Travel and Adventure

Ōzu Castle

Ōzu Castle is unique in having a keep recreated using authentic materials and techniques.

Ōzu Castle

Ōzu Castle is a small and elegant castle. It stands on a hillock extending into a bend in the Hiji River, creating the impression that the castle stands on an island. Its walls are built of rough, undressed grey stone. Inside the walls is a well said to be one of the largest in Japan. In the feudal period, Ōzu Castle lay within the borders of Iyo Province. It was in use from 1331 to 1871.

The castle keep was destroyed at the end of the feudal period, leaving only the walls and a couple of watchtowers intact. But after careful research using surviving photos and an old wooden model, it was concluded it would be possible to reconstruct the keep using authentic castle building techniques and materials — wood, plaster, tile, mud, straw rope, and a few iron nails. The nails were all hand forged by a gentleman who was honoured as a living national treasure.

Most reconstructed castles in Japan are made of ferro concrete. Ōzu is unique in the effort that went into rediscovering the old techniques. Completed in 2004, the interior still has the rich smell of cut wood, hinoki in fact, from Nagano. Wood from overseas would have been cheaper, but less resilient to Japan’s moist climate.

While most castles feature exhibits of armour and weapons, Ōzu focuses on architecture, with some nicely done displays including panels, intricate models, and several infotaining dioramas. The dioramas are charming if not altogether accurate. One shows the castle structure being built from the top down, which was in fact opposite to the way the tower was built. A cutaway model of a roof section shows the extraordinary sophistication of traditional Japanese building techniques.

From the top of the keep, you’re rewarded with a striking panoramic view of the surrounding river, mountains, and town, which still retains its appearance and character as a castle town.

The castle has its own teppotai — a group who perform reenactments with matchlock guns.

Ōzu is currently the only castle in Japan where you can spend a night in the keep itself. This luxurious experience is provided by Nipponia Hotels, which also offers stays in traditional buildings in the town around the castle.


Name in Japanese: 大洲城

Pronunciation: ōzu-jō

Address: 903 Ozu, Ehime 795-0012

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