Matsumoto Castle in Nagano, Japan
400-YEAR-OLD FORTRESS. Matsumoto Castle has indeed stood the test of time,
“Outstanding” would be the word to best describe Matsumoto Castle. One of Nagano, Japan’s prominent tourist spots, it was built between 1593 to 1594. It was declared as a national treasure, and was carefully restored and preserved for a long time. It’s known as the “Crow Castle” because of its black structure made of wood and plaster. It rests on top of a stone base and is surrounded by a crystal clear moat that, if you stand on the right spot outside, you can see the castle’s reflection. During the cherry blossom season, the structure creates a beautiful contrast with pink hues.
There are samurai warriors in costume, walking around just outside the castle, who would gladly pose for a photo. You can even take a picture with them while holding their katana (sword).
To get inside, we passed by two gates, with the second gate positioned on the right angle. The gates are enclosed by defense walls with tiny holes for shooting bullets and arrows. This type of gate is called masugata, a kind of trap entrance for intruders.
At the entrance of the main castle, you will be asked to remove our shoes and wear the slippers provided which is a common Japanese tradition.
The tour starts at the Gun Museum on the 2nd floor. This is where all kinds of weaponry are displayed—from the smallest to the largest guns, to self-defense guns, matchlocks, and armors equipped with battle accessories.
Inside the castle is a vast collection of firearms donated by Mr. Michishige Akahane. The museum on the 2nd floor of the main tower has 141 guns, armors, and other related documents.
The enormous castle appears to be five stories high, when in fact, there are 6 floors inside. The actual 3rd floor is not visible from the outside. This is called the “hidden floor” which served as the castle’s safe room where no window can be found.
The stairs between the 4th and 5th floors are the steepest in the castle, with each step measuring about 40 cm. The top floor used to be the castle’s watch tower. This floor is covered with 16 pieces of tatami (woven floor). Climbing the steep stairs of Matsumoto Castle is worth the trip because you get to see a magnificent view of the entire Matsumoto City.
MATSUMOTO CITY. View from the 6th floor.
Address: 4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto, Nagano
Operating hours: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Entrance fee: ¥610
Nawate Street is one of the attractions in Matsumoto neighborhood which represents the focal point of the city’s traditional culture and crafts. This alley is just minutes away from the Matsumoto Castle.
Street Food in Nawate Street
While walking in the street of Nawate, try some taiyaki, a fish-shaped pastry filled with red bean paste (¥230). You can also score some fresh fruits, traditional crafts, and pottery items here.
Nakamachi Street is the town center of Matsumoto City. Parallel to Nawate Street, it’s also just a few minutes walk from the castle. Some of the houses used to be a warehouse and were designed to be fireproof as seen on the black of white checker layer on the bottom half part of the buildings.
Matsumoto Catholic Church
If you are a Catholic and you see yourself in Matsumoto, stop by at Matsumoto Catholic Church located across Matsumoto Castle. Surprisingly, there’s a number of Filipinos who attend mass here becasue there are pamphlets written in Filipino language available inside. The church holds mass from 7:00 am to 10:00 am every Sunday.
GO! NAGANO (Nagano Prefecture Official Tourism Guide)
The Official Tourism Site of Matsumoto
This story first appeared in Philippine Primer magazine April 2017 issue.