One of Japan’s best historic castles.
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.
Also 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.
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 armor and weapons, as well as some of the first guns used in feudal Japan.
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!
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 very popular 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.
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