Matsuyama Castle (松山城, Matsuyamajō), also called Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle to differentiate it from Matsuyama Castle in Shikoku, stands on a steep mountain north of Takahashi's town center. It is the oldest surviving castle in Japan and the only mountaintop castle among the twelve original castles which have survived the post-feudal age intact. At an elevation of 430 meters it is also the highest.
Matsuyama Castle was originally constructed in 1240 when castles primarily served as defensive fortresses and, accordingly, were built on steep mountains that were difficult to attack. They were not the great status symbols and administrative and cultural centers yet that castles became in the 16th century when the lords started to build them on more easily accessible hilltops and in the flatlands.
Even today, Matsuyama Castle is not easily accessed, and visitors must hike for about 20 minutes to reach the castle keep from the nearest parking lot. The approach passes the ruined foundations of former castle structures and then leads through multiple successive circles of defense before reaching the innermost castle grounds and the castle keep. Views over the town can be enjoyed from several points along the way, but not from the castle keep itself.
Typical for mountaintop castles, Matsuyama Castle's keep is with only two stories relatively small. Inside there are displays explaining the castle's history and the efforts to preserve it in Japanese, including interesting photographs about the renovations of 1940, 1960 and 2003.
During the colder months - especially in November and December - the castle is often shrouded in clouds during the early morning hours. On a nearby mountain, which is accessible by car from a completely different direction than the castle itself, there is an observation deck from which it is possible to see the castle floating in a sea of clouds when timing is right.
From the castle's upper parking lot it is a 20 minute walk to the castle. Cars can access the upper parking lot on most weekdays. However, on weekends and national holidays, during the spring holidays (mid March to early April), during Golden Week, during Obon, and from late October to late November, private cars are allowed only as far as the lower parking lot from where it is a 45 minute walk or five minute shuttle bus ride (500 yen round trip, departures every 15 minutes) to the upper parking lot.
Take a taxi from Bitchu-Takahashi Station to the castle's upper parking lot (15 minutes, around 1500 yen one way) from where it is a 20 minute hike to the castle.
It takes about 80 minute to walk all the way from Bitchu-Takahashi Station to the castle.