Matsumoto, in Nagano Prefecture, was the first stop in our 10 day trip to Central Japan. Our flight landed at Nagoya’s Centrair Airport at 8.45am. Since it was way too early for hotel check-in times at this hour, we planned not to stay in Nagoya and drove northwards instead to Matsumoto upon collecting our rental car from ToCoo rent-a-car.
The 210 km journey took about 4 hours at a leisurely pace with a rest stop for lunch.
We arrived at Matsumoto quite late on a wintry afternoon. It was beginning to get dark. After settling in at the Matsumoto Dormy Inn Hotel we decided to take a short 10 min walk to the castle grounds in the evening.
I’ve visited many castles in Japan but the towering Matsumoto Castle is still a sight to behold. Its grandeur and poise was accentuated with beams of carefully planned illumination lighting up the huge castle. It was a pleasant place to spend the cool evening strolling around the large castle grounds.
Matsumoto Castle is one of the most beautiful and oldest among Japan’s historic castles. Unlike most castles it is built on level ground rather than on a hill or mountain. The 6 storey high main keep, which was completed in the late sixteenth century, maintains its original wooden interiors and external stonework. It is listed as a National Treasure of Japan.
We visited the castle again the next morning. It was teeming with tourists scaling the 6 storey structure. It wasn’t easy navigating the narrow alleyways and steep wooden stairs. Can’t imagine how the Samurais in those times scurry around with weapons and full battle armor. Along the passages on the outer rim are openings to drop stones onto invaders and small rectangular openings for archers.
The second floor of the main keep houses a gun museum with a collection of muskets, pistols, armor, and other weapons. Firearms were first adopted in warfare in the mid-to-late 16th century, and played a significant role during that period of conflict in which the entire nation was consumed in a civil war, as feudal lords competed for the position of Shogun (a political and military leadership position sanctioned by the emperor).
At the top, on the sixth floor of the main keep is an observation deck which used to be the Shogun’s abode. It commands a strategic view of the city on all sides.
Admission: ¥610 for adults; ¥300 for students
Opening Hours: 8:30am – 5pm (doors close 4:30pm)
Read about our other driving holidays in Japan: