Matsumoto Castle is an old Japanese castle also called The Castle of the Crow because of its black walls and lateral towers resembling the outstretched wings of a bird. Tourists are attracted here by the unusual architecture of the building in harmony with the beauty of the surrounding nature. The castle is located in the town of Matsumoto, near Tokyo.
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Matsumoto is a carefully fortified fortress surrounded by a triple moat and high stone walls. The outer walls of the fortress cover three kilometers-the distance of a cannon shot at the time. In the stone building of the inner ring lived the samurai, its owner.
The castle has very low ceilings and an ancient staircase leading to halls that display armor and weapons from the Sengoku (warring states) period when Matsumoto was built.
The narrow wooden windows, once used by lancers, provide an amazing view of the Japanese mountains, the town of Matsumoto, and the snow-white swans circling in the moat that encircles the castle.
Around Matsumoto is a huge park of chrysanthemums, these flowers are very popular in Japan, where they originated.
Matsumoto Castle was built in 1504 by the Ogasawara clan. These were the times of numerous fights in Japan. In the middle of the 16th century, Matsumoto Castle was taken over by the Takeda clan and later by Tokugawa Ieyasu of the Shogun clan.
After the unification of Japan, Matsumoto passed to the Ishikawa clan, whose family began construction of the current structure in 1580. The towers and the central building were built in 1593 and 1594. Although the wooden fortifications were almost completely destroyed in a fire in the late 19th century, the building underwent extensive repairs, which began in 1969. By 2007, the extensive renovations were completed, just in time for its 400th anniversary.
In the early 1950s the castle was declared a national treasure and opened to the public.
What to see
The most interesting part is the main donjon. From the outside it seems that the castle has five floors, but in fact the sixth floor is hidden behind the defensive fortification. The castle has a unique architecture for Japan – in addition to the covered passage between the main tower, there are two smaller secret passages linking the towers. Ten round wooden columns carved with an axe support the structure. If you look closely, you will notice that the walls are slightly curved – they were deformed due to earthquakes.
The staircases inside Matsumoto Castle are low-ceilinged (samurai tended to be shorter than modern Europeans), narrow, very steep (up to 60 degrees inclined) and unconnected, making it difficult to move quickly during an attack.
Matsumoto houses a collection of firearms and swords. The museum’s dark interior is illuminated by a stream of light through the bars on the window, creating beautiful patterns on the floor. This is in stark contrast to the third floor, which is so called “dark” because there are no windows. It is a hidden floor, invisible from the outside, which was used to store food and ammunition.
On the top floor of the castle is the samurai hall, from where they coordinated defenses and pondered tactics. Windows on all sides provide all-around surveillance.
An interesting attraction of Matsumoto Castle is the observation wing on the main tower, which offers a panoramic view of the surroundings. The beautiful red balcony was not intended for defense, but for entertainment and recreation. It was built in 1630, when Japan was at peace. But to get there, you will have to climb steep steps, designed not to make climbing easier, but as another obstacle.
Before you leave, you can take a walk around the moat, where, in addition to huge colored carp, white and black swans swim.
The largest number of visitors to Matsumoto Castle can be found in April. It is in this spring month the cherry blossoms begin to bloom. In addition, a whole park in which the fragrance of colorful chrysanthemums. For those who are not familiar with floristics, chrysanthemums were bred in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Matsumoto Castle, which stands in a swampy area and is constantly exposed to the test of natural disasters, becomes the site of a festival called “Moon Festival” in the fall. At this time of year, travelers can climb the tower, built in 1635, designed to observe the moon. From the windows of this structure, which is part of the Matsumoto castle complex, you can see the satellite of our planet very well. Tourists can observe the moon in silence and calmness, slowly drinking sake and thinking about eternity.
To get to one of the main attractions of Japan, you can take a train from the capital of the country in just three hours. From the comfortable train station you can walk to Matsumoto Castle in 15 minutes. It is open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm for visitors. Weekend at the castle are considered days from December 29 and January 3. As early as January 4, travelers can purchase a ticket that entitles them to visit the Matsumoto Castle. The cost of the ticket for an adult is 600 yen. Children can visit the ancient fortification structure, where a real samurai lived in the 15th century, for 300 yen.
Matsumoto Castle is one of the most unusual castles in Japan, located on the island of Honshu.
The most interesting is that it was known by another name – Fukami, which translates as “Castle of the Crow. The Japanese called it the Castle of the Raven, most likely because of the color scheme of the walls.
There is a stereotype that all the most beautiful and picturesque castles are located in Europe. But this is far from it. In Japan, a lot of magnificent buildings, which lived in the famous rulers. Typically, palaces and castles also served a protective function during wars.
Japan is an amazing country. Being in complete isolation from the outside world, Japanese craftsmen created truly works of art. These include castles, temples, and other structures of the time. Japan is known for its skyscrapers and industrial enterprises, but the real love of tourists the country has got exactly because of the abundance of ancient monuments, scattered throughout the territory.
In 2004, Japan celebrated the 500th anniversary of Raven Castle.
This is a unique place that is timeless. Looking at it, you would not even think that the castle is so old. Because of its uniqueness, Matsumoto is listed as a national landmark in Japan. All the famous architects and designers recognized the castle the most interesting, most beautiful place in the country. Every tourist coming here fully confirms the words spoken by experts. Tours of Matsumoto Castle cause a storm of emotions, plunging each guest into its history.
History of Matsumoto Castle
According to researchers, the first fortified building was built in 1504 by a samurai of the Ogasawara clan. Before him, all the buildings on the castle grounds were built mostly of different types of wood. This was due to the fact that all Japanese clans defended their power with the sword. Any tactician who saw a castle unprotected by anything could say with confidence that it would be very easy to take it. A single cannonball would be enough to burn the structure to the ground.
These were the thoughts of the Ishikawa clan samurai who received the Black Raven after the reunification of Japan. The head of the clan was ordered to build one large watchtower in the center instead of several smaller ones. The construction lasted exactly one year. In the end, a well-fortified citadel was erected. At a distance of three kilometers from the castle the castle walls were erected. It was at a maximum of three kilometers that enemies could launch a cannonball. The Ishikawa clan thus secured their castle. Even if enemy warriors penetrated the territory, they had very little time to live because the castle was surrounded by a large swamp.
The citadel had six tiered floors, one of which nowadays is invisible to a tourist, as it is hidden behind the protective fortification. Since the castle was built on the marshy surface, it was kept “afloat” by ten wooden poles carved by ancient craftsmen.
In 1614, another well-fortified tower was built on the Matsumoto property. In 1635, Japan finally comes a time of peace. And in the castle is erected last citadel. Tourists see it immediately, as it does not have any fortifications. According to data, it was built so that the ruler could admire the celestial luminaries.
The castle was built in 1504 for over a hundred years. Despite its 500-year age, it has been perfectly preserved. And it is not because it was not attacked. On the contrary, in the 19th century the bloodiest wars took place here, and the castle was often in the crosshairs of the enemies. Throughout its rich history, Matsumoto has changed name and owners several times.
The endless earthquakes inherent in Honshu have also left their mark. Because of these, the interior rooms have a certain curvature.
After World War II, Matsumoto Castle opens to tourists. And in general, the whole country has attracted the attention of vacationers. This was due to complete isolation. The Japanese emperor did not want to have any contact with European nations, except Germany (in fact, he despised her, too). In his opinion, the European nations did not have a drop of all the bravery and valor of the Japanese warriors. Matsumoto Castle has become the embodiment of all the best qualities of the Japanese people.
In 1969 a complete restoration of the castle, which was completed only in 2007, takes place.
When you come to Matsumoto, the first thing you should do is visit the central tower where the museum is located. Here you will see a variety of ancient swords and other weapons from different eras. The architects preserved natural light in this room, so you can explore the museum only during daylight hours. Also very uncomfortable stairs in the citadel will impress you. It is extremely uncomfortable to climb them, also because the ceilings are low. This suggests a clear strategic move: if the enemies laid siege to the castle, it would be impossible to quickly reach the upper floors.
The topmost floor is called the “Hall of the Samurai”. It was from here that all the samurai gave commands to their warriors, and they themselves rushed into battle.
The largest influx of tourists is in April, when the cherry blossoms start to bloom. It is during this time, in addition to viewing the castle, you can walk around the picturesque garden with chrysanthemums. In autumn, Matsumoto is the site of the Moon Festival. At this time, you are allowed to climb the tower, which is not fortified, and look at the moon. The magnificent spectacle, coupled with the silence, makes you feel the mystery of Japanese culture and think about the eternal.