Travel

Imabari Castle – Ehime Prefecture

Ehime Prefecture has to offer a lot of great castles, so I went there for a short castle tour last year in September. My first destination was Imabari Castle.

 

Visited: September 23rd 2012

Imabari City (今治市) is located in Ehime Prefecture (map), facing the beautiful Seto Inland Sea. Imabari also has its own port. You can easily see some of the small islands of the Seto Inland Sea from there. For most tourists Matsuyama City might be the main attraction in Ehime Prefecture, but especially castle fans should definitely consider Imabari as well.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

History of Imabari Castle

Imabari Castle (今治城) was built in 1604 by Takatora Todo (1556-1630), a military commander, who did well in the famous Battle of Sekigahara. To thank him for his great work during the war, the shogun granted him land in Imabari. At that time the major castle was on top of Mt. Karako (Kofuku Castle), but for Takatora the distant location seemed to be too inconvenient, so he built a new castle close to the port: Imabari Castle.
He had a good reputation as expert castle-builder. So it’s not surprising that Lord Todo constructed a remarkable fortress with outer, middle and inner moats filled with seawater, a five-story tower, nine castle gates and about 20 turrets in only a few years.

In 1608 Lord Todo moved from Uwajima Castle to the now completed Imabari Castle, but in the same year he was reassigned to Tsu in Ise Prefecture. Takayoshi, Takatora’s adopted son, took over Imabari Castle. Shortly after that his son was also sent to a different location. From then on Sadafusa Matsudaira became the new lord of Imabari Castle.

In 1610 the castle’s main tower was dismantled and transported to Osaka. Originally it was supposed to become the new tower of Iga Ueno Castle (Mie), but eventually it became the main keep of Kameyama Castle (Mie).

Imabari Castle shared the same fate as most other castles and was destroyed during the Meiji Period (1868-1912).

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

Imabari Castle Moats

Imabari Castle is known for its seawater-filled system of moats and its location on flat coastal land – which is a rare combination in Japan.

It’s one of the top three Mizujiro (“Water Castles”) in Japan – along with Takamatsu Castle in Kagawa Prefecture and Nakatsu Castle in Oita Prefecture.

 

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

The castle moats are well-preserved and add to the castle’s beautiful appearance.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

Stone stairs lead you to the inner castle grounds.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

Imabari Castle Tower – Tenshukaku

The castle tower, Tenshukaku (天守閣), was rebuilt in 1980. Some turrets were reconstructed in the following years.

The tower consists of 5 layers and 6 floors.

 

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

Inside you’ll find a museum with many samurai-related historical and cultural objects connected to Imabari Castle such as swords, armors, drawings of the castle and calligraphy.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

Right next to the castle tower, on the castle grounds, there’s a shrine: Fukiage Shrine (吹揚神社)

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

This is not common, but there are a few Japanese Castles that have a shrine right next to them e.g. Izushi Castle, Nakatsu Castle, Okazaki Castle … to name just a few that come to my mind right now.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

You’ve probably already figured by looking at the fox statue and the red gates that it is a “Inari Shrine”. The most famous Inari shrine can be found in Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

The View From The Top Floor

From the 6th floor – which is the top floor – you’ll have a great view over the castle grounds, the moats and a part of Imabari City.

In the distance you can also see some of the smaller Seto Inland Islands as well as the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge.

 

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

Fukiage Shrine seen from above.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

The castle moats are so huge and used even nowadays e.g. for rowing clubs.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

The inner castle grounds are neat and everything is well taken care of.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

There’s a statue of Todo Takatora (藤堂 高虎), the lord who built Imabari Castle.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

Not too far from the statue you’ll find two reconstructed turrets. On the right photo “Yamazato Yagura” (山里櫓) is displayed which was reconstructed in 1990.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

Here you can see the “Bugu Yagura” (武具櫓) which was rebuilt in 1980 – in the same year as the castle tower.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

This is the “Kurogane Gate” (鉄御門). It will lead you to a bridge to cross the outer castle moat.

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

Once you crossed the bridge, you’ll have a beautiful view of the castle and the moat. In the background you see the castle tower and in the front another yagura: Okane Yagura (御金櫓) – reconstructed in 1985.

Personally I really liked Imabari Castle. I’ve seen over 100 Japanese castles by now, but this is definitely in my top list. Unlike some of my male colleagues, I don’t focus so much on architecture and history of a castle. I just like huge castle grounds, a high tower with a great view, being close to the ocean is also a plus – and I love well-preserved moats! Imabari Castle can’t win against the original keeps like Himeji Castle as it’s “only” a reconstruction, but I certainly adore “water castles”!

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

With the admission ticket (500 yen) you can not only enter the main castle tower, but also the Okane Yagura, Yamasato Yagura and the Bugu Yagura as part of the Kurogane Gate.

Admission Ticket Front and Back (*click to enlarge):

Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture

 

Tourist Information:
Opening Hours:
9:00-17:00
Holidays:
December 29th – 31st
Entrance fee:
500 yen (adult); 250 yen (children and students)
Time required:
30 – 50 mins
Contact:
3 Chome-1-3 Toricho, Imabari, Ehime Prefecture 794-0036 // (+81)0898-31-9233
Access:
7 mins by bus (bus stop: Imabari-jou-mae) or 20 mins walk from JR Imabari Station; 10 mins walk from Imabari Port.
Please note: Prices as well as opening hours / holidays are subject to change. Please make sure to follow the provided link to the official website to check out the latest updates.

 

Extra Travel Tips:

You can do a bicycle tour from Chugoku to Shikoku going from one little island to another while crossing the beautiful Seto Inland Sea. Start and end points are Imabari (Ehime Prefecture) and Onomichi (Hiroshima Prefecture).
Imabari is famous for towels, so make sure to buy a small hand towel as a souvenir. If you walk from the JR station to the castle, you should come across some stores. If you have extra time, you could also visit the ICHIHIRO Towel Museum in Imabari.

8 Comments

  • It is a beautiful looking castle and one I’ve yet to explore. The water castles (Mizujiro) certainly have a different look and feel about them being so close to the sea. We are used to the mountain of hilltop castles in my part of Japan ~ Gifu where we are surrounding by beautiful mountains.

    • I like mountain castles as well, but it really depends on the castle. I’m not a huge fan of Gifu Castle to be honest. On the other hand I really like Gujo-Hachiman Castle! ^__^
      And it doesn’t always have to be the ocean. If there’s a large river next to the castle it’s nice, too. Inuyama Castle is a good example! :D

      • Gifu Castle is unfortunately just a concrete reconstruction these days, but the view from the top of Kinkazan is spectacular. There is also not much left of the splendid palace that Nobunaga built that occupied 2/3 of the current Gifu Park. I hope they rebuild it one day as it rivaled any palace of the time in Japan or Europe for that matter. Gujo Hachiman Castle is one of my favourites and a wooden reconstruction as opposed to most modern concrete reconstructions. We are also lucky to have Inuyama Castle and Hikone Castle close by which are still mostly original.

        • Hikone Castle is quite impressive indeed. You really live near some awesome castles! Lucky you! ^__^
          I’m happy to say that I have some awesome castles nearby as well, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. ;)

  • I need to travel more. There are so many interesting places out there and each castle is just a bit different, and so inspiring. I’ll just have to live vicariously for now ;-)

    • “I need to travel more!” – That’s what I think every single time after coming back from a vacation.
      You’d think after visiting all 47 prefectures and well over 100 castles, I’ve had enough, but on the contrary I keep finding more and more things I want to visit! ;P