Photo By: かがみ~
Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nagano
Population
2,214,409

Matsushiro

Shhhh. Don't wake the samurai spirits.

Matsushiro Town, as it was formerly known, may no longer exist as it recently became a suburb of  Nagano City. However, the Matsushiro area has retained much of its own character, culture and customs. The locals still consider it a distinct town due to its well-preserved Edo-period buildings, including a variety of samurai clan houses. Here are a few sights that are unmissable for history lovers.

Matsushiro Castle

The largest attraction has to be the castle ruins. Dating from 1560, Matsushiro Castle was originally known as Kaizu Castle and served as a base for retainers working under the prominent feudal lord Takeda Shingen. In 1622, the castle came under the control of the Sanada clan, after their exile from the nearby Ueda Castle. The clan changed the castle’s name to Matsushiro Castle, to reflect their position as rulers of the Matsushiro Domain.

Photo by: PROかがみ~ The castle ruins are a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing.

A fire destroyed the castle in 1872, leaving only the stone walls. The main gates and some other buildings were restored in 2004.

Know this famous castle in Nagano?

Unlike Ueda Castle, Matsushiro Castle is in relative lowlands, so it was prone to flooding from the nearby Chikuma River back in the day. However, this makes it more accessible on foot for today’s tourists.

Samurai life

While Matsushiro Castle is arguably the most well-known attraction, the variety of samurai clan houses in the area will give you a real peek back in time. Most of the original stone walls, gates and structures of the clan dwellings remain intact.

The Former Sanada Residence (locally known as Shingoten), the samurai residence of the Sanada family, and the Sanada Treasure Museum dedicated to the clan’s history are must-sees.  From artworks and ceramics to swords and armor, the museum displays over 20,000 artifacts visitors can admire.

Photo by: jojolovestravels Sanada clan armor.

The Matsushiro Bunbu Gakko (Old School for Literary and Military Arts) is another historical relic. Opened in 1855, students here studied martial arts, traditional literature and Western military science. Explore the antique wooden dojos or take a lesson in kyudo (Japanese archery) or sojutsu (spear fighting) if you think you’ve got what it takes.

Other samurai houses in the area are the Former Yamadera Jyosan Residence and the Yazawa Residence Gatehouse. Since Matsushiro is so compact, all of the above attractions are within a short walking distance of each other. After admiring the art of samurai living, it’s time to take a load off at one of the nearby hot spring resorts.

Bathe like a samurai

Nagano boasts some of the most mineral-rich hot spring waters in all of Japan making Matsushiro a relaxing oasis. But this oasis isn’t a serene blue dreamland— it’s brown and rusty. The color of the water is due to high iron and salt percentages.

Photo by: naganocity_official The water isn’t dirty, we promise.

For a memorable bathing experience, try the Matsuhiro-sou spa, a legendary healing spot for the army of Takeda Shingen. The Ichiyou-kan is another good spot with rustic facilities and healing outdoor baths. Most of the resorts offer prices as low as ¥500 for single access. If you’re traveling with your partner or family and want to enjoy the onsen together, try the Shinshu Matsushiro Royal Hotel. It has a number of private baths suitable for families and couples.

With its fascinating samurai history and outstanding onsen, Matsushiro is definitely worthy of a day trip.

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Things To Know

Hours and fees

Visit the Matsushiro Castle daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no entrance fee, but the latest entry time is 4:30 p.m. The Former Sanada Residence is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with last entry from 4:30 p.m. The entrance fee for adults is ¥300 and for children is ¥100. The Sanada Treasure Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with last entry at 4:30 p.m. They are closed on Tuesdays. Tickets are ¥300. The Matsushiro-sou is open everyday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. For bath use, adults are required to pay a ¥510 fee and children are required to pay ¥200.

Combo ticket

To simplify things, you can buy a ¥500 combination ticket that gives you access to the Former Sanada Residence, the Sanada Treasure Museum and the Bunbu Gakko.

How To Get There

Address

1297-10 Matsushiromachi Matsushiro, Nagano-shi, Nagano-ken 381-1231, Japan

By train

Take the bullet train from Ueno station heading towards Kanazawa and get off at Nagano station. The journey takes 80 minutes to 100 minutes and costs ¥8,190. From Nagano station take the Number 30 bus bound for Matsushiro Koukou station. It takes around 45 minutes and costs  ¥940.

Where To Stay

Royal Hotel Nagano
  • Matsushiromachi Nishi Terao 1372-1 Nagano-Shi, Nagano 381-1215
  • 7.7/10
  • 1.4 km
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Shioriya
  • Higashisainami 400-13 Nagano-Shi, Nagano 388-8001
  • 9.4/10
  • 3.3 km
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Hotel Route-Inn Shinonoi
  • Shinonoi Onbegawa 1264-2 Nagano-Shi, Nagano 388-8006
  • 7/10
  • 5.6 km
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Hotel Route-Inn Court Koshoku
  • Kojima 3151-1 Chikuma-Shi, Nagano 387-0013
  • 7/10
  • 7.4 km
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