https://flic.kr/p/2f9YtEe It’s Japan’s oldest castle! Matsumoto Castle is one of the five castles designated as National Treasures of Japan. It’s over 400 years old, making it the oldest castle donjon remaining in the country. Unlike many palaces in Japan, its original structure was, fortunately, not bombed during WWII. That’s why it was able to keep most of its original wooden donjons and walls intact. It is nicknamed as the “crow castle” for its contrasting color of black and white. It’s currently my favorite castle in Japan because I find it exceedingly rare to find a Japanese castle so well preserved in its original state. It’s my second time visiting the famed attraction and here are some tips that I wished I knew on my first visit…
https://flic.kr/p/Rr45Rx How To Get There (From Tokyo to Matsumoto City):
Via express bus terminal Busta Shinjuku (3.20 hours, Y2500-5000 yen one way). A reservation is needed in advance, but you can purchase a ticket at a convenience store. You’ll arrive at Central Matsumoto that can be explored on foot. The castle is about a 15-minute walk from Matsumoto Station. 1. Free Tour Guides! (English, Spanish, etc.) https://flic.kr/p/2e6vn6L Did you know that you can hire an English Tour guide volunteer for free to take you on a historic tour of the castle? Yup! It’s Japanese custom not to accept tips! But we bring “pasalubong” items like dried mangoes as thank you instead! 🙂 The guides have a booth that operates daily from 10:00-15:00 near the entrance of the castle grounds. 2. Staff in Costumes! https://flic.kr/p/T1Mu3U There are cool staff roaming around the castle wearing samurai, ninja and kimono outfits with whom you can take a picture for free! Sugoi (Cool)! 3. History: Museum filled with artefacts! https://flic.kr/p/XEuMp3 You can also visit the Matsumoto City Museum which sits in the castle grounds and offers you an overview of the history of the city. Look, it still has its original wooden frames and flooring! https://flic.kr/p/WZNsPu
There is also a great gallery here which has a collection of historical materials and weaponry, including samurai armors and muskets.
Tip: The stairs can be really steep going to the higher level floors, but the ground floor is senior-friendly. 4. Matsumoto Castle (Nearby Attractions) https://flic.kr/p/Y4ajT8 Visit the Matsumoto Castle Town. Just walking distance away from the castle are many old buildings and rows of houses, which are still intact, reminiscent of old Japan. https://flic.kr/p/X35xaD You’ll recognize Nawate Street with its row of brown houses. It was once the border between the samurai and commoner residences. Today, the streets will take you back to the lively Edo-period shopping streets where you can find countless food vendors and quirky souvenir shops. https://flic.kr/p/2dMSa84 Nakamachi Street, on the other hand, is distinct for its white and black earthen-walled store houses that have been refurbished as modern cafes, izakayas (pubs) and shops. 5. Picture Perfect! https://flic.kr/p/RqnXMa Matsumoto Castle has a fantastic panoramic view of the snowy peaks of the Japan Alps that can be enjoyed during all four seasons, but the best time to visit is when the cherry blossoms bloom. https://flic.kr/p/2dMRUpr There’s just so much picture perfect angles of the castle that you need time to walk around and find that perfect spot!
Where to Rent a Kimono, Samurai and Ninja Costumes: https://flic.kr/p/2fcoCkF If you want to know where we got our kimono, we rented our costume at HANAKOMICHI shop that’s conveniently located two minutes away by foot from the castle and found on the second floor. Even the whole process of getting dressed was fun! we got to choose our favorite kimono pattern and accessories. Dressing up on Japanese costumes made me feel like we were transported back to old Japan. The best part were the smiles we received from everyone. https://flic.kr/p/24zTgVn We Paid: 2 Hours Kimono- Y4000 Hair with Accessories – Y1500 (They don’t offer make-up services.) Matsumoto so far is my favorite castle here in Japan! It’s a definite must see if you are traveling around Japan for culture or history! Where’s your favorite?
Live an Awesome Life, ABI of Team Our Awesome Planet Disclosure: We were media guests of the Nagano Tourism. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions and insights.