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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.