Matsumoto Castle

A black, moated castle with a wooden keep that’s the oldest in japan

Matsumoto is home to one of Nagano’s most striking and historic sites, the famous Matsumoto Castle. This medieval fortress, a National Treasure, is one of Japan’s premier historic castles and should not be missed if you’re passing through the Nagano area.

Don’t Miss
One of the castle’s many seasonal events
The gorgeous reflection of the illuminated castle in the moat at night
See the Japanese carp (koi fish) that live in the castle’s moat

How to Get There
Matsumoto is easily accessible via JR lines from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, Nagoya, and Nagano City. From Shinjuku catch a Super Azusa train bound for Matsumoto. From Nagano City and Nagoya take the JR Shinano limited express train. There’s also convenient bus service from Takayama in neighboring Gifu Prefecture. The castle is a 15-minute walk north of Matsumoto Station. You can also get there in just five minutes via the colorful Town Sneaker bus.

Wander the grounds of a great castle
Matsumoto Castle is one of the grandest castles in Japan. Its five-tiered, six-story main tower, built in the late 16th century, is the oldest surviving castle tower in the nation. It’s famously photogenic, with a wide moat, vermillion bridges, and original stonework, backdropped by views of the Northern Alps.

Entering the grounds
Entry to the outer grounds is free. Here you can watch the swans swim around the castle moat and stand by the water’s edge to witness the carp team to the surface. Visit again in the evening when the castle is illuminated and join the locals soaking up the welcoming atmosphere while you check out the reflection of the castle in the water. By day, costumed ninja and samurai prowl the grounds, entertaining kids and posing for photographs with travelers from around the world.

Climb the tower for a taste of history
For a small fee, you can enter the castle’s inner grounds. Though the castle tower acted as a fort, the nobility also lived in a palace within its walls. This area is now a pleasant garden where you get an up-close view of the castle before going inside.

Look out for all the details
Ascending the steep staircases through Matsumoto Castle’s original wooden interior is a one-of-a-kind experience. Its openings for archers and displays of medieval weaponry and armor conjure images of the battles of old. The view from the top floor observation platform across the city to the Northern Alps is nothing short of superb.

Fun on the castle doorstep
Check to see if Matsumoto Castle is holding an event while you’re in town. Seasonal festivals on the grounds include Japanese taiko drumming in summer, a soba noodle event in the fall, and an ice-sculpture festival in the winter.

Springtime on the castle grounds
The hundreds of cherry trees in the area outside the castle moat burst into bloom in April. The grounds come alive with blossom viewing parties, especially stunning at night when the trees are illuminated.

More in Matsumoto
Within easy walking distance of the castle, you’ll find a host of pubs and restaurants on the quaint and quirky riverside Nawate pedestrian lane, nicknamed “Frog Street.” The atmospheric Nakamachi Street with its distinct historical architecture is also a must.

Matsumoto Castle is a must-visit destination for history and castle enthusiasts. With its stunning architecture, rich history, and beautiful surroundings, it offers a unique glimpse into Japan’s feudal past. Located in Matsumoto, Nagano, this medieval fortress is not only a magnificent example of Japanese castle architecture but also holds the title of being the oldest surviving castle tower in the country.

The castle, also known as Crow Castle due to its black exterior, is surrounded by a wide moat and features a wooden keep that dates back to the late 16th century. It is a National Treasure and a symbol of the city of Matsumoto. The castle’s imposing presence and its reflection in the moat make for a truly breathtaking sight, especially at night when the castle is illuminated.

To reach Matsumoto, you can take the JR lines from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, Nagoya, or Nagano City. From Shinjuku, you can catch a Super Azusa train bound for Matsumoto. If you are coming from Nagano City or Nagoya, the JR Shinano limited express train is the most convenient option. Additionally, there are bus services available from Takayama in neighboring Gifu Prefecture. Once you arrive in Matsumoto, the castle is just a 15-minute walk north of the station. Alternatively, you can take the Town Sneaker bus, which will get you there in just five minutes.

As you wander the grounds of Matsumoto Castle, you will be transported back in time to the era of samurais and feudal lords. The main tower, with its five tiers and six stories, offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, including the majestic Northern Alps. The castle’s original stonework, vermillion bridges, and wide moat add to its charm and historical significance.

Entry to the outer grounds of the castle is free, allowing visitors to enjoy the serene atmosphere and observe the swans and carp that inhabit the moat. In the evening, the castle is illuminated, creating a magical ambiance that attracts both locals and tourists. During the day, you may encounter costumed ninja and samurai who entertain visitors and provide photo opportunities.

For a small fee, you can enter the castle’s inner grounds and explore the palace where the nobility once resided. The well-preserved interior features steep staircases, openings for archers, and displays of medieval weaponry and armor. Climbing to the top floor observation platform rewards you with a breathtaking view of Matsumoto city and the Northern Alps.

Matsumoto Castle also hosts various events throughout the year. From Japanese taiko drumming in the summer to a soba noodle event in the fall and an ice-sculpture festival in the winter, there is always something happening on the castle grounds. Furthermore, during springtime, the hundreds of cherry trees surrounding the castle bloom, creating a stunning backdrop for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties.

In addition to the castle, Matsumoto offers other attractions within walking distance. Along the riverside Nawate pedestrian lane, known as “Frog Street,” you will find a charming mix of pubs and restaurants. The nearby Nakamachi Street showcases the city’s historical architecture, with its well-preserved traditional buildings and shops.

In conclusion, a visit to Matsumoto Castle is a journey through time and a chance to experience the rich history of Japan. From its impressive architecture to its beautiful surroundings, the castle is a testament to the country’s feudal past. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a castle lover, or simply looking to immerse yourself in the beauty of Japan, Matsumoto Castle is a must-see destination that will leave a lasting impression.

Address And Maps Location:

4-4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano-ken

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