The last thing I did with my family was visit Matsumoto Castle in Nagano. It was really busy in the afternoon when we were there so I went back at night and again super early in the morning. If you don’t want to read the details on it here is the short. It is roughly 500 years old and really well preserved. It was also called “Crows Castle” because it was black, unlike most of the others. If you remember the castle I visited in July it was also black, and called Crows Castle. If you don’t, here is a reminder.
Anyways, after thinking this would be the last Japanese castle I ever saw I ended up back in Aizu last weekend looking at Tsurugajo Castle once more.
This of course sparked a castle kick and this past weekend I travelled to Osaka with Randy to check out two more castles there. They were both awesome and I will tell you about the trip next week.
Welcome to Matsumoto castle! It was built between 1504 and 1508 by Shimadachi Sadanaga of the Ogasawara clan. This was during the Sengoku or “warring states’ period and not surprisingly, the castle was taken in 1550 by the Takeda clan and and again sometime later by Tokugawa leyasu. This is more or less the state of the castle that remained until today. Here is some information I managed to find on it.
Matsumoto Castle, originally called Fukashi Castle, is unusual among Japanese fortresses in that it is built on flat land beside a swamp, rather than being on a mountain or between rivers. The lack of natural defenses meant that this castle had to be extremely well-constructed in order to protect the people living inside. (If you wait until the next two castle posts you will see more of this.)
Because of this weakness, the castle was surrounded by a triple moat and extraordinarily high, strong stone walls. The fortress included three different rings of fortifications; an outer earthen wall almost 2 miles around that was designed to deaden cannon fire, an inner ring of residences for the samurai, and then the main castle itself.
Interestingly enough, the Meiji Restoration of 1868 almost destroyed Matsumoto Castle. Why? Well I will tell you. The new imperial government was desperately short of cash, so it decided to tear down the former daimyos’ castles and sell off the lumber and fittings. Fortunately, a local preservationist called Ichikawa Ryozo saved the castle from the wreckers, and the local community purchased Matsumoto in 1878.
Sadly, the region did not have enough money to properly maintain the building. The main donjon began to tilt dangerously in the early twentieth century, so a local school master, Kobayashi Unari, raised funds to restore it. This would have been very awesome to see. It also looks really awesome at night.
I would say that the last interesting thing I found out about this castle was that it didn’t get burnt down, blown up or struck by lightning like all the rest. This is in spite of the fact that the castle was used as an aircraft factory by the Mitsubishi Corporation during World War II. Matsumoto was declared a national treasure in 1952.
Alright, here are the pictures. Enjoy!