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Photo By: Mimi Dietderich
Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nagano
Population
2,214,409

Matsumoto Castle

One of Japan’s top historic castles that entrances with an elegant moon-viewing room and rare artifacts.

Japan’s castles are sprinkled around the country, but Matsumoto Castle, a designated National Treasure, is truly special.

Against the background of the snowcapped Japanese Alps mountain range and elegant cherry trees in spring, Matsumoto Castle is a picturesque scene tucked away in Nagano Prefecture. Although spring is an excellent season to visit the castle, any time is worth checking out this historic location.

Iwakuni Castle

iwakuni castle
Reverently known as “Crow Castle” due to its dark exterior and wing-like rooftop, it still retains its original wood and stonework. This castle’s stoic appearance is highlighted by the quiet grounds seemingly isolating it from the surrounding city of Matsumoto.

History

Matsumoto Castle has housed 23 different lords from six different ruling families. As such the castle, although breathtaking in itself, has a surprisingly vast collection of artifacts to view including armour and weapons, as well as some of the first guns used in feudal Japan.

Photo by: Mimi Dietderich Welcome to “crow castle.”

This alone entrances visitors but its crowning jewel is arguably the tranquil moon viewing room. This rarity among other castles wasn’t just built for the reigning lord’s enjoyment but for the moon goddess as well who can still be viewed enshrined in the highest floor. Be sure to take caution while venturing up, as steep steps lead to the top floor.

History has reduced 5,000 castles in Japan to 100, leaving only 12 considered to be in their “original state.” Of those 12, just three are given the honor of being called a premier castle, which Matsumoto Castle is one, along with Himeji Castle and Kumamoto Castle. These landmarks have withstood the test of time and it is undoubtedly worth yours to pay a visit!

Seasonal events

Matsumoto Castle is host to several seasonal events. From taiko (traditional Japanese drum) festivals and noh plays (classical Japanese drama) in the summer to the annual “moon-viewing” festival in the fall is truly the heart of the city. This site is also known for its many cherry trees and is a very popular sight for hanami (flower viewing) in spring. All of these events are worth looking into, but due to the large crowds be sure to plan in advance.

Love Japan’s castles? Go see more!

Trivia

iwakuni castle

Iwakuni Castle

Yamaguchi's historical masterpiece protected by an unlikely hero.

More

Things To Know

Fees

Walking the grounds outside of the moat is free but enterance to the inner grounds and the castle keep costs ¥610 for adults and ¥300 for elementary and junior high school students.

Hours

Entrance to this area is from 8:30-5 p.m. daily. (Last entrance is at 4:30 p.m.)

How To Get There

By train

Matsumoto is about a 3-hour train ride from Shinjuku Station via the Chuo Line Limited Express Azusa.

From Matsumoto Station use the Oito Line in the direction of Shinano-Omachi and exit 1 stop later at Kita-Matsumoto (¥140). Walk 11 minutes to destination. Exit Matsumoto Station and walk 17 minutes to Matsumoto Castle.

By foot

Exit Matsumoto Station and walk 17 minutes to Matsumoto Castle.

Where To Stay

Backpackers Matsumoto no Yado
  • Jousai 2-5-18 Matsumoto-Shi, Nagano 390-0875
  • 8.5/10
  • 0.3 km
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Southern Cross Inn Matsumoto
  • Ote 4-9-3 Matsumoto-Shi, Nagano 390-0874
  • 8.4/10
  • 0.4 km
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tabi-shiro
  • Josei 1-3-6 Matsumoto-Shi, Nagano 390-0875
  • 8.9/10
  • 0.4 km
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Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu
  • Ote 4-8-9 Matsumoto-Shi, Nagano 390-0874
  • 8.6/10
  • 0.4 km
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