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Built in 1500s, Matsumoto Castle is the oldest existing castle in Japan

David Goran

Matsumoto Castle is one of the most complete and beautiful of Japan’s premier historic castles. The building is also known as the “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior.

It is one of four castles designated as National Treasures of Japan, and the oldest castle donjon remaining in Japan.

The Matsumoto Castle. Photo Credit

The Matsumoto Castle. Photo Credit

 

 

Matsumoto Castle's origins go back to the Sengoku period. Photo Credit

Matsumoto Castle’s origins go back to the Sengoku period. Photo Credit

 

It is located in the city of Matsumoto, in Nagano Prefecture, and is within easy reach of Tokyo by road or rail. The castle’s origins go back to the Sengoku period, and construction began in 1592 of the elegant black and white structure with its three turrets.

Before that, the castle was called Fukashi Castle when Schimadachi Sadanaga of the Ogasawara clan built a fort on this site in 1504.

The keep is listed as a National Treasure of Japan. Photo Credit

The keep is listed as a National Treasure of Japan. Photo Credit

 

 

It is a Hirajiro - a castle built on plains rather than on a hill or mountain. Photo Credit

It is a Hirajiro – a castle built on plains rather than on a hill or mountain. Photo Credit

 

The castle has three towers; the keep, the small tower in the northwest and the Watari Tower. The most interesting of the towers is the keep, which was completed in the late 16th century, and which maintains its original wooden interiors and external stonework.

 

The narrow wooden windows, once used by archers and gunmen, provide amaizing views of the Japanese Alps and Matsumoto City. Photo Credit

The narrow wooden windows, once used by archers and gunmen, provide amazing views of the Japanese Alps and Matsumoto City. Photo Credit

In 1868, after the Meiji Restoration, the site, along with many former daimyos’ castles, was sold at auction for redevelopment. The new Japanese government was so pressed for cash that it decided to demolish the castle, and sell the timber and the iron as scrap.

However, an influential figure from Matsumoto, Ichikawa Ryozo, along with residents from Matsumoto, started campaign to save the building. After their efforts, the tower was acquired by the city government.

 

The second floor of the main keep features a gun museum. Photo Credit

The second floor of the main keep features a gun museum. Photo Credit

The keep, the roofed passage, the southern wing, and the moon-viewing room were designated as national treasures in 1952. The second floor of the main keep features a gun museum, Teppo Gura, with a collection of guns, armor, and other weapons.

 

There is a moat around the keep, surrounded by Matsumoto Castle Park. Photo Credit

There is a moat around the keep, surrounded by Matsumoto Castle Park. Photo Credit

The castle is popular for its cherry blossom spot. There are hundred of cherry trees that provide lovely views when they are in full bloom around mid-April each year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPl7xeRlwpE