Matsumoto Castle, which is also known as “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior, is one of Japan’s premier historic castles. Unlike other castles, which are built on a mountain or hillside slopes; this flatland castle was built on a plain.
Matsumoto Castle is blessed to be not only one of Japan’s twelve castles to have survived since the feudal era, but one of the largest and most distinctive-looking. Its six-storeyed keep is now a museum showcasing its military history, in particular weapons and Armour from centuries ago.
It was a pleasure to walk around the surrounding grounds and the beautifully maintained gardens. While we were there Samurai warriors walked around and we had fun posing for photos with them.
This castle has it all. From our arrival we were taken back in time to the ancient times. The interior is fantastic too see. Matsumoto Castle is the real thing. It is built of wood — you can see and feel the solid old timbers, smooth and shiny from over 400 years of use. Built for war — more precisely, for defense of a feudal lords headquarters — this building was never for anyone’s luxurious living. This may explain why the decoration is sparse compared to other Japanese castles. It may not be obvious from the outside, but every level of the castle is designed for archers to shoot from. Our tour of the inside of the castle revealed placements for cannons facing every direction.
The grounds are free to visit, but to enter the castle there is a cost. We needed to take off our shoes to enter the castle and we were given plastic bags to put our shoes into which left some of us without 2 free hands to aid in the climbing. Some of the stairs inside are narrow and steep.
From the highest floor, the views are wide and sweeping of the city and surrounding mountains. The stairs to the fifth floor are exceptionally steep. This is normal for Japanese castles, but even the regular stairs will be a problem for those with mobility needs. We were warned of the steep climb and of course descent but we still were not prepared enough. In our socked feet some of the floors were very slippery.
No one lived here, but probably many samurai died here.
We really enjoyed our few hours here at Matsumoto Castle – I am so happy that we visited it.