Takamatsu Castle, on the northern coast of Shikoku, overlooks the Inland Sea, Japan’s the most important historical waterway. The castle was built at the end of the 16th century, a great time of castle construction in Japan.
In its heyday, Takamatsu Castle served as an administrative center and a checkpoint for ship traffic. It was, of course, also designed to be readily defended in the event of war.
Like many castles, its principal structures were pulled down at the end of the 19th century during the Meiji Restoration. The remaining “ruins”, now known as Tamomo Park, are open to the public during daylight hours (admission: JPY200). The castle’s western gate is just a few minutes walk from JR Takamatsu Station, making it easy to visit. It’s a lovely spot for stroll, with plenty of fascinating views of moats and castle wall construction, as well as beautiful garden features.
Although the castle’s donjon (keep) was one of the structures destroyed at the end of the 19th century, the stone foundation of the keep has been fully restored and is, even in its “uncapped” state, the tallest structure in the park.
The castle’s unique moat structure allows access to the keep only via another unique structure, a long covered bridge. This was a clever defensive measure.
The castle’s moats are watered from the sea through intricate “water gates”. It is one of only three such castles in Japan.
Although the castle is no longer directly fronting the sea–due to landfill and the construction of a waterfront thoroughfare–, it is still possible to walk along the stone walls of the former sea wall. At one end, stands Tsukimi-yagura (moon viewing tower), which served as a look-out tower to watch the ships at sea.
Takamatsu Castle was not just a fortress. It also contained Hiunkaku, an administrative center and palatial residence of the feudal lord. This, too, was destroyed during the period of castle destruction, but a portion of it was rebuilt in 1917.
It is surrounded by an attractive strolling garden including, it is said, pine trees planted by the Showa Emperor and Empress, who once slept at Hiunkaku.
Hiunkaku today, a classic wooden structure, is most often used for tea ceremony and other public events.
I last visited the castle grounds early one morning, just after it opened. It was quiet, peaceful, and empty. (I saw only three other visitors while I was there.)
© 2020 Jigsaw-japan.com and Vicki L. Beyer
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