You can’t leave Nagano without visiting Matsumoto Castle! This black and white, six-story castle is a magnificent site with the Japanese Alps in the background. Being one of the oldest castles in Japan–built in the 16th century–it has survived the Age of Warring States, Meiji Period (when castles were ordered to be destroyed), and time. Today, the wooden interiors of the keep are still preserved. Rightfully, the castle is a National Treasure of Japan and was designated as a historic site all the way back in 1930.

In contrast to the famous “White Heron Castle” (Himeji Castle), Matsumoto Castle earned the nickname “Crow Castle” for its black color. Certainly, the size and intimidating appearance project the power of the castle. It’s no wonder that the legendary Matsumoto Castle has survived this long.

Life inside the walls of Matsumoto Castle

You might think that the ruler lived in the Matsumoto Castle. However, they had their own residents in the courtyard. In fact, the castle was a mere symbol of strength. Only when attacked would the ruler move in to defend it from enemies. Some of the samurai houses, like the house of Takahashi, are on display from Taiko gate to Ninomaru Palace at Matsumoto Castle. In fact, you can still see many houses. For example, the home of the first mayor of Matsumoto City and the residence of Yasumasa Fukushima, a former general. They are a wonderful piece of history and fascinating window into the old samurai’s way of life.

How to explore Matsumoto Castle

Nagano, where Matsumoto Castle stands, is not far from Tokyo by using the Shinkansen. Of course, the historical site is worth a visit. In addition, you can enjoy an exploration of the well-preserved with the help of an English-speaking tour guide.

Hours: 8:30am – 5pm (last entry at 4:30pm)
Access: 10-min ride on the Matsumoto Tour Bus “Town Sneaker”