In the morning I set out to visit the main thing I had come to Bitchu-Takahashi to see: Matsuyama Castle, which is also known as Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle, or Takahashi Castle, because there’s another Matsuyama Castle in a different part of Japan. From my apartment I walked across town and then hiked up a road to a roundabout where a shuttle bus would take me most of the way up the mountain. The mountain air was cold when I first left the apartment but quickly became warm in the sun and it turned out to be a really nice day to be up there.
At the upper bus stop I started on the trail that would take me the remaining distance to Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle. After several minutes of hiking I came upon the castle’s outer defenses. Any army seeking to capture the castle would have to breach multiple layers of fortifications, all while climbing uphill, and I could see why this spot was chosen for the castle’s location. From up on the outer walls I also got a half-decent view of the town below.
With a bit more hiking I reached the heart of the castle. Originally Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle was built in 1240 on a nearby mountain but was moved here in 1331 and today it is both the oldest of Japan’s twelve surviving castles and the only original castle that is on top of a mountain. Along with the unique location, what stood out to me about Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle was how comparatively small it was compared to many other castles in Japan. Part of this is because of the fact that the castle is on top of a mountain and thus there’s not a lot of land to begin with, and also partly because Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle was built purely as a military outpost, unlike the big castles in places like Osaka, Hiroshima, and Nagoya that also served as administrative centers.
After explored the castle’s interior I hiked around the rear of the castle to get a different view of it. The trees up in the mountains were changing colors and several of them had already turned brilliant shades of red and yellow, though it looked like it would be another week or so before peak autumn colors arrived.
Because of it’s comparatively small size, most people will probably be done with the central part of Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle within half an hour or so. Once I was done I hiked back to the upper bus stop where I caught the next bus down to the lower station. From there I made my way down the road and back into town. My short visit to Bitchu-Takahashi was unfortunately over already and it was now time to continue on with my journey across Japan. Next stop: Okayama.