In April, I happened to be in Matsuyama with an entirely free afternoon. Matsuyama is located here (where the ‘A’ is):
It is the capital city of Ehime Prefecture and it is mainly famous for three things: it is home to Dōgo Onsen, the oldest onsen in Japan (and it really looks it), Matsuyama Castle, and eight of the eighty-eight temples in the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
I had been to Matsuyama before a few times, so my main interest was really just to get some good shots of the castle. The weather turned out to be absolutely perfect and the cherry blossoms were still in bloom, so it made for some great photographic opportunities.
Central Matsuyama is fairly small, so, if you’re staying at a hotel, depending on which hotel you are at, you can easily access the castle area by either streetcar or on foot. A map for central Matsuyama can be found here. You can either walk the entire way up from street level or you can take a ropeway or single chairlift up for ¥500 round trip.
The walk up is very pleasant as you climb through a wooded area which is nice and shady, but it is a bit of a steep climb. This is, therefore, not recommended for anyone who is really out of shape or has any medical restrictions or for those who just dislike the idea (and the high humidity in Japan in the summer is another consideration if you are visiting from June to September).
Once you arrive at the castle grounds up top, there is a nice flat open space which many locals seem to use as a place to relax and enjoy the view. When I visited this time, it was around 1:00 pm, so there were a number of people up top eating lunch and just relaxing. You don’t have to pay anything to access the area, so it is a bit like a public park up on a hill top.
If you opt to actually enter the castle itself, you have to pay an additional ¥500 (you can buy a combined ticket for the ropeway and castle admission for ¥1000 or opt to buy them separately). It is definitely worth it to enter if you are remotely interested in Japanese castles: it is one of only three multi-wing, flat hilltop castles remaining in Japan. It was constructed by the feudal lord Katō Yoshiaki over the course of 25 years and completed in 1627. Four of its eight strategic gates are designated national cultural treasures and there’s a small museum display inside with some calligraphy and some samurai armour.
You can also get a good view of Matsuyama from inside:
However, aside from all of the above, my own personal motivator for visiting the castle was to get some good shots of the castle walls and structure. Here are a few of the results:
And, what I really wanted was some black and white shots like this:
These wall shots are all 3 exposure bracketed shots (-2/0/+2) processed in Photomatix (so, yes, they are HDR, if you are wondering how so much texture in the brick came through).