In September 2012 I started a short “castle tour” through Shikoku on a long weekend. In previous journeys I already went to Matsuyama, Kochi, Marugame and Takamatsu Castles. My destination this time was Ehime Prefecture and after visiting Imabari Castle, I was off to Uwajima Castle.
Uwajima Castle (宇和島城) is located in Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku (map). It’s one of the very few original castle structures that are still left in Japan. Only 12 castles (and yes, I’ve been to all of them!) have managed to retain their original Edo period main tower. Uwajima Castle is one of them.
History of Uwajima Castle:
Lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi provided Todo Takatora some land in Uwajima and being an excellent castle-builder he started the construction of Uwajima Castle there in 1595. It took almost 6 years (1596-1601) to complete the main tower and related structures.
From 1615 the castle was ruled by the Date Family. Date Munetoshi performed some repairs and expansion to the original castle buildings, adding some turrets, stone walls and gates in 1671. However, the fundamental structure as the work of the great castle builder Todo Takatora remains until today.
Unlike most other castles in Japan it has survived the “Meiji Era” as well as wars, fires, typhoons or earthquakes.
Uwajima Castle was registered as an Important Cultural Property in 1934.
You can see the Date family crest everywhere around the castle. It’s a rather cute one with two birds facing each other.
You can take a break surrounded by white sheets with the Date family crest while having a look at the beautiful castle tower.
The Main Tower of Uwajima Castle
The main tower has three tiers and is about 15.8 m high. It was reconstructed by Date Munetoshi around 1666.
The castle tower is rather small compared to the one of other castles. Some even say it looks kind of “cute” – and it surely does!
A close-up of the upper part of the castle tower.
Here you can see a few miniature replicas of the castle tower.
As with all original castles, everything is wooden inside and it’s difficult to climb up the stairs. Personally I really love it, though. Often the ceiling is so low that you have to be careful not to hit your head (especially when climbing the stairs).
On the top floor you can take a rest and enjoy the old black-and-white shots of the castle.
As you can see in the photo there was still another building (on the right) that is gone now. The tower looks exactly the same, though.
A photo of the castle tower taken from a higher point so you can see Uwajima City in the background.
Shown on this photo is the Ote Gate (追手門) which is gone now. The photo was taken in the early years of the Meiji Period (1868~).
The “Black Gate” (黒門) and the “Black Turret” (黒門矢倉) are also gone now. The photo was taken during the Meiji Era.
From the top floor of the castle you’ll have a great view! It only has 3 floors, but as it’s on a hilltop it offers a beautiful panorama view.
You can see the mountain range and a part of Uwajima City.
You can also see the ocean and a few smaller islands sitting in the beautiful Bungo Channel.
Yamazato Soko (Warehouse)
Very close to the castle’s main tower is the Yamazato Soko (山里倉庫, Castle Hill Museum). It is a warehouse and was originally built in the third fortress as an arms storehouse in 1845.
There aren’t many arm storehouses that remained, so this one is quite special. It was transferred to its current location in 1966 and is now a museum featuring items connected to the local history.
Please note: While the castle tower can be visited every day, the museum is closed on Mondays!
I left Takamatsu in the morning to visit Imabari Castle and still had enough time to go to Uwajima Castle afterwards without being rushed. If you need to, you can easily do Imabari and Uwajima Castles in one day!