Sunday, February 23, 2014

Matsumoto Castle -Black main tower surrounded by mountains-

Matsumoto Castle

-Black main tower surrounded by mountains-



Name: Matsumoto Castle (Matsumoto-jo)
Alias: Karasu-jo (Crow Castle)
Place: Marunouchi Matsumoto city, Nagano
Location: 36.23906379964065, 137.96977995010226
Type: Flat castle
Built: Originally beginning of 16th century, expanded at the end of 16th century
Remaining remnants: Main tower and attached buildings, stone walls, clay walls and water moats
Title: 12 original main towers, 100 famous Japanese castles, National Treasure

Brief History

Located on the Matsumoto basin, center of Nagano prefecture.
Originally built by Ogasawara clan, the governor of Shinano (Nagano prefecture), as a supporting castle of their residing castle, Hayasi-jyo.

On mid of 16th century, a famous warlord Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), a governor of Kai country (Yamanashi prefecture) assaulted this area and finally expelled Ogasawara clan, and expanded this castle as a basis to govern this area.

After a fall of Takeda clan at 1582, in 1590's, this castle was trasformed into a modern castle and existing main towers were built under Ishikawa clan, and kept as a center of Matsumoto feudal domain through Edo era.

Subsequent to the Meiji revolution many buildings and structures were lost, but main towers were kept as original by the effort of local leaders, and became a symbol of Matsumoto city.  Among 12 remaining main towers, Matsumoto castle is nominated as National Treasure, among with Inuyama castle, Hikone castle and Himeji castle.

12 remaining main towers

Japanese castles are often imaged as lofting main towers, but currenty there were only 12 original main towers in Japan. List of remaining 12 main towers is as follows;





Hirosaki castle

Aomori prefecture

3 story 3 floor


Matsumoto castle

Nagano prefecture

5 story 6 floor


Inuyama castle

Aichi prefecture

3 story 4 floor


Maruoka castle

Fukui prefecture

2 story 3 floor


Hikone castle

Shiga prefecture

3 story 3 floor


Himeji castle

Hyogo prefecture

5 story 6 floor


Matsue castle

Shimane prefecture

5 story 5 floor


Bicchu Matsuyama castle

Okayama prefecture

2 story 2 floor


Marugame castle

Kagawa prefecture

3 story 3 floor


Matusyama castle

Ehime prefecture

3 story 3 floor


Uwajima castle

Ehime prefecture

3 story 3 floor


Kochi castle

Kochi prefecture

4 story 6 floor


The reason for existence of above main towers are various, but other castles lacks original main towers by the following reasons.

1. Originally having no main tower

Most castle had the base of main tower in central area, but actually main tower was not built at certain ratio of castles. The original purpose of main tower was a command place to defend the castle, thus secure and large main tower might be recognized as a challenge to Edo shogunate. Kanazawa castle (Kanazawa prefecture) of Maeda clan, Fukuoka castle (Fukuoka prefecture) of Kuroda clan, Sendai castle (Miyagi prefecture) of Date clan were castles of large and new coming feudal lords, and they did not have main towers. For small lords, the cost of main tower was so expensive and almost no use in peace period, thus they built only palaces without main tower.

2. Lost by accident

Even if fire prevention is considered, Main tower was a wooden structure and weak to fire. In addition to this, without lightning rod, main tower was the highest building and tend to be hit by thunder. Due to such reasons, Edo shogunate lost all of main towers at their major castles (Edo castle, Osaka castle and Nijyo castle), and due to fiscal problem they were not reconstructed. In other castles, once main tower was lost, due to the cost or consideration to shogunate, main towers were also not built again.

3. Broken at Meiji revolution

Subsequent to Meiji revolution in 1867, buildings of many castles including main towers were sold and broken by order of new government. The reason of this demolition was to prevent usage of castle for rebellion to Meiji government by former Shogunate group, and also to impress the end of old regime. This process was executed rigidly in Kanto region, but not so thoroughly applied in other region, especially in local areas. In some castle, local people bought back sold main tower and preserved.

4. Loss in World War 2

Several major castles such as Nagoya castle or Hiroshima castle were used as militaly bases of Japanese Army, and in such case buildings including main tower were basically kept. But as a result, these castle became the target of bombing in World War 2 and lost their buildings. In other city, also due to the air assault, main towers such as Wakayama castle and Okayama castle also burned down.

Above 12 main towers survived many hardships and remain till now. In contrast, recently castles are thought as a symbol of the city or tourist attractions, and many lost main towers are reconstructed after World War 2. At first reconstructed main towers were modern concrete made building only having old exterior, but recently tend to be built in old wooden style.


20 minutes walk from JR East Shinonoi line Matsumoto station, 20 minutes drive from Nagano Expressway Matsumoto interchange

Related Castles

Inuyama Castle -Nobunaga's struggle to unite Owari country-
Hikone Castle -Red color armored army of Ii clan-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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