Matsumoto Castle (松本城) is one of the 3 most important castles in Japan. But this castle is different from most of the castles you see in Japan. It is not situated on a hill, but is situated low. That is why it is popularly called the lowland castle.
But why is the Castle of Matsumoto worth a visit? In this article I will explain this, but remember that it didn’t take much or this special castle would be destroyed. You can read about all that here!
Hostel: Not many tourists stay in Matsumoto and the main attraction is the castle. I stayed in Thank You Hippopotamus Hostel. A small hostel next to the castle with a nice owner!
First signs of a fortress
The first signs of a ‘castle’ took place in 1504. Simadachi Sadanaga made a fortress on behalf of the Ogasawara family. They named the fort Fukashi Castle. The Ogasawara family ruled over the province of Shinano, which is now Nagano.
The 16th century was a fierce period, during which several landowners were fighting for power. First, the castle is under the rule of the Takeda family. From 1590 to 1593 they built the castle to what it looks like today. From 1600 onwards, Matsumoto Castle fell under the rule of the Tokugawa family. This family will serve in Japan for the next 280 years.
A ticket for Matsumoto Castle also includes the Matsumoto City Museum.
Enter Matsumoto Castle without shoes!
It has to be said: Matsumoto Castle looks beautiful from the outside. And very black! Because of its specific colour, it’s nicknamed Crow’s Castle.
But how beautiful the castle looks on the outside, how boring that might be on the inside. Before you enter the castle you have to take off your shoes. Then you walk around each floor with the shoes and on the way there are some museum pieces to admire. From original statues of the samurai to rifles and a samurai outfit. For the rest, there is a skeleton from each floor to see. Also interesting!
But what remains most of all are the stairs and steps and the narrow passageway to the top. An interesting climb for a man of 1 meter 90. The steps seem to be further apart from each other on each floor. Groaning a midget goes up …
Destroy the Castle of Matsumoto!
If you’re looking for big battles in which Matsumoto Castle has been involved, you’ll be disappointed. Actually, pretty little happened compared to Osaka Castle. A total of 23 landlords rule the castle until 1868 when the domain system (the landlords) comes to an end. Emperor Meiji gained full power over Japan. But what about Matsumoto Castle?
The first plan was to demolish the entire castle and build houses there. But that could not count on the approval of the local population. After many protests from the inhabitants, the castle was refurbished and that was desperately needed. Also in September 2017 they were working on a thorough improvement, since some parts of the castle were not even earthquake proof. So let’s not hope that something will happen when you are on the top floor. But the view over the city is absolutely amazing!
Visiting Matsumoto Castle or not?
Are you going to the castle of Himeji between Osaka and Hiroshima? Then my preference would definitely be to visit that castle. Not everyone goes to this region, but to Hiroshima and then Himeji is a logical stopover.
But that doesn’t mean that Matsumoto Castle is not recommended. In fact: Matsumoto is not very touristy, the centre of the city is quite atmospheric and in comparison with other castles this building is one of the few that is really original (although it has been restored!). The choice is yours!
Visit the Castle of Matsumoto?
How to get there?
From Nagano it is about an hour by train to Matsumoto. The castle is a 15-minute walk from the station, otherwise you can take the bus called Town Sneaker. Within 5 minutes you can reach the castle.
Adress: 4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0873, Japan
Google Maps: The Castle of Matsumoto
The castle is open every day from 8.30am to 5pm or 6pm. The entrance fee is 610 yen and the nearby City Museum is included in the price.
Read more about Matsumoto and the region!
- Nagano: Top 6 attractions, accommodation and transportation
- Jigokudani Monkey Park | Meet the Japanese Macaques in Traditional Onsen
- Nakasendo Trail, Kiso Valley | Walk the Road of the Samurai
- Zenkoji Temple, Nagano | Search for the Key to Paradise!
And what did you think of Matsumoto Castle? Feel free to leave a message below!
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Hello, I’m Steven!
On Travel4history I write about my experiences during my travel in combination with history. What do we historically know about the places we visit? Here I share information about tips, experiences and history. Know where you are!