The Seaside Fortress in Shikoku
Imabari Castle is a fortified historical site located in Imabari City on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, on Shikoku island in Japan. It is surrounded by moats filled with sea water into which its restored buildings reflect and it is one of the 3 "castles by the sea" of the archipelago.
Imabari Castle 🏯’s history dates back to the early 17th century, more precisely after the decisive Battle of Sekigahara that occurred on October 21, 1600, which ended with the victory of the Eastern Army, led by the Tokugawa family and its vassals. Ieyasu’s follower, daimyo lord Todo Takatora (1556 - 1630) was granted a large piece of land in the Iyo Peninsula (nowadays Ehime Prefecture). He had Imabari-jo’s keep built from 1602 and moved in in 1608.
Consequence of a tactical reshuffling of powers, the Matsudaira clan inherited the feudal domain in 1635 and ruled over it until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Then, all the buildings were destroyed in 1873, following an 1869 order of the new imperial government; only the moats and the enclosure walls were preserved.
Since 1980, the city gradually endeavored large scale renovation works to revive the castle’s buildings, so nowadays it is possible to admire:
- A new tenshukaku keep build in reinforced concrete;
- Yagura angle turrets, and,
- Several gates, including an iron one called Kuroganego-mon.
In the inner courtyard, the equestrian statue of Takatora welcomes visitors who can discover several indoor and outdoors spaces, including a museum displaying a very beautiful collection of samurai armors. The upper level of the keep is used as an observatory on the city and on the coastline. The view on the relatively tall stone walls of the enclosure is also impressive, as their construction required approximately 20,000 stones.
A particular feudal architecture
As a former strategic gateway on the Seto Inland Sea, Imabari-jo was one of the first castles of Japan built on the seaside. Seawater is used to regulate the water level in the moats, which are wide and well-maintained, and give a beautiful reflection of the site from outside, a panorama beautified every night by the city’s night illuminations.
Located near the Shimanami Kaido scenic road, Imabari Castle is an interesting cultural discovery after a day of cycling.