Matsumoto Castle 松本城
A black, moated castle with a wooden keep that's the oldest in Japan
Matsumoto is home to one of Nagano's most striking and historic sites, the famous Matsumoto Castle. This medieval fortress, a National Treasure, is one of Japan's premier historic castles and should not be missed if you're passing through the Nagano area .
- One of the castle's many seasonal events
- The gorgeous reflection of the illuminated castle in the moat at night
- See the Japanese carp (koi fish) that live in the castle's moat
How to Get There
Matsumoto is easily accessible via JR lines from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station, Nagoya, and Nagano City.
From Shinjuku catch a Super Azusa train bound for Matsumoto. From Nagano City and Nagoya take the JR Shinano limited express train. There's also convenient bus service from Takayama in neighboring Gifu Prefecture.
The castle is a 15-minute walk north of Matsumoto Station. You can also get there in just five minutes via the colorful Town Sneaker bus.
Wander the grounds of a great castle
Matsumoto Castle is one of the grandest castles in Japan. Its five-tiered, six-story main tower, built in late 16th century, is the oldest surviving castle tower in the nation.
It's famously photogenic, with a wide moat, vermillion bridges, and original stonework, backdropped by views of the Northern Alps.
Entering the grounds
Entry to the outer grounds is free. Here you can watch the swans swim around the castle moat; and stand by the water's edge to witness the carp team to the surface. Visit again in the evening when the castle is illuminated and join the locals soaking up the welcoming atmosphere while you check out the reflection of the castle in the water.
By day, costumed ninja and samurai prowl the grounds, entertaining kids and posing for photographs with travelers from around the world.
Climb the tower for a taste of history
For a small fee you can enter the castle's inner grounds. Though the castle tower acted as a fort, the nobility also lived in a palace within its walls. This area is now a pleasant garden where you get an up-close view of the castle before going inside.
Look out for all the details
Ascending the steep staircases through Matsumoto Castle's original wooden interior is a one-of-a-kind experience. Its openings for archers and displays of medieval weaponry and armor conjure images of the battles of old. The view from the top floor observation platform across the city to the Northern Alps is nothing short of superb.
Fun on the castle doorstep
Check to see if Matsumoto Castle is holding an event while you're in town. Seasonal festivals on the grounds include Japanese taiko drumming in summer, a soba noodle event in the fall, and an ice-sculpture festival in the winter.
Spring time on the castle grounds
The hundreds of cherry trees in the area outside the castle moat burst into bloom in April. The grounds come alive with blossom viewing parties, especially stunning at night when the trees are illuminated.
More in Matsumoto
Within easy walking distance of the castle you'll find a host of pubs and restaurants on the quaint and quirky riverside Nawate pedestrian lane, nicknamed "Frog Street." The atmospheric Nakamachi Street with its distinct historical architecture is also a must.
* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.