Matsuyama Castle (松山城, Matsuyamajō) is one of Japan's twelve "original castles", i.e. castles which have survived the post-feudal era since 1868 intact. It is also one of the most complex and interesting castles in the country. It is located on Mount Katsuyama, a steep hill in the city center that provides visitors with a bird's eye view of Matsuyama and the Seto Inland Sea. There are about 200 cherry trees on the castle grounds, making this a lovely cherry blossom spot typically around late March to early April each year.
Matsuyama Castle was constructed between 1602 and 1628. In 1635, the castle got assigned to a branch of the Matsudaira family, relatives of the nation ruling Tokugawa, and it remained in their hands until the end of the feudal era. The current three storied castle tower was constructed in 1820 after the original five storied one had been destroyed by lightning.
Matsuyama Castle provides an excellent example of a feudal castle. The main circle of defense (Honmaru) is located on the top of the hill, accessible through multiple, well defended gates. The main keep is one of only a few in the country that boast multiple wings. The complex also includes a secondary keep and multiple turrets, giving Matsuyama Castle a grand appearance and making it interesting to explore. Inside the castle, some exhibits offer information on Matsuyama's history and the feudal period.
In spite of the castle's steep hilltop location, a ropeway and a chairlift make it easily accessible. Riding the single-chair chairlift is a pleasant and popular way to ascend Mount Katsuyama. Alternatively, it is possible to climb up the hill in about 15 minutes from the base of the ropeway station or from the Ninomaru Garden.
The Ninomaru Garden lies at the southern base of Mount Katsuyama and comprises the former site of the second circle of defense (Ninomaru). More comfortably accessible from the city than the main circle of defense (Honmaru) at the top of the mountain, the Ninomaru served as the site of the castle palace where the lord's residence and offices were located.
None of the palace buildings survive today. Instead, the Ninomaru has been converted into a park that preserves the floor plan and layout of the former castle palace with elevated foundations, green spaces and ponds.