When my time in the Okayama region had come to an end I got on a train heading south to the island of Shikoku, which would be next major phase of my journey across Japan. First the train crossed a series of bridges over the Seto Inland Sea and then it worked its way along the northern shore of Shikoku. It would take a bit over three hours for the train to reach the place where I’d be getting off and as I watched the scenery passing by outside the window I couldn’t help but become increasingly aware that I had less time ahead of me in Japan than behind me.
My destination was the city of Matsuyama. I arrived in the late afternoon and then walked across town to the Airbnb apartment that I had rented for the two nights that I’d be in the city. The apartment was fairly average as far as apartments go, but it was close to Matsuyama Castle so once I found the apartment and had gotten settled in I went back out to pay the castle a short visit before it got dark. Matsuyama Castle is located on top of a wooded hill and there’s a large park down below it. As I was looking up at the castle I noticed a large flock of crows was flying around and sitting on the top of the castle buildings. Technically, Okayama Castle is known as Crow Castle because of its dark exterior, however I personally give the Crow Castle title to Matsuyama Castle seeing as how it has a large group of crow residents.
Even though I was going to be back at the castle the following morning to do a proper tour I figured I’d climb up to it that evening to scout it out and perhaps catch the sunset from the top of the hill. There is a ropeway that allows visitors to easily reach the hill’s summit but it was on the opposite of the hill from me so I hiked up to the castle through the woods. Although the hill is fairly steep it wasn’t as hard to climb as I originally thought it would be.
I reached the top of the hill just as the sun was getting really low in the sky. The castle’s buildings were closed for the day but I got a good view of the city and a nice sunset, so it was definitely worth the hike. Matsuyama doesn’t have a famous skyline and to my American eyes the city’s buildings looked very similar to ones I had seen elsewhere in Japan but as I looked out over the metropolis I could sense that I was in a different part of the country than where I had been previously. I wasn’t in Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, or Okinawa; I was in Shikoku. When the last bit of light was finally starting to disappear below the horizon I started my hike back down the hill. The trail leading to and from the castle doesn’t have any lighting but thankfully my phone was able to light the path in front of me. Occasionally I would hear rustling in the nearby bushes and even though I knew that there were no large predators in Matsuyama I felt like a tiger or some other animal was stalking me. Of course, I reached the bottom of the hill completely unscathed and then returned to my apartment. The next day I’d be returning to the castle and then doing a day trip out of the city.
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