The Crow Castle in Matsumoto City

While I was staying in Nagano I decided to use my time there efficiently and get a lot of traveling in.  For my first weekend, I decided to go to Matsumoto Castle and Kamikochi with a friend.   Matsumoto Castle was our first stop and I was amazed at all the stuff I was able to see and do there.

The drive there from my town of Ina was a couple of hours but it had a fairly nice view… for the highway anyways.

After I parked my car in the parking lot,  it was just a 5 minute walk to the castle (by parking lot I mean convenience store), then I got my camera out of my bag, and after a short snack run I started to proceed to the castle.

After first arriving to the outer moat of the castle I was lucky enough to see some beautiful swans relaxing outside the walls of the castle.  Man, I forgot how big these guys were, they could take off someone’s head with one of their wings.


After entering the castle my ears picked up the sounds of traditional Japanese music and I quickly learned that there was a Noah play going on.

There were many people sitting down with their families and enjoying the music and dance preformances.  There was even TV crews filming the event.

Noh play

After sitting down for the event and snapping some photos and taking in the very Japanese atmosphere, I decided to move on and walk more around the castle.  During my walk I noticed some cosplayers who were dressed as a historic princesses and samurai.  I thought of how hard that job must be and what would make someone want to do it, so I decided to talk to the princess for a bit.

About midway in the conversation I was interrupted by my friend who finally arrived.  After a little bit more of talking, I parted with my new royal acquaintance and went with my friend Daniel and his friend to the castle.

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Me and Dan posing with one of the cosplayers  (Photo Credit to Daniel Bamford)

The castle

Because of the black exterior of Matsumoto Castle is often refereed to as the  “Crow Castle.”  In Japan there are only  a few castles that are black, for example  Kumamoto castle in Kyushu, which I will write about in a future post.  The black exterior and wooden keep helps to show the brilliance of Japanese architecture.  It is also one of the oldest castles in japan dating back to 1595.matsumoto 03

The grounds of Matsumoto castle are  surrounded by beauty as well.  The castle has a large lawn where events seem to be held quite regularly, and visited cute little animals and swans.  Because the castle grounds is so large, even though the temple is visited by many people almost every day, I never felt that crowded while I was there.

The moat surrounding the castle also has an beautiful traditional bridge which you can use to cross to enter the castle.  It also helps to create some beautiful photo opportunities.

matsumoto castle

Squinty eyes due to the sun haha (Photo Credit to Daniel Bamford)

Night Lights

During the night the castle has some lights put on it and it is illuminated in the dark sky, giving it this holy glow.  It is the only illuminated castle I have seen in Japan and is almost more beautiful than seeing it in the day.  There was also no one around when me and my friends were viewing it at night, and if your traveling with a special someone, it could work wonders as a fantastic date spot as well 😉



Final Thoughts

Matsumoto castle has to be my favorite castle aesthetically.  The dark strong colors illicit an image of power and emphasizes the structural designs of a feudal building.   The walk inside was kinda meh compared to other castles such as the one I saw in Tohoku, where you can walk around outside on the top, or Himeji castle which has an amazing view no matter where you look.

Many Japanese people say that Matsumoto castle is one of the top three castles in Japan and it is easy to see why.  Matsumoto castle is definitively one of my top 3 favorite castles in Japan and I highly recommend everyone coming to Japan to visit it and Zenkouji temple as well to make a great experience in your travels to Nagano!

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(Photo Credit to Daniel Bamford)