History of Matsumoto Castle
Sights to See at Matsumoto Castle
Events at Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture is known for its mountainous landscape, rich nature, and Matsumoto Castle, one of the city’s most iconic sights. The castle was built about 400 years ago, and its six-story castle keep is the oldest of its kind in Japan. Around the castle, you can see remnants of the castle town structure on the streets. Visit Matsumoto Castle for a leap back into feudal Japan.

【Related Article】
Take a stroll through the old castle town around Matsumoto Castle↓↓
Exploring Old-town Streets near Matsumoto Castle: Nawate-Dori & Nakamachi-Dori

Nagano < Matsumoto (Kamikochi)

Nawate-dori Main Street

Exploring Old-town Streets near Matsumoto Castle: Nawate-Dori & Nakamachi-Dori In the nature-rich Nagano prefecture of central Japan, at a walking distance from Matsumoto Castle, are two old-town shopping streets full of kindness, discovery, and history. This article explores the stories of Nawate-dori and Nakamachi-dori.


History of Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle was originally named “Fukashi-jo” Castle. During the Sengoku Period (1467 - 1590), the Takeda clan ruled the Shinshu region (modern day Nagano Prefecture) from the castle. It was in 1582 that the warlord, Oda Nobunaga defeated the Takeda clan, and took over the castle as well.

The castle was then given to the Ogasawara clan, and the name was changed to Matsumoto Castle.

The castle keep is said to be built sometime between 1593 and 1594. From the outside, it looks like it is 5 stories, but on the inside, it is actually 6 stories. This is the oldest of its kind that is remaining in Japan.

Sights to See at Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle Kuromon Gate


The Kuromon is the gate you enter through to get inside the castle. On the roof of the gate, you can find the family crest of all successive owners of the castle.

After going through the Kuromon, you will reach the Honmaru-teien garden and the Honmaru-goten (palace) ruins.

Aerial view of Honmaru-goten ruins at Matsumoto Castle

Honmaru-goten ruins

The Honmaru-goten palace ruins can be found in an area surrounded by tiles. The castle owner used to reside in the palace, until it burned down in 1727. It was never rebuilt, and only the ruins remain.

The Jet-Black Keep of Matsumoto Castle

The castle keep of Matsumoto Castle

Castle keep

Matsumoto Castle’s castle keep is comprised of five parts: the Daitenshu (main keep), Inui-kotenshu (Inui small keep), Watari-yagura (Watari tower), Tatsumitsuke-yagura (Tatsumitsuke tower) and the Tsukimi-yagura (Tsukimi tower). The towers built during the Sengoku Period were used in battle to shoot from, while the one built during the Edo period was just for show.

The keep is painted in a glossy, jet black. The black color represents loyalty to feudal lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who unified Japan during the Sengoku period, since he had painted his Osaka Castle jet black.

Windows on the castle keep to shoot out of

These "Mushamado" windows were made to shoot guns out of.

The small, discreet windows on the castle keep are called “mushamado”, and are made for soldiers to aim their arquebus guns out of. In the keep, there are exhibits of items found on and near the Matsumoto Castle premise, like armors and currency of the time.

Matsumoto Castle Displays Old Edo-Period Architecture

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Tsukimi-yagura tower

The Tatsumitsuke-yagura and Tsukimi-yagura were built in the Edo period. They were built by Matsudaira Naomasa, a feudal lord, when he heard that the shogun (de facto leader of Japan), Tokugawa Iemitsu, was going to visit Matsumoto Castle.

Since there were no battles during the Edo Period, the two towers do not have any mushamado or battle-conscious structures. At Matsumoto Castle, you can see architectural styles from both the Sengoku Period and the Edo period.

Light-up of Matsumoto Castle at Night

Daily illumination of Matsumoto Castle

Every night, from sunset to 10:00p.m., the castle keep is lit up. On days with little or no wind, the castle is reflected onto the surrounding moat, and creates a stunning view.

■ Entrance Fee to Matsumoto Castle
Adult: ¥700
Elementary/junior-high school student: ¥300
Younger than elementary school age: Free

■ Opening Days
Open all days of the year, excluding December 29th to December 31st

■ Opening Hours
8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (final entry at 4:50 p.m.)

Events at Matsumoto Castle

Nighttime Cherry Blossom Viewing (Apr.)

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Matsumoto Castle in the spring

Matsumoto Castle is famous as a cherry blossom viewing spot in the spring season. During cherry blossom season, the cherry trees on and around the castle premise are lit up after sunset. There are also special instrumental performances held at the Tsukimi-yagura.

At the Honmaru-teien garden, a temporary tearoom area is set up. Here, you can enjoy an amazing view of the castle keep and the illuminated cherry blossoms. The event is free of charge.

National Treasure Matsumoto Castle Omotenashi Unit (daily)

Everyday between 9:00a.m. and 4:00p.m., the "Matsumoto Castle Omotenashi Unit", decked in armor and ninja outfits, show up on the castle premise. You can take photos of them and with them! You can take the photos of and with them for free.

Access to Matsumoto Castle

Nearest station: Matsumoto-jo/Shiyakusho-mae (bus stop)

From Shinjuku Station

【Shinjuku Sta.】JR Azusa Limited Express / for Matsumoto
→【Matsumoto Sta.】Matsumoto Town Sneaker Bus / North Route
→【Matsumoto-jo/Shiyakusho-mae Bus Stop】

From Nagano Station

【Nagano Sta.】JR Shinonoi Line / for Matsumoto
→【Matsumoto Sta.】Matsumoto Town Sneaker Bus / North Route
→【Matsumoto-jo/Shiyakusho-mae Bus Stop】

Get the 1-day Bus pass to tour around Matsumoto!

You can purchase the 1-day Sneaker Bus pass for just ¥500 for adults, and ¥250 for children. A one-way ride on the bus is ¥200, so if you’re only going to the castle, then the 1-day pass may be unnecessary. However, if you plan on riding the bus more than 3 times, the 1-day pass is a great deal.

Touring around Matsumoto

Matsumoto was a city that was built as a castle town for Matsumoto Castle. The entire city still retains a retro feel to it, and you can feel like you’re walking through feudal and Edo period Japan. The city center area is within a walking distance from Matsumoto Castle, so make sure to check out that area, too.


4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano
8:30a.m. - 5:00p.m. 
(last entry at 4:30p.m.)
Dec. 29 to Dec. 31
Adults: ¥610
Children (junior high school students and below): ¥300

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