Thursday, April 17, 2014

Matsuyama Castle -Exhibition of defense facility-

Matsuyama Castle

-Exhibition of defense facility-



Name: Matsuyama castle (Matsuyama-jyo)
Place: Marunouchi Matsuyama city, Ehime
Type: Plain castle
Built: 1630
Remaining remnants: Main tower, six turrets, six gates, fences, stone walls and moats
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Matsuyama castle (松山城) is located on Shiroyama mountain at the center of Matsuyama city. This castle is one of 12 castle having original main tower, and equipped with original and reconstructed buildings, it shows complete style of traditional Japanese castle along with Himeji castle. A complex of low story buildings on the winding stone walls reminds us medieval castles of Western countries. (It is confusing that there is another Matsuyama castle also has original main tower exists in Okayama prefecture. To distinguish them, this castle is sometimes called as Iyo Matsuyama castle, and the other is Bicchu Matsuyama castle).

Construction of the castle

Historically the center of Iyo country (Emihe prefecture) was Imabari area facing Setonaikai sea, but Matsuyama area is a good agricultural area in vast plain and prospered. In medieval era Matsuyama era was governed by Kono clan at Yuduki castle, but by the end of Sengoku era they had fallen.

In 1595, under Toyotomi government, Yoshiakira Kato (1563-1631) was appointed as a governor of Matsuyama area. Yoshiakira served Hideyoshi from his youth and activated the battle of Shizugatake in 1583, thus he was regarded as one of seven braves at Shizugatake. Later he lead naval forces and participated in many battles, and promoted to large lord.
At the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Yoshiakira supported Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) and expand his territory. In 1601, he was given permission to build a new castle by Edo shogunate, and started construction. It took long years for construction, but in 1627, just before completion Yoshiakira was transferred to Aizu Wakamatsu castle. Gamo clan, the next lord, completed this castle by 1630 but extinguished, and Matsudaira clan had hold this castle by the end of Edo era. In 1784 current main tower was lost due to lightning, then rebuilt in 1854 after 30 years construction.


Exhibition of defense facility

Matsuyama castle was built at the final stage of evolution of Japanese castles, and an exhibition of technology of defence. Main purpose of castle is to survive attack from the enemy, thus main functions of castles are 1) shutting attacks from enemy side and keep inside safe, 2) making counter attack to the attacking army, and 3) serving as a springboard to strike back to exhausted enemy cooperating with supporting armies. To achieve these purposes, Japanese castles has following defense facilities;

1. Main tower (Tenshukaku)
Main tower (TenshukakuI is usually built in central area, apart from front side of castle. Usually guarded securely, but in case enemy reached main tower it can only make time for the suicide of commander. Rather, it is used to observe and control battles of distant front area, and if enemy’s detached force attacks from backside, main tower itself is used as a firing point to approaching enemies because it locates close to backside. Sometimes small tower is attached to guard the entrance (Kotenshu), or main tower and attached towers formed an independent area (Tenshu Kuruwa).

2. Corner turret
Corner turrets are built usually at the corner of areas, but if side is too long, might be built at the middle of wall. Using corner turret, defense side can minimize dead angle and can easily aim at the bottom of moat or middle of wall. Most of corner turrets are two layers, but single layer turrets are used for small castles or outer areas. For some castle lacked main tower, three story main turrets are sometimes built as a symbolic substitute of main tower, located at front of castle where easily seen from people.

3. Tamon turret
Tamon turret is a long and single layer barrack connecting corner turrets and gates. Using tamon turrets, soldiers can use matchlock guns regardless of weather inside the building. Thus tamon turrets are usually built for important places, such as front side of central area, or between main tower and attached tower.

4. Hazama (loophole)
Loopholes were made in the wall for firing arms from inside. Different from western castles, the shape of hole was not cutout but round or triangle small hole.

5. Ishiotoshi (Stonehall)
Openings made at exterior aiming at outside is called as Ishiotoshi. The name itself is stone halls, but actually assumed to fire guns or flow boiled water from the hole.

6. Ore (Winding stone wall)
Even if the shape of area is square, stone walls are often made as winding. Non flat walls can minimize dead angle and capture enemies in cross fire point,

7. Complex Gate (Masugata)
Major gates of modern castles usually consists of two gates and inner space. Inner space is surrounded by stone walls, and even if first gate is broken enemy soldiers has to stay in narrow inner space before secondary gate, and faces crossfire from surrounding walls. To avoid direct shot of cannon to secondary gate, secondary gate faces right angle from first gate.

8. Moats
Plain castles are usually surrounded by moats, to prevent approach of enemy soldiers. Water moat is more defensive but empty moat is also used to utilize as kill zone. For mountain castles the height difference itself is obstacle to attackers, but sometimes equipped at entrance or loose slope.

We can see all elements of above facilities in Matsuyama castle.

Current status of the castle

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, the site of castle was used as a base of Japanese army, and buildings on the mountain including relatively new built main tower were preserved. Attached tower and some turrets were lost by accident or war, but main tower, six turrets and gates still remain and show us complete structure of castle along with reconstructed buildings in old wooden style.


Kenchomae station of Matsuyama City tram or 20 minutes walk from JR Shikoku Yosansen line Matsuyama station. 30 minutes drive from Matsuyama Jidoshado Expressway Matsuyama interchange.

Related Castles

Aizu Wakamatsu Castle -White five-story main tower endured harsh battle-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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