Of all Japan’s castles, the Matsumoto Castle is one of the most accomplished and attractive. It was built on the plains/flatlands instead of on a hill or mountain.

The main part of the structure was constructed between 1592 to 1614 and was well fortified for both defensive and offensive military strategies. Additional turrets were constructed in 1635 for moon viewing and not so much for keeping out invaders. However, the lack of windows did provide better protection against attackers. The openings were made to accommodate gun barrels and other openings, ishitosohi, were used to drop large stones onto invaders found climbing the stone walls. There are openings for archers and the sixth floor provided an observation point for defenders and now tourists visiting the Matsumoto Castle.


During a tour of the interior, you may appreciate the wooden interior and extremely steep stairs. Hold onto the handrails! The 4th-floor staircase is the steepest in Japan at an angle of 61 degrees. For a practical comparison, a ladder is generally set at 75 degrees.

The first floor was used for food, weapons, and ammunition. On the third floor, military planning occurred and meetings were held. The fourth floor housed the lords and the fifth was for meetings of the top brass of the feudal lords. If you look at the castle from the outside, you would not think that it has six stories.  The sixth floor is hidden and functions as an observation tower.

Should you visit during the spring, you will get to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom around the castle. The outer castle moat is home to hundreds of cherry trees that provide a stunning view around mid-April each year.

The Matsumoto Castle in Japan


You cannot forget to visit the Matsumoto City Museum located inside the park. You will get free admission with your castle ticket. This museum has a lot of information about the castle and its history, including an exhibit of the armor and weapons that were used at the time.

You cannot forget to visit the Matsumoto City Museum.

Fun Facts

  • It has been designated as a “National Treasure of Japan”. There are only five castles on that list and this one is the oldest and most popular.
  • The Matsumoto Castle has also been called the Crow Castle or Castle of the Crow because of its dark color and shape. It is the second-largest castle in Japan.
  • The castle has been ruled by 23 feudal lords, all from different families.
  • After the Meiji Restoration, in 1868, this site was sold at auction. The government was in such bad financial straits that they planned to scrap the castle and sell the timber and iron. However, a fundraising campaign was started in the area to save the building. The castle was acquired by the city government with the gathered funds and thus saved from destruction.
  • During World War II, the fortress was used as an aircraft manufacturer for the Mitsubishi Corporation and, thankfully, escaped the Allied bombings.
  • During cherry blossom season there are over a hundred cherry trees that burst into pink and white blooms.
Matsumoto free downloadable guide

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Kristal Ham

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