Uwajima Castle, located in Uwajima City, Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku, is one of the 12 remaining Japanese castles with an original keep. Known for its small size, Uwajima Castle is relatively difficult to access, which means it is less frequented by tourists.

The castle's history dates back to 941 when initial fortifications were built on the hill. In 1236, these were expanded, and the castle was known as Marukushi Castle. The Chosokabe clan later controlled it, facing attacks from the powerful Otomo clan. In 1585, Toyotomi Hideyoshi seized the castle during his campaign to conquer Shikoku, placing his retainers in charge. The Todo clan was awarded the domain in 1595, leading to a major restoration by the renowned castle architect, Todo Takatora. The castle was renamed Uwajima in 1601, just before the Todo clan was transferred to Imabari Castle, and the Tomita clan took over.

In 1615, Date Hidemune, from the Sendai-based Date clan, was given control of the castle, with his descendants ruling until the end of the Edo period. While the basic layout of the castle remains from Takatora’s era, the Date clan completed the stone walls, gates, and yagura. The keep, built in the 1670s and designated an Important Cultural Property, is one of the smallest in Japan. Its entranceway roofing was added around 1850.

The keep's base, the Tenshu-dai, features precisely cut stones with a narrow ledge around the top, known as an Inu-michi or "Dog’s Walk." This design was due to the erosion of the softer natural stone beneath, necessitating a stronger stone cap.


Inside the keep, the third floor houses a design model from the early Edo period used for construction and repairs. Unique to Uwajima and Himeji castles are the long, thin ventilation windows on this floor, designed to vent smoke from matchlock guns. However, the keep's design hindered defensive capabilities, with the triangular roof features limiting window gun firing access and range.

Most visitors enter from the gate at the bottom of the hill, originally the main gate of the Kori clan residence. The main castle gate, Nobori-Tachi-Mon, is on the mountain's opposite side. This old Yakui-Mon gate, the largest and oldest in Japan, was built between 1596 and 1615. Unlike the typical Korai-Mon gates, this rare gate lacks reinforcing beams and a U-shaped roof.

Historically, the bottom of the hill met the ocean, providing natural protection and allowing ships to enter the castle. However, land reclamation projects since the Edo period have left the castle inland.

Uwajima Castle was abandoned in 1871, with most structures demolished by 1900. The Ote Mon, the main gate, was destroyed during WWII bombing. In 1950, the castle was designated an Important Cultural Property. Besides the keep and stone walls, the remaining Yamazato Kura, built in 1845 and relocated in 1966, serves as a simple museum.


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