Matsumoto Castle   松本城

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Matsumoto Castle, the Crow Castle

Matsumoto castle is nicknamed Karasu-jo, the "crow castle", because of its dark allure...

The "Crow", or Matsumoto Castle,  is unique both for its black color, as for its architecture: it is the only one to have preserved a stone tower on the outside, wood inside and an assistant tour its main entrance. Each of its six floors served a specific function:  military meetings, the temporary residence of the shogun, storage and strategic point for monitoring of the surroundings.

It is for these reasons that several elements have been designated "National Treasure of Japan." For not only does Matsumoto Castle provides a superb example of military architecture of the end of the era of civil wars, but peace that followed helped preserve the castle, and it even escaped fire and natural disasters. Auctioned off in 1872, Matsumoto Castle was nearly dismantled, but was bought by the city authorities, who took great care.

To observe the moon

Matsumoto Castle is a part of hirajiro, these castles that have the distinction of being built on flat land, rather than in the middle of an advantageous relief in case of conflict.

Its construction began in 1592 and lasted almost 20 years, because of the fortifications that had to be done, essential during a period of unrest during which no lasting peace was guaranteed. The castle was administered by a community of feudal lords, known as daimyo.

It seems that the construction of the castle was built with its natural surroundings in mind, as t sixth floor boasts an observation plane (the six-story castle are scarce, reinforcing the idea that the Matsumoto Castle has been imagined as a place of observation) that offers a splendid view of the Japanese Alps.

It is said that from its turret, one can see the moon three times: once in the air, once in the reflection of water and once in a glass of sake.

Celebration and contemplation

It is perhaps thanks to this peaceful environment that the castle was never attacked, although ironically, it houses within it a museum of firearms. The collection was bequeathed in 1991 by Michishige Akahane, a local resident who had spent his life funding the region.

In Spring, this peaceful environment and setting is the perfect place to watch the cherry blossoms. The surroundings of the castle are in fact more of a place of celebration than commemoration: taiko Festival, Noh performances, and the moon observation evening are all events that take place opposite the castle, making Matsumoto Castle an essential rendezvous place in all seasons.

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