Stunning Contrast of White and Black! Be Impressed by the Charm of Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle, the symbol of Matsumoto, is a famous castle that was built about 400 years ago. It has been designated as a national treasure of Japan for being the oldest existing five-tiered, six-story tower in the country. Read on to find ways to have more fun exploring Matsumoto Castle!
What is Matsumoto Castle?
Matsumoto Castle, a flatland castle standing on the basin of flatlands, has a natural elevation of 590m. The large keep of this castle that has been designated as a national treasure of Japan was built in 1593-1594. Façade-wise, it may look like a five-tier tower that narrows toward the top, but inside, there is a floor on the third floor that is not visible from the outside, so it is actually a six-story structure.
From 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, the “Omotenashi Tai” (Hospitality Squad) wearing warrior and ninja costumes greet guests at the Honmaru Gardens. You can take photos with them!
※The schedule of events may change depending on the weather condition.
Admission fee to the Tenshu castle tower (inside Honmaru Gardens) ※Comes with free entrance to the Matsumoto City Museum: 610 JPY (adult), 300 JPY (elementary and middle school students), and free for children younger than elementary school students
First off, take in the beauty of the structures
Matsumoto Castle stands in the middle of the magnificent scenery that incorporates the Northern Alps. The castle keep has walls covered in white plaster and a lower structure that is blanketed by black lacquered clapboards. The contrast between the white and black creates exquisite beauty.
Matsumoto Castle has an interconnected cluster of keeps that is comprised of five structures: the great keep, the small Inui Keep, Watari Tower, Tatsumitsuke Tower and Tsukimi Tower. The surrounding moat and the city can be viewed at a 360-degree angle from the top of the castle keep, and on a clear day, the 3,000m-high mountain ranges of the Northern Alps may also come into view.
Keeps and towers from different eras are connected
At the time when the great keep, the smaller Inui Keep and the Watari Tower were built, the feudal lords from various regions were engaged in territorial disputes. In light of that, the towers were constructed for battle, equipped with 115 slots for launching arrows and guns. When the time for peace came 40 years later, in the early stages of the Edo period (1603 – 1867), the elegant Tatsumitsuke Tower and Tsukimi Tower were constructed with barely any defenses. One of the main characteristics of Matsumoto Castle is its being the only castle in Japan that has cluster of castle keeps that fuse keeps and towers from totally different eras.
With openings installed in three directions, Tsukimi Tower is a structure that is made using only pillars and mairado doors (thin wooden doors with crosspieces installed horizontally). On nights when the harvest moon is viewed, these mairado doors are removed to let people enjoy watching the moon from the tatami room. Further, the tower is surrounded by vermilion-colored lacquered cornices in three directions, so it is said to be a structure that will make you feel that it was built at a time of peace.
Kuromon (Black Gate) is the main gate that serves as an important entrance to the inner citadel of the castle. It is believed that the “kuro” (black) part of its name came from the color black that was the best color at that time as it suggested that it was a magnificent, formal gate leading to the castle. This gate is made up of the Ichi no Mon (Outer Gate) and Ni no Mon (Inner Gate), and these gates were restored in 1960 and 1989, respectively.
Ninomaru Goten Ruins
At the time when Honmaru Goten, which served as the residence of the lord of the castle and a government office, existed, the Ninomaru Goten functioned as sub-government office. After Honmaru Goten was burned down, all of its functions were transferred to Ninomaru Goten, turning it into the central mechanism of the government back then. It occupied an approximately 6,270-sq.m. of land and had around 50 rooms inside. Today, the ruins have been restored as a historic park that can be toured by the public.
Take a stroll around the castle town
Near Matsumoto Castle is a sprawling castle town that was systematically built with the castle at the center. It is filled with many areas that you will surely enjoy exploring, including Nakamachi Street that is lined with warehouses with white walls and black corrugated iron façade (outer walls made from brick and plaster), and Nawate Street that is packed with nearly 50 shops offering antique furniture and other items.
Isn’t Matsumoto Castle, a spot that boasts enormous popularity thanks to its great historic value and beauty, fascinating? Try to see for yourself why it’s so popular!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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