Matsumoto Castle (松本城 Matsumoto-jō) is located in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, and is one of the most famous Japanese flatland castles (平城 hirashiro). It is also called "Crow Castle" (烏城 Karasu-jō) due to the dark outer walls of its keep and the roofs that resembled spreading wings. It is one of the few original Japanese castles that survived.

Matsumoto Castle (松本城)

The castle was initially called Fukashi Castle and was constructed at the beginning of the Eishō Era (永正, 1504-1521), a period of constant civil war, by the Ogasawara Clan (小笠原氏) in Shinano, who moved from Igawa to the Hayashi district. The retainers of the Ogasawara settled and built the first fortifications around what was then called Hayashi Castle. New barricades were set up in front of Hayashi Castle, and Fukashi Castle, the antecedent of Matsumoto Castle, was established.

Matsumoto Castle (松本城)

In 1550, the Takeda Clan (武田氏) removed the Ogasawara and created a stronghold for the conquest of Shinano (信濃国 Shinano no kuni, along with Shinshū (信州) an old name for modern-day Nagano Prefecture). In 1582, Ogasawara Sadayoshi (小笠原貞慶, 1546-1595) recaptured Fukashi Castle during the infamous incident at Honnō-ji (本能寺の変 Honnō-ji no Hen), in which Oda Nobunaga, an enemy of the Takeda, was forced to commit suicide. Ogasawara Sadayoshi changed the name to Matsumoto Castle.

Matsumoto Castle (松本城)

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) defeated the Late Hōjō clan (後北条氏) in 1590 at Odawara Castle, he installed Ishikawa Kazumasa (石川数正, 1534–1609), a former senior retainer of Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康, 1543–1616) in Matsumoto. Kazumasa and his son Yasunaga reinforced the city. They built the three towers, Tenshu-kaku (天守閣, the six-storied donjon tower at 29.4 metres), Inui-kotenshu (乾小天守, drum gate), and Watari-yagura (渡櫓, roofed passage), Goten (御殿, residence), Taiko-mon (太鼓門, Drum Gate), Kuro-mon (黒門, Black Gate). They surrounded it with a moat (堀 Hori). Ishikawa Yasunaga reinforced the Honmaru (本丸; the inner bailey), Ni-no-maru (二の丸, the second bailey), and stationed troops in San-no-maru (三の丸, third enclosure). He also constructed the surrounding castle town and created the lower floors of Matsumoto Castle, much as they are today. It is estimated that the towers were built around 1593-94.

Matsumoto Castle (松本城)

The Tokugawa shogunate established the Matsumoto Domain (松本藩), which until the Meiji Restoration was ruled by twenty-three daimyō hailing from six different families (see below).

Matsumoto clans

The Matsumoto clans (late 16th to 19th century)


In the Meiji Era, many relics of the olden days, such as daimyō and samurai residences, were demolished to make room for modern Japan. In 1872, the site of Matsumoto Castle was auctioned off, and the donjon tower was earmarked for demolition. Concerned residents, under the leadership of Ichikawa Ryōzō and Kobayashi Unari, the principal of the local junior high school, collected sufficient funds to acquire and preserve the tower.

Matsumoto Castle (松本城)

The renovation and maintenance of the whole castle required enormous financial means. In 1901, they established an organisation to preserve the castle. The first full renovation took ten years and was completed in 1913; the second lasted from 1950 to 1955. In 1952 the keep, inui-kotenshu (small northern tower), the watari-yagura (roofed passage), the Tatsumi-tsuke-yagura (southern wing), and the tsukimi-yagura (moon-viewing room) were designated as national treasures. In 1990, the kuromon-ninomon (second gate of the Black Gate) and sodebei (sidewall) were reconstructed. The square taiko-mon was rebuilt in 1999.

Matsumoto Castle (松本城)


The tenshu, or keep, holds an armoury and weapons museum with a collection of guns and harquebuses. Although it appears from the outside that the keep has only five stories, it has six. The first floor is not visible from the outside and was considered the safest location in wartime. This floor is dark, as only very little sunlight penetrates the kizure-goshi (wooden grills). The towers also feature ishi-otoshi (stone drops) on the first floor, from which stones and other objects were dropped onto enemies attempting to climb the walls, as well as twenty-five yazama (arrow loops) and teppo-zama (gun loops).

Visiting hours and admission: daily 08:30 to 17:00 (last entry 16:30); closed from 29 December to 3 January.
Admission: 600 JPY, 300 JPY for elementary and junior high school students. Double tickets for the castle and the Matsumoto Municipal Museum and group discounts are available.
Address: 4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0873, Japan; Phone: 0263-32-2902, Fax: 0263-32-2904.


  • Like
Reactions: Hiroto Uehara