Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Bitchū Matsuyama Castle – The Castle Floating in the Sky

Matsuyama Castle in Takahashi City in Okayama is also known as the Takahashi Castle (高梁城). As it can be easily confused with the Matsuyama Castle in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, it is more commonly referred to as the Bitchū Matsuyama Castle (備中松山城).

The castle has a long history that goes as far back as 1240 AD. It was originally built by Akiba Shigenobu as a small turret on top of Mt. Ōmatsu (大松山), one of the peaks in the Gagyūzan (臥牛山) mountain range. In 1331, it was transferred to where it is now on Mt. Komatsu (小松山) and was enlarged into a castle.

Ⓒ Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

As Bitchū Matsuyama Castle is located on a strategic point in the san’yo and san’in areas. Civil wars took place regularly, so the lord of the castle changed frequently during the Sengoku period from 1467 to 1615.

Along with the changes in the castle’s ownership, the scale gradually increased over time as each lord did their home renovations.

During the Edo period (1600 – 1868), the tower keep was renovated and transformed into the one that we see today.

Different from other castle keeps in Japan, Bitchū Matsuyama Castle’s castle keep is only two stories tall. Why? Because it wasn’t necessary. Back then, the samurai utilized the mountain-top’s geographical advantage, 430 meters above sea level. This offered them a large field of vision, so they didn’t need the tower keep to be tall.

Another noteworthy thing is that the castle keep has never been destroyed or rebuilt, making it one of the twelve castles in Japan that have remained in their original form! It is part of the reason that it was designated as one of Japan’s National Important Cultural Properties.

The Current Lord of Bitchū Matsuyama Castle

Since the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), the castle hasn’t had any lords reside in it. However, in July 2018, it finally welcomed a worthy lord who is loved by all his subjects. He even has an Instagram account documenting his relaxing life in the Castle (´▽`*).

Meet Sanjūrō, the new lord of the Bitchū Matsuyama Castle!

Ⓒ Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

Sanjūrō was originally a local’s pet cat, but he enjoyed strolling around the castle grounds so much that he decided that he liked the castle better. His owner respected his decision and allowed the castle’s Tourism Association to take over the ownership. They duly appointed him as the proudly new lord of Bitchū Matsuyama Castle (*´ω`).

So next time you visit the castle, remember to look for this super cute new lord and greet him properly with a bow!

Bitchū Matsuyama Castle in the Sea of Cloud

Bitchū Matsuyama Castle is most famous for the view of it floating eerily in the sky.

Ⓒ Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

When the cloud shrouds the rest of the mountain below the castle, a fantasy painting of a castle floating in the sky is complete (=゚ω゚)ノ.

The phenomenon happens due to the significant temperature variations from the early morning to the late afternoon. From late September till early April, you will have a chance to see this breathtaking view in person.

Getting to the Observatory to Admire the Bitchū Matsuyama Castle from Afar

If you are like us and are keen to see the castle floating in the sky, then book a shared taxi by 5 pm the day before to take you to the Sea of Cloud Observatory (雲海展望台)!

The shared taxi operates between October and March, with the 1st batch departing from JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station (備中高梁駅) at 7:30 am and the 2nd batch leaving at 8 am. It will also take you back to the JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station at 8:40 am and 9:10 am, respectively.

Ⓒ Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

The cost is only 3,000 yen per person for the return trip, which isn’t too bad. To reserve your spot, you can either give them a call at +81-866-22-8666 from 9 am to 5 pm or by enquiring through email [email protected].

This trip to the observatory is a great option to add to your visit to the castle if you have some spare cash (^_-)-☆. After you get back to the station, it will just be around the right time to head to the castle!

Tips:
☛ To maximize your chance of seeing the castle in the sky, plan your visit in October and November! It is especially picturesque from early to mid-November when the autumn colors are at their peak. If you don’t’ get to see the castle floating above the clouds, you can still get this magnificent view, and your 3,000 yen taxi ride will not be wasted!
☛ If the temperature difference between the highest temperature the day before and the lowest temperature on the day you are visiting the Observatory is more than 10 degrees, you should have a greater chance of seeing the castle floating above the cloud. Please note that if it rains on the day you visit, you are unlikely to see the phenomenon.
☛ You can check out the current view of the castle through the live camera HERE.

Important:
☛ You might encounter some wild monkeys around the Observatory. Please leave them alone and don’t disturb them.
☛ From December to February, some snow may accumulate at the Observatory, so please take care and watch your step!

Guided Tours at Bitchū Matsuyama Castle

If you understand Japanese and would like someone to give you interesting facts about the castle and the surrounding nature, then book your personal guide at least 10 days before your travel date!

The guide will wait for you at the 8th Station, where you will be getting off the sightseeing taxi. Over 2 hours, your guide will not only talk about the history of the castle and its natural surroundings, but they will also introduce you to some local gourmet food. If you have any special dietary requirements, it might be worthwhile letting them know to see if they can do some advanced research for you!

The cost is 3,000 yen. You can book by calling +81-866-21-0461 or by filling out their web form HERE.

Important: The guided tours are conducted in Japanese only at the moment.

Bitchū Matsuyama Castle Opening Hours and Admission Fees

  • April to September: 9 am to 5:30 pm
    • The last admission is at 5 pm
    • If traffic restrictions are applied on the day and shuttle bus services are running, please head to where you get off the bus at 4:30 pm
  • October to March: 9 am to 4:30 pm
    • The last admission is at 4 pm
    • If traffic restrictions are applied on the day and shuttle bus services are running, please head to where you get off the bus at 3:30 pm
  • The castle is closed from the 28th of December to the 4th of January
  • The admission fee is
    • 500 for adults
    • 200 yen for elementary and junior high school students

Tip: Get a set ticket that allows you access to Bitchū Matsuyama Castle, Takahashi City Old Samurai Residence (武家屋敷館), and Raikyū-ji Temple (天柱山 頼久寺) for 1,000 yen. 1,500 yen set ticket will give you access to Bitchū Matsuyama Castle, Takahashi City Old Samurai Residence (武家屋敷館), and Raikyū-ji Temple (天柱山 頼久寺), Takahashi Local History Museum (高梁市 郷土資料館), and Yamada Hokoku Museum (山田方谷資料館)

How to Get to Bitchū Matsuyama Castle

Train + Taxi Approach

  • To get to the castle via public transport, please get off at JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station (備中高梁駅). From JR Okayama Station (岡山駅), you can take the limited express – Yakumo (やくも)
  • From JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station to the 8th Station of the mountain – Fuigo-Tōge (ふいご峠), which is where the castle is, you can catch a shared taxi for 800 yen. It takes 10 minutes for a one-way trip. From there, it will be a 20-minute hike to the castle
    • The timetable can be found on Takahashi City’s website HERE. The link is to their Japanese website as the English version’s website doesn’t seem to be updated as often as the Japanese one
      • The first row of the table is the departure time from JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station and the second row is the departure time for JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station
    • Booking is essential by 5 pm the previous day by calling +81-866-22-8666 between 9 am to 5 pm

Tip: If you can’t speak Japanese, you can kindly ask the station staff or the staff in your accommodation to help you make a booking for the shared taxi!

Bus + Hiking Approach

  • Take the Takahashi City Loop Bus (高梁市内循環バス) from the Takahashi Bus Center (高梁バスセンター) which is just opposite the JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station and get off at Matsuyamajō Tozan Kuchi (松山城登山口), which is the Matsuyama Castle Trailhead
    • Refer to the 2nd table HERE is the timetable for the loop bus. The timetable is in Japanese, so please use the Japanese characters listed above to read. Please refer to the second timetable
  • From the trailhead, it will take around 50 minutes to get to the castle

Hiking all the way up

  • You can also trek all the way up to the castle, which will take you around 90 minutes from JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station
  • From Sea of Cloud Observatory (雲海展望台), it will take you around 60 minutes to trek to the castle

Self-Driving

  • On the days when a large crowd is expected, shuttle bus services operate on a 15 minutes intervals from 8:45 am to 5:45 pm from April to September from the mountain’s 5th Station – Shiromibashi Park Parking Lot (城見橋公園駐車場) to the 8th Station. The last bus comes down from the castle at 4:45 pm between October to March. When shuttle bus services are operating, you won’t be able to drive all the way up to the castle car park, so you have to park at the 5th Station
    • It will cost you 500 yen for a return trip (200 yen for elementary and junior high school students). One-way tickets are unavailable.
    • Please refer to Takahashi City’s website HERE for the days that the shuttle bus services are operating (refer to the days that are marked in orange)

Discover where else to Go Close to Bitchū Matsuyama Castle

Having got enough of the stunning view of the sea of clouds?

Takahashi (高梁市) City, where the castle is located, is a great place for anyone after some stunning sea of cloud pictures. Within the city, it has not one but two spots where you have a high chance of capturing the stunning weather phenomenon.

Find out more about the other spot where you might even have a sunrise over the sea of clouds with our Takahashi City article!

Yatakayama-Sea-Of-Cloud-Takahashi-Okayama-Japan
Click the photo to find out how to get to this stunning spot!

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