Ancient with impressive architecture by the romantic lake, Matsumoto Castle is one of the most complete and beautiful castles among original Japanese castles, like “national treasure”; is a fascinating sightseeing and discovery destination.
Information about Japanese Matsumoto castle
For more than 400 years, this ancient castle has stood in the center of Matsumoto city. Although built in the Warring States period, it never witnessed the battle, and instead became a symbol of war, it became the symbol of the people who worked hard to protect it.
The castle is considered a National Treasure, not only because it is one of the few remaining castles in Japan. But also by its beauty and unique construction. The luxurious black and white colors and the majestic Japanese Alps in the distance make both first-time Japanese visitors and seasoned castle enthusiasts fall in love.
Matsumotojo’s main castle and its second smaller castle were built between 1592 and 1614. Both of these buildings are well fortified as peace was not yet fully achieved at that time. In 1635, when the military threats were gone, a third, mostly unprotected turret and another for moon viewing were added to the castle.
Instructions on how to get to Matsumoto castle
By train and bus
From Shinjuku Station, take the Limited Express Azusa train to Matsumoto station (2.5 to 3 hours, priced at 6,620 yen). Or take an express bus from Shinjuku Express Bus Terminal (3.5 hours, costs 3,500 yen).
From Nagano Station, take local Shinonoi train (80 minutes, cost 1,170 yen) or Limited Express Shinano (51 minutes, price 2,370 yen) to Matsumoto Station.
From Matsumoto Station, you can walk 15 minutes to the castle or take a local town express bus (8 minutes, costs 200 yen).
Matsumoto Japan Castle is about 12 minutes by car from Matsumoto IC exit of the Nagano Expressway. There are not many parking lots around Matsumoto Castle, so you must park your car at one of the paid parking facilities near Matsumoto Station, such as the Parko building.
Matsumoto architecture makes a big impression
At first glance, it may not be easy to know what is unique about this castle. To many people, most of Japan’s castles seem quite similar, typically the Japanese Himeji white crane castle. But if you take a closer look, you can see the ingenuity in its construction.
Counting from the outside, you can see that the main area of the castle has 5 floors, but when you step inside you will find that there are actually 6 floors inside. By hiding an extra floor inside the castle, more troops can be hidden than the enemy can see. You will also notice that the stairs are quite steep, they are built to prevent enemy troops from climbing the posts. When you climb to the 6th floor, from here you can relax and enjoy the city view, green mountains.
One of the most distinctive features of Matsumoto Castle is the two adjacent towers, built in two very different eras in Japan.
- The first tower was built during the Warring States period, its purpose was to protect the castle from invaders. It had many small windows for soldiers to shoot rifles.
- In contrast, the Tsukimi Yagura tower, easily identifiable by the magenta outer railing, was built in the Edo period, a period of peace and its purpose was to see the moon.
The castle is also a treasure trove of weapons and armor used during the Warring States period. As you climb the castle, you can see pictures of pistols, rifles, swords and other items that were used by samurai over 400 years ago. It was surprising that such a wonderful weapon collection could be found in a castle that had never seen a battle.
Matsumoto castle’s milestones
Mentioning this castle, this is a physical cultural center of Matsumoto. Throughout the year, many Japanese events and festivals are held here.
- In mid-April, there is a cherry blossom festival. More than 300 cherry blossom trees can be found around the castle moat and in its inner gardens. You can enjoy the whole day with the splendid view of the Japanese Alps or at night, with the brightly illuminated trees and castles.
- The Taiko Festival is held annually at the end of July.
- In addition, there are cultural events held regularly, including: tea ceremony, traditional theater, Japanese martial arts performances and taiko performances.
- In winter, you can watch the Matsumoto Ice Sculpture festival, where sculptors from all over Japan show off their ice carving skills in front of castles.
Visit Matsumoto’s castle town
The wall of Matsumoto castle helped form Matsumoto city. Around it, you can find glimpses of the city’s past. Some streets still retain the atmosphere of the old castle town, with old wooden shops and terracotta barns.
Right by the Metoba River (near the castle), you will find two of the most famous routes to visit. On the side of the castle is marked by a large statue of two warrior frogs, Nawate-dori, or creatively known as “Frog Street”. Right across the river, was Nakamachi-dori. Both streets are filled with shops and cafes where you can spend time and enjoy Matsumoto’s cultural atmosphere.
While in Matsumoto, you should also drop by the Matsumoto City Museum of Art. Here, you will find a regular exhibition of works by Yayoi Kusama, an internationally renowned artist also from here. Or explore the Ukiyo-e Museum to see the art gallery to learn about Japanese culture in this exciting land.
Possessing a peaceful space and attractive scenery, Matsumoto castle is worthy of the top sightseeing spot in Nagano that you must definitely visit.