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Photo By: PIXTA/きゅーまる
Largest City

Bitchu Matsuyama Castle

The only mountain castle in Japan that still boasts an original castle tower.

By Abhijit Sen

Nestled near the peak of Mount Gagyu, at an impressive elevation of 430 meters, lies the awe-inspiring ‘Mountain Castle in the Sky’ known as Bitchu Matsuyama Castle.

This magnificent castle is in the Takahashi City of the Okayama Prefecture in Japan. It is the only mountain castle in Japan that still boasts an original castle tower. Originally built on Omatsuyama Peak in 1240 by Akiba Shigenobu Saburo, the castle was later expanded to Komatsuyama Peak. By 1683, under the leadership of Mizunoya Katsumune, the castle was finally completed and has since become an important landmark in the Bitchu Matsuyama domain.

A Castle in the Sky

Bitchu Matsuyama Castle

Photo by: PIXTA/ denkei The castle is best viewed from the Sea of Clouds Observatory.

It is a stunning fortress that boasts extraordinary mountain castle architecture. The castle tower is a two-story wooden building with a traditional tiled roof. The tower, two-story turret, and mud wall are some of the major highlights and have been designated as nationally important cultural properties. It is believed that the Ninomaru played a crucial role as the final line of defense for the castle. The main gate’s site is a perfect illustration of the way mountaintop castles, built for defense, take advantage of their environment.

Bitchu Matsuyama Castle boasts a unique feature that can be witnessed from autumn to spring, on days when the weather is fine, and there is a significant variation in temperature between the morning and afternoon. During this time, a breathtaking phenomenon known as the ‘sea of clouds’ can be observed. The sea of clouds refers to a vast expanse of white, fluffy clouds that surround the mountains, creating an illusion that the castle is floating amidst the clouds in the sky.

To witness this awe-inspiring sight, visitors can head to the Sea of Clouds Observatory located high up in the mountain. From this vantage point, one can catch a sweeping view of the sea of clouds enveloping the mountains and the castle, creating a surreal and dreamlike atmosphere.

The New Lord

Bitchu Matsuyama Castle

Photo by: PIXTA/Satsuki-77 Make sure to snap a photo if you see him wandering the castle grounds.

Despite the dissolution of domains and lords in Japan, a new lord has taken up residence in Bitchu Matsuyama castle. Sanjuro, a handsome feline, has made the castle his home following the devastating floods that struck Takahashi in July 2018. While he may occasionally venture out for personal matters, visitors to the castle can often spot him patrolling the grounds or basking in the sun.

Things To Know


From April to September, the castle hours are from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (castle entry until 5 p.m.)
From October to March, the castle hours are from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (castle entry until 4 p.m.)

The entrance fee for the castle tower is ¥500 for adults and ¥200 for elementary and junior high students.


Sea of Clouds Observatory

Located in the Okumanda-cho area of Takahashi City, the Sea of Clouds Observatory is a popular spot to witness a sea of clouds and the sight of the floating Matsuyama castle. From October 1 to March 31, a shared taxi service is available from Bitchu Takahashi station to the observatory, and reservations can be made until 5 p.m. the day before the visit.

Reservations can be made by contacting the Takahashi city tourist center or by visiting the tourist center directly on the first floor of the Takahashi library.

How To Get There


By train

From Bitchu Takahashi station take a shared taxi, which costs ¥600 per person for one-way, or take a bus, which costs ¥160 for a one-way ticket. 

During April, May, September, October and November, a bus operates on weekends and national holidays and connects Bitchu Takahashi station to Shiromibashi Park parking lot.

From there, visitors can walk to the castle, which takes approximately one hour, or they can take another shuttle bus from Shiromibashi Park parking lot to Fuigo pass ¥400 for a round-trip ticket)and walk to the castle from there.

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