Shiro Tokyo:Shibundo, 1970
  • Schmorleitz, Morton S Castles In Japan Tokyo:Charles E Tuttle Company Inc, 1974
  1. Gallery label, "Matsuyama han sankin kôtai emaki," National Museum of Japanese History.[1]