Matsumoto Castle also known as ‘Karasu-jo’ or ‘Crow Castle’ is one of the five original standing castles in Japan with a well-preserved interior. The castle was built between 1592-1614 and its distinctive features are its location and unique structure uniting a few buildings under one roof. It is very popular with tourists though it sometimes feels as if its interior and distinctive features aren't quite interesting enough.
I visited Karasu-jo in late March on a rather cold day. At the entrance all visitors had to remove their shoes and I must admit that the wooden floor was very cold to walk on; however, the interior of the castle was extremely impressive! I felt as if I had stepped back into the past to see that the castle was not a palace, but a proper military fortress with no decorations. Its wooden interior had darkened over time and was severe and functional – nothing more than massive wooden supporting beams and a wooden floor. Wooden stairs between floors were steep and so narrow that two people couldn’t pass in and had to wait their turn but people laughed and joked about that! Through narrow slits in the walls the castle's surroundings right up to the Hida mountain range could be seen. Unlike other hilltop castles, Matsumoto Castle stands on a spacious plain with excellent views.
Matsumoto Castle’s is not a museum like many of Japan's reconstructed castles. It does, however, have a small display of samurai armour and on that cold day in March I imagined those times and the harsh lives of a samurai warrior…
Matsumoto Castle is a 10-15 min walk from JR Matsumoto Station.
Find out more about Matsumoto Castle.