Matsumoto Castle, located in Nagano, is famous for being the oldest surviving 5-tiered 6-story castle tower in Japan.* While there are castles with towers all over Japan, only 12 are genuine relics from the Sengoku and Edo periods, while only five are designated ‘national treasures.’ One of these is Matsumoto Castle.
The jet-black Matsumoto castle is given extra life from its awe-inspiring Northern Alps background. Each season ushers in a fresh new look to the castle and its surroundings, making it a different experience each time. While being an important relic and educational tool, it is also a relaxing and beautiful place that is best enjoyed slowly!
*Five tiers can be observed from the outside, while inside there are actually six levels.
main image: Courtesy of Matsumoto Castle Administration Office

The Castle’s Grand Scenery and Jet-black Beauty

Photo: Matsumoto Castle Administration Office

Matsumoto is a quiet, simple town mostly famous for its central titular castle, which is about a 20-minute walk from JR Matsumoto Station. Even among the 12 authentic castle towers in Japan today, Matsumoto, built on perfectly flat plains and surrounded by three moats, stands out. When Japan’s Top 100 castles were decided in 2006, it was a natural addition.

Photo: Matsumoto Castle Administration Office

What first catches the eye is the outer walls, which are painted a stark jet-black. These walls are retouched every year to preserve its beauty.

Photo: Matsumoto Castle Administration Office

The walls are also coated with white plaster, spawning a unique contrast that is perfectly reflected in the moat’s water on the side facing the Northern Alps. If you’re after some photos with the alps as a backdrop, we recommend shooting from the south side of the castle.

Getting the Ultimate Photos of Matsumoto Castle for Your Social Media!

One place to truly highlight the beauty of Matsumoto Castle is Uzumi Bridge, which can be found on the west side of the castle. A photo of the stark black castle contrasted against the bright red of the bridge will be a guaranteed hit! If you’re lucky, you may even be photobombed by some beautiful local swans! Just be aware you can’t actually cross the bridge at this time.

Every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., you can enjoy costumed performers donning traditional Japanese armor, ninja outfits, and princess getups at Honmaru Garden (a special pay-to-enter section inside the moat). You can take pictures with them for free!

Photo: Matsumoto Castle Administration Office

Every night from sunset to 10:00 p.m., the castle tower is illuminated to bring it out of the darkness in a stunning display.

Spanning the Violent Sengoku Era to the Peaceful Edo Period

The antecedent to Matsumoto Castle was Fukashi Castle, built during the first year of the Eisho period (1504) during the Sengoku Warring States era.…

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