Matsumoto Castle: The Raven Castle
The Black Castle: Discover one of the only four original-built castles in Japan
Matsumoto Castle or Matsumotojo (松本城), located in Matsumoto city in Nagano Prefecture, is considered one of the three most beautiful castles in Japan, along with Himeji and Kumamoto. It’s also one of the only four castles of original construction that are currently in Japan (the other three are Himeji Castle again, Inuyama Castle and Hikone Castle). It’s not surprising then that some of its parts have been declared a National Treasure of Japan.
It’s a castle of the hirajiro type, castles built on a flat surface instead of being on top of a hill or mountain. In addition, they are usually surrounded by walls instead of being built on a stone base. Its black color, in addition to making it one of the most elegant castles, has given it the nickname of the raven castle or karasujo, in contrast to the white crane of Himeji Castle.
History of Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle was originally started construction in 1504 as Fukashi Castle by the daimyo Shimadachi Sadanaga, but later changed hands in the war, and was completed by the daimyo Ishikawa Kazumasa and his son Yasunaga to its present form. Other sources suggest that it was Hideyoshi
In 1950 it was restored for a period of five years.
Visit Matsumoto Castle
As I explained, it was built by a daimyo, a warlord, so it’s not surprising that its construction follows the needs of a fortress designed to defend itself and make it easier for the samurai to keep their feudal lord safe.
Matsumoto Castle has six floors, with five exterior floors. It measures approximately 30 meters in height. It has a main tower (Dai-Tenshu) and three minor towers. The Lesser North Tower (Inui Kotenshu) connects to the Main Tower through a covered walkway (Watariyagura). On the other side are the other two smaller towers (Tatsumi Tsukeyagura and Tsukimi Yagura), which were built later, in 1635, when military threats ceased. The Tsukimi Yagura was built specifically to gaze at the moon.
The views from its top floor are spectacular and on the lower levels it houses a museum about firearms.
How to get to Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto is perfect for a day trip from Tokyo. The best option is to take the JR Azusa line limited express from Shinjuku. The journey takes just under 3 hours and is included in the JR Pass.
Once at Matsumoto Station, the castle is about a 15-minute walk away.
|Access||Approximately 15 minutes’ walk from Matsumoto Station on the Shinonoi JR Line|
|Address||4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0873|
|Business Hours||8:30 – 17:00 (last admission is 16:30)/ Golden Week and Summer Season: 8:00 – 18:00 (last admission is 17:30)|
|Closed||Open all year except during New Year’s Holiday (Dec. 29 – Dec. 31)|
|Nearest station||Matsumoto Station (Shinonoi JR Line)|
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