Castle on the Sea2012.05.31 by Cathy Hirano
If you are expecting something as complete as Himeji Castle, you'll be disappointed. But what's left is still well worth a visit, especially as the park is conveniently located right across from Takamatsu JR station and admission is only 200 yen.
If you're a tourist, you can get discount coupons from your hotel that will get you in for even less. They can be used for other popular sites, too.
But getting back to Takamatsu Castle, the site was first developed in 1588 when warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi gave Ikoma Chikumasa the lands of Sanuki (now Kagawa) in reward for his services. Four generations later, in 1642, the domain was given to Matsudaira Yorishige, a relative of the Tokugawa shogun. Matsudaira expanded the castle as well as the surrounding port and town, making this the hub of Takamatsu.
The Matsudaira clan continued to rule over Kagawa until the Meiji Restoration in the mid 19th century. In 1869, the castle was decommissioned and the 5-storied tenshu (donjon) was torn down in 1884.
Original donjon before dismantling
The Matsudaira family bought back part of the castle grounds in 1890. It finally became Tamamo Park when the Matsudaira Foundation donated it to Takamatsu City in 1954. There is a serious movement to resurrect the donjon. The project began in 2007 with an exploratory excavation, followed by dismantling and then rebuilding of the foundation to look for clues and improve stability, a process that took 4 full years.
The model of the proposed restoration project above shows a resurrected middle moat and seacoast, as well as a reconstructed donjon. Currently, the west side (left hand side of the photo) and the sea (top of the photo) are buried under roads and the prospects seem rather daunting. When I first came to Takamatsu in 1987, however, large and ugly buildings concealed the whole west side of the castle walls. The photo below gives an idea of what it was like then.
The buildings were gradually removed to expose the very beautiful stonewalls and make the west and north sides more park-like. With vision and perseverance, not to mention a hefty sum of money, the project may actually be realized.
Panorama of north side
Hours: From sunset to dusk (5:30 AM to 7:00PM in summer; 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM in winter). Closed Dec. 29 to 31.
Admission: 200 yen for adults. Free Jan 1 to 3 and May 5.