Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle

Ask a question about 'Matsumoto Castle'
Start a new discussion about 'Matsumoto Castle'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
, also known as the because of its black exterior, is one of Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

's premier historic castles
Japanese castle
' were fortresses composed primarily of wood and stone. They evolved from the wooden stockades of earlier centuries, and came into their best-known form in the 16th century...

. It is located in the city of Matsumoto
Matsumoto, Nagano
is a city located in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Matsumoto is designated as a Special City.-Outline:The new city of Matsumoto is the city comprising the mergers of the old city of Matsumoto and four villages. Matsumoto officially absorbed those villages without creating a new municipal...

, in Nagano Prefecture
Nagano Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located in the Chūbu region of the island of Honshū. The capital is the city of Nagano.- History :Nagano was formerly known as the province of Shinano...

 and is within easy reach of Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

 by road or rail.

The keep (tenshukaku), which was completed in the late 16th century, maintains its original wooden interiors and external stonework. It is listed as a National Treasure of Japan
National treasures of Japan
National Treasures are the most precious of Japan's Tangible Cultural Properties, as determined and designated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs...


Matsumoto Castle is a flatland castle (hirajiro) because it is not built on a hilltop or amid rivers, but on a plain. Its complete defences would have included an extensive system of inter-connecting wall
Defensive wall
A defensive wall is a fortification used to protect a city or settlement from potential aggressors. In ancient to modern times, they were used to enclose settlements...

s, moat
A moat is a deep, broad ditch, either dry or filled with water, that surrounds a castle, other building or town, historically to provide it with a preliminary line of defence. In some places moats evolved into more extensive water defences, including natural or artificial lakes, dams and sluices...

s and gatehouse
A gatehouse, in architectural terminology, is a building enclosing or accompanying a gateway for a castle, manor house, fort, town or similar buildings of importance.-History:...



In 1872, following the Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

, the site, like many former daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

s' castles, was sold at auction
An auction is a process of buying and selling goods or services by offering them up for bid, taking bids, and then selling the item to the highest bidder...

 for redevelopment. However, when news broke that the keep was going to be demolished, an influential figure from Matsumoto, Ichikawa Ryōzō, along with residents from Matsumoto started a campaign to save the building. Their efforts were rewarded when the tower was acquired by the city government.

In the late Meiji period the keep started to lean to one side. An old picture (shown below) clearly shows how the keep looked like then. It was because of neglect coupled with a structural defect, but a lot of people believed the story of Tada Kasuke
Tada Kasuke
was a Japanese farmer who led a failed appeal for lowered taxes in Azumidaira, a part of the Matsumoto Domain under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate. He was caught and executed along with twenty-seven farmers without trial...

's curse.

A local high school principal, Kobayashi Unari, decided to renovate the castle and appealed for funds. The castle underwent "the great Meiji renovation" between 1903-1913. It underwent another renovation "the great Shōwa renovation" in the period 1950-1955.

In 1990, the Kuromon-Ninomon (second gate of the Black Gate) and sodebei (side wall) were reconstructed. The square drum gate was reconstructed in 1999.

Matsumoto Castle was damaged in a 5.4 magnitude earthquake on June 30, 2011. The quake caused around 10 cracks in the inner wall of the main tower.

There is a plan for restoring the soto-bori(outer moat) which was reclaimed for a residential zone.


The castle's origins go back to the Sengoku period
Sengoku period
The or Warring States period in Japanese history was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict that lasted roughly from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The name "Sengoku" was adopted by Japanese historians in reference...

. At that time Shimadachi Sadanaga of the Ogasawara clan
Ogasawara clan
The was a Japanese samurai clan descended from the Seiwa Genji. The Ogasawara acted as shugo of Shinano province in the medieval period The was a Japanese samurai clan descended from the Seiwa Genji. The Ogasawara acted as shugo (governors) of Shinano province in the medieval period The was a...

 built a fort
Fortifications are military constructions and buildings designed for defence in warfare and military bases. Humans have constructed defensive works for many thousands of years, in a variety of increasingly complex designs...

 on this site in 1504 which was originally called Fukashi Castle. In 1550 it came under the rule of the Takeda clan and then Tokugawa Ieyasu
Tokugawa Ieyasu
 was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan , which ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara  in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Ieyasu seized power in 1600, received appointment as shogun in 1603, abdicated from office in 1605, but...


When Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi
was a daimyo warrior, general and politician of the Sengoku period. He unified the political factions of Japan. He succeeded his former liege lord, Oda Nobunaga, and brought an end to the Sengoku period. The period of his rule is often called the Momoyama period, named after Hideyoshi's castle...

 transferred Ieyasu to the Kantō region
Kanto region
The is a geographical area of Honshu, the largest island of Japan. The region includes the Greater Tokyo Area and encompasses seven prefectures: Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa. Within its boundaries, slightly more than 40 percent of the land area is the Kantō Plain....

, he placed Ishikawa Norimasa
Ishikawa clan
The ' was a Japanese family which claimed descent from Minamoto no Yoshiie. They took their name from the Ishikawa district of Kawachi Province. In the Sengoku Period, the family had two major branches; one of them, which had settled in Mikawa Province in the 15th century, was a family of retainers...

 in charge of Matsumoto. Norimasa and his son Yasunaga built the tower and other parts of the castle, including the three towers: the keep and the small tower in the northwest, both begun in 1590, and the Watari Tower; the residence; the drum gate; the black gate, the Tsukimi Yagura, the moat, the innermost bailey, the second bailey, the third bailey, and the sub-floors in the castle, much as they are today. They were also instrumental in laying out the castle town and its infrastructure. It is believed much of the castle was completed by 1593–94.

During the Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

, the Tokugawa shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

 established the Matsumoto Domain
Matsumoto Domain
The ' was a Japanese feudal domain in Shinano Province . Home to a major strategic center in the form of Matsumoto Castle, it was ruled by various families during the course of its history, the Hotta among them.-List of Daimyo:...

, of which the Matsudaira
Matsudaira clan
The was a Japanese samurai clan that claimed descent from the Minamoto clan. It first originated in and took its name from Matsudaira village, in Mikawa Province . Over the course of its history, the clan produced many branches, most of which also centered around Mikawa Province...

, Mizuno
Mizuno clan
The was a Japanese clan which claimed descent from the Seiwa Genji branch of the Minamoto clan. In the Edo period, the Mizuno clan produced many men who were fudai daimyo serving the Tokugawa shogun, as well as countless families of hatamoto...

 and others were the daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...


For the next 280 years until the abolition of the feudal system in the Meiji Restoration, the castle was ruled by the 23 lords of Matsumoto representing six different daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

 families. In this period the stronghold was also known as because its black walls and roofs looked like spreading wings.

In 1952 the keep, Inui-ko-tenshu (small northern tower), Watari-yagura (roofed passage), Tatsumi-tsuke-yagura (southern wing), and Tsukimi-yagura (moon-viewing room) were designated as national treasures.

The second floor of the main keep features a gun museum, Teppo Gura, with a collection of guns, armor and other weapons.


(In Japanese)
  • Nakagawa, Haruo (2005). Zusetsu Kokuhō Matsumoto-Jō (National Treasure, Matsumoto Castle Illustrated).Issōsha Publishing

External links