What remains of Matsumoto Castle

Mike Grist Haikyo, Military Installations, Nagano 4 Comments

Matsumoto Castle in Nagano is one of the few remaining original castles in Japan. A fort was first built at the site in 1504, then in 1550 the Takeda clan under big boss Tokugawa Ieyasu built it up further, with the Norimasa clan taking over stewardship from 1590, extensively reinforcing and adding to the structure. That makes it around 500 years old, no doubt one of the oldest buildings in Japan. It’s a traditional wooden structure of several levels, with the pagoda-like structure common in traditional Japanese buildings. It is nick-named “Crow Castle” for it’s black walls and spreading wings.


I visited the castle around 4 months ago now, but never got round to posting about it. Su Young and I went on a hiking/camping trip up in Kita-kami- a 3-day trek into the mountains that unfortunately got fore-stalled at the first campground after a night spent freezing in the colder-than-expected mountain air. I don’t think I’ve ever been so uncomfortable in my life. We both put on all our clothes and got inside the same sleeping bag, with the other one around it, gloves and hats on, unable to move, and still cold to the bone.

I guess I don’t have winter gear. We should have expected such cold seeing as we were going in October, but it was still temperate in Tokyo.


After that miserable night we took one final hike a few hours up, then came down again and spent the night in a Toyoko Inn in Matsumoto. The next day we did a quick bit of sight-seeing before our shinkansen out, taking in the Matsumoto castle tour as well as Wasabi ice-cream, a local delicacy I hear, and posing variously with a statue of a boy playing a flute (as I do) and a girl playing a violin (as Su Young does).

With tree.

I didn’t eat any of the Wasabi ice cream- not really my thing. I had half vanilla, half chocolate.

Over the moat.

Under the trees.

Steep stairs inside.


View from the 3rd floor, over the gardens.


Over the city, to the mountains.

Attached to the castle was a history museum, which we wandered through for a while.



Samurai lacquered ceramic armour.

Hand rocket launcher. RPG.

Phalli, for a manhood festival.

The bigest one is missing. What a pity.




SY and I.


Location – Matsumoto, Nagano

Entry – A few hundred yen

Facts – 1504, 1550, 1590, traditional original wooden style.

Architect – Takeda, Norimasa.

Highlights – Being the oldest thing I’ve seen in Japan. Wasabi ice cream.


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Comments 4

  1. Did it never occur to the Japanese castle builders that wood burns?

    You’ve seen Ran, right- where the ageing warlord walks slowly out of his blazing keep? Amazing!

  2. What a beautiful castle! I myself thought what an amazing feat, being made of wood and all, that it has stood the test of time…

    Is that where they have those chin chin festivals?

    Whaaaat you didn’t try the wasabi ice? 🙁

  3. Post

    Tony- It is strange, isn’t it. Why not build in stone? I’m sure there’s a good reason, but I don’t know it. Ran- haven’t seen that, though of course have heard of it. I’ll put it on the list.

    Kelly- It was beautiful, I was surprised by how old it was actually. I’ve come to think there’s nothing that old in all of Japan. 500 years is not too shabby. Though I wonder- has it been demolished and re-built during that time? Maybe.
    Chin-chin (phallus) festivals, I guess they may have one here- I think they’re pretty prevalent all over the country though. Wasabi ice, ha! Maybe I tried a bit 😉

  4. Tony–Stone is used in the outside walls and foundations of nearly all Japanese castles to a certain extent. One of the reasons that it wasn’t important to have the keep built out of non-flammable materials is because if the invading force made it as far as the keep, the fall of the castle was pretty much inevitable anyway. In this case, the daimyo and his family would use the keep as place of refuge for committing sepuku.

    It’s been years since I’ve seen Ran, but if I recall correctly this is how it’s used in that film as well.

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