Matsumoto Castle 松本城
Founder Ishikawa Kazumasa
Year 1590
Type Flatland
Condition Original
Alternate Name Fukashi-jo
Structure 5 levels, 6 stories
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Historical Site National Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles, National Treasures
Historical Artifacts National Treasures:
tenshu, Inui Kotenshu, Watariyagura, Tsukimi Yagura, Tatsumi Tsukiyagura

Location Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture
Map Google Map
Access Matsumoto Station, 15 minute walk
Website Matsumoto Welcomes You
Visited August 1992; May 13, 2002; April 11, 2009

Next to Himeji-jo, Matsumoto-jo is the next best extant castle main keep in Japan. Built by Ishikawa Kazumasa and his son Yasunaga in 1590, Matsumoto-jo is designated a National Treasure. After Hideyoshi took Odawara he stationed Ishikawa Kazumasa in Matsumoto to govern his eastern provinces.

The history of Matsumoto-jo actually begins with a castle called Fukashi-jo which was built by Shimadachi Sadanaga in 1504. That castle was attacked and captured by Takeda Shingen in 1550.

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  • johnsonb on My Page    November 13, 2016 at 07:09 AM
    Visited 2014
  • ART    November 06, 2016 at 01:10 PM
    The beautiful multi-storey architecture of the Tenshu (main keep) is clearly the highlight of Matsumotojō and its size makes it the second greatest castle site after Himejijō. Collectively I probably spent about 6 hours at Matsumotojō, including walking around the moat to see the castle at night and waiting in a queue for an hour to enter the tenshukaku (castle tower)! Throughout the duration of my visit it rained a lot and it was most heavy whilst I was inside the tower. I took over an hour to see all of the tower and exhibitions within. Of five-tiers and six-storeys – one hidden floor, the Tenshu of Matsumotojō rises 30 meters on a tenshudai (platform) of Nozura-zumi (style) ishigaki (stonewalls). It is accessed via the Ōteguchi (main entrance) or Tsukimi-yagura (11m) (moon-viewing turret), which was a later extension of the tower. Two adjoining turrets give the tenshu its “L” shape: Inui-kotenshu (17m) in the northwest and Tatsumi-Tsukeyagura (15m). The hidden floor is the 3rd floor and is almost windowless, it is the safest place in the tower as it cannot be identified from outside. It is very dark. The top floor is the look-out and enshrines Nijūrokuya-shin, God of 26 Nights. On the night of January the 26th, 1618, a young soldier on duty saw the vision of a beautifully dressed woman approach. Handing over brocade bag, she said that if the Lord of the castle dedicated 500kg of rice to her on the 26th night of every month, she would protect the castle from all harm. Goddesses got to eat, I guess. Anyway, this tradition continues today. The castle tower, after all, has survived for over 400 years.The Tenshu was scheduled to be abolished after the Meiji Restoration but outcry from the public and influential figures saved it. By 1904 the tenshukaku was leaning dangerously at an angle, but was saved through a funding campaign which led to the “Meiji Restoration”… as in the restoration of the castle during the reign of Emperor Meiji, from 1903-1913. The Shōwa Restoration ran from 1950-1955. A smaller Heisei Restoration was carried out after earthquake damage in 2011. In 1990 Kuromon was reconstructed and in 2002 Taikomon followed. Apparently they want to expand the park by re-digging some of the old moats currently on residential land.
  • snoworion on My Page    September 20, 2016 at 05:15 PM
    Visited on 14 October 2015. A magnificent specimen of a castle. I loved the interior of the castle and the views from atop the castle. From across the moat the castle looks beautiful and aside from Himeji, this has to be the next great site to visit for Japanese castle enthusiast looking for original specimens of the species.
  • ART    August 20, 2016 at 07:07 PM
    I spent collectively about 6 hours at this castle. Admittedly one of those was spent waiting in line just to enter the donjon!
  • lidiamq on My Page    June 01, 2016 at 07:37 PM
    A very beautiful castle very impressive structure. I went April 2015 but the trees weren't blossomed so it wasn't as spectacular as It seems.
  • Mika    October 29, 2015 at 04:10 AM
    I have been to Matsumoto Castle. It is very beautiful!
  • RaymondW    September 13, 2015 at 10:38 PM
    I visited this beautiful castle again, except this time it was at the height of the Japanese O-Bon holiday in mid-August. There is a reason that I had avoided visiting Matsumoto Castle during this holiday season in my previous visits. My wife and I got to the castle at around 9:30 (after taking a very early train from Kofu where we had stayed the previous two days). We had to wait 40 minutes before we could get inside the castle keep. People who came afterwards had to wait up to 2 hours. They had set up white tents with benches for roughly the first 200 people waiting. People further back in the queue had to stand. Roughly every 7 to 8 minutes, the staff would let another group of about 50 people into the castle keep. It's a great castle to visit, but if you go during the O-Bon holiday, you have to be patient if you plan to visit the castle keep.
  • hikarisailorcat    August 24, 2015 at 11:34 AM
    Really beautiful and historical castle. I enjoyed walking through the castle and castle grounds. Both times I went they also had people dressed up in traditional costume you can take photos with.
  • furinkazan    May 26, 2015 at 08:41 PM
    I'm back on saturday, but i think you already have enough information ;-)
  • Eric    May 26, 2015 at 12:02 PM
    no problem, sorry it took awhile to get back to you. I wanted to find this link again. Also, please note that should be 303 centimeters, not millimeters. Roughly 1/3 of a meter.
  • brao    May 26, 2015 at 09:47 AM
    Thanks eric! that link was very useful. It had all sides and angles of the building, making it more accessible for me to scale. Thank you.
  • Eric    May 26, 2015 at 06:45 AM
    brao, here's a site you may be interested in. It has blueprints of the Matsumoto castle keeps. Click the photos and use the buttons at the bottom to zoom in and out. There is a scale on each using the old Japanese system of shaku (roughly 303 millimeters/shaku), but it will help you calculate scale anyway.
  • brao    May 26, 2015 at 04:41 AM
    Oh, thank you. When do you think you'll be back furinkazan? I've been looking everywhere for dimensions, but I can't find anything. I'd like to make a scale model of it myself. Contact me, my email's Thanks in advance.
  • Brao    May 26, 2015 at 03:45 AM
    Oh thanks. Have you checked the book yet? If you have, are the dimensions in it?
  • furinkazan    May 25, 2015 at 07:49 PM
    Brao, i bought a book about this castle at the castle shop. It's at home. Since i'm now in Japan, i can't verify if it contains the dimensions. I'll verify when I'll be back home.
  • brao    May 24, 2015 at 05:11 AM
    could someone please give the dimensions of the castle? Like the length, width, height,etc. I would really appreciate it. Thanks in advance to the person who helps!
  • Jon    March 19, 2015 at 12:52 PM
    I visited Matsumoto-jo with my 15-year old son last summer (June 2014). What a beautiful place! After almost 9 years in Japan, we were getting ready to return to the US, and we did several father/son trips including Matsumoto and Hikone. We had a great time!
  • furinkazan on My Page    May 14, 2014 at 07:49 PM
    Revisited this very beautiful site today. For me still the most beautiful castle of Japan. The works at the red bridge and at the eastern side of the honmaru are still being done. Otherwise the buildings are accessible. I made a tour with a english speaking guide. There were alot at the site and were really willing to make a tour. I had a great time with him and we learned some stuff from each other. My guide and the others were astonished by my knowledge of their history. They asked me if i could stay longer and be a guide for french- and dutch-speaking visitors, LOL. I asked about the goten. The city want to rebuild it, but like it was. On that purpose they asked people to provide them with photos and/or plans of the goten during the Edo-period. Unfortunately untill now nobody showed up.
  • DiegoDeManila    April 12, 2014 at 06:52 PM
    Visited 13 April 2013. Good timing as the sakura were still in bloom. As beautiful as I had hoped, although there was maintenance work in the vicinity of the famous red bridge which rather spoiled the view of the castle from that popular vantage point (the work's probably long done by now since my visit was last year, though I don't know for certain). I hope they eventually get around to restoring one or more of the palaces, perhaps starting with the Ninomaru Palace (just empty ground with the palace outline marked out so nothing to obstruct a rebuilding effort). I hope to return one day, hopefully with the moat clear and the red bridge all ready for a great shot with the castle behind.
  • kiddus_i2003 on My Page    April 04, 2014 at 11:03 PM
    My personal opinion , is that is the best castle in Japan. After seven trips to Japan I have visited it four times and I probably will get there this trip. Awe inspiring location.
  • Anonymous    March 19, 2014 at 08:34 AM
    Thanks for the info. I had to do research for a test on several castles
  • Anonymous    October 02, 2013 at 06:29 AM
    You have provided a very detailed profile for Matsumoto Castle. Thank you for the very interesting information. It seems like Matsumoto Castle is definitely worth a visit! I found a little more information on the history of the castle and directions on getting there from here:
  • Dick Harris    October 01, 2013 at 05:36 AM
    An especially nice time to visit Matsumoto Castle (the Black Castle) is early May when the Tsutsuji (Azaleas) are in bloom. My photos here:
  • unknownc    March 13, 2013 at 12:36 PM
    can you put a labeled diagram of it?
  • Yoshimichi    December 02, 2012 at 02:57 PM
    I visited Matsumoto-jo for the first time this year, in October. The castle is incredible, and well worth the two hour train trip from Tokyo to see it. The roundtrip can easily be done in a day trip from Tokyo. The countryside along the way is fabulous as viewed from the train. I have visited Himeji-jo, Hikone-jo, and Nijo-jo castles, and this one is a very close second, to Himeji, in my opinion. The matchlock and firearm collection at Matsumoto-jo, and the book available for sale at the castle showing great photos of the collection is well worth the 2400 yen purchase price. Matsumoto-machi also has some nice antique shops near the castle selling items are very reasonable prices. A highly recommended must-see for those interested in Japanese castles and bushido history.
  • Anonymous    September 24, 2012 at 09:10 AM
    I absolutely love this castle and have visited this Matsumoto-jo on my last three trips to Japan. The last time was in July and I visited at night. At 9PM, there was a spectacular fireworks show. I'll never forget it.
  • bryanbaier on My Page    February 13, 2012 at 10:14 PM
    This was the first original castle I visited. It's tied with Matsue in my mind for first place.
  • Berga    January 24, 2012 at 10:55 PM
    This is my favourite castle so far. Visiting at the start of Feb on a sunny winters day was great. No people, me and Kris had the place to ourselves.
  • iwander on My Page    December 21, 2011 at 05:26 AM
    Black castle of Matsumoto
  • Frank T. on My Page    September 21, 2011 at 08:04 PM
    The keep is very photogenic, but I prefer other sites with fewer visitors and more extensive moats and grounds. The park is very well maintained. There's just not so much to see compared to other sites.
  • RaymondW on My Page    August 18, 2011 at 05:19 PM
    I made it to this castle again last week. This has to be one of the most photogenic castles that I have visited, but going in August is controlled madness particularly around the Obon period when many locals are on holiday. It’s a great castle to visit, and there are volunteer guides who speak English. Also, until 11 in the morning, they have a guy decked out in all the trappings of a samurai with whom you can take some photos. He had a couple of female helpers. I stayed at Toyoko Inn, so I was able to buy the discounted ticket for half price (300yen instead of 600yen). The Top 100 Castle stamp is in the little office next to the souvenir shop.
  • RonS    August 09, 2011 at 02:45 PM
    Finally made it to Matsumoto after almost 30 years. The castle was worth the wait. The keep is truly magnificent. I must also add that we were greatly impressed by the staff and volunteers who were on hand to welcome, assist and inform visitors. We felt genuinely welcomed by them.
  • rebolforces on My Page    May 22, 2011 at 07:18 PM
    Fabulous looking castle. Got photo taken outside with guy in samurai amour and got to hold the swords. Also was interviewed by NHK for a castle special.
  • MadeToThink    April 28, 2011 at 12:06 AM
    (Forgot to say:) if someone coud give me a plan of the castle, it wouldt be great!
  • MadeToThink    April 27, 2011 at 11:41 PM
    Hi! like others said before, this site is realy great; actually de bets i found about the matsumoto-jo. I saw that some poeple had to do a model, and ... so do i.(and one more!) buti just can't find the measurement of the castle. Can someone help me? (e-mail: thank you!
  • Kris on My Page    March 20, 2011 at 12:29 AM
    I promised my brother I'd wait until he came to Japan for a holiday then go to Matsumoto. I finally got to see it 4 weeks ago. It was beautiful.
  •    March 15, 2011 at 01:43 AM
    can u all give me water castle japan...i need this for my study..
  • Anonymous    March 03, 2011 at 02:16 AM
    this is a beautiful castle. doing a project on it and am very excited. i have to build a model.
  • Usagi on My Page    January 24, 2011 at 03:45 PM
    This a one of the best castles I have seen so far, the original construction makes the castle even more beautiful and interesting. The insides of the castle is equally as glorious as the outside and truly amazing to see in its original state. It is a definite must to see if you are interested in Japanese history and castles. I am glad one castle managed to survive in its original state.
  • RaymondW    November 05, 2010 at 08:34 PM
    This castle is spectacular in autumn with a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and yellow leaves intermingling with the evergreen stuff. My previous two visits to the castle were in the summer, so the foliage was nowhere near as beautiful. Also, work was being done on the Moon-Viewing Turret at the time of my last visit, so it was completely covered in white scaffolding. This time round, I got to see the whole castle in all its splendour. I stayed at the Toyoko Inn in Matsumoto. They have a special offer for guests where you can buy the castle ticket (castle and city museum) for half price, 300yen. The regular price is 600yen.
  • Anonymous    August 05, 2010 at 11:01 AM
    why was it built the matsomotto carsle tell me asap ..............ily
  • Anonymous    July 30, 2010 at 12:59 PM
    CARSLE, what is so difficult? Ask a question and someone may answer.
  • CARSLE    July 30, 2010 at 11:18 AM
  • Webmaster    February 28, 2010 at 11:09 AM
    The information I have puts the height of the actual building itself as 25m from the base of the stone foundation to the top of the roof, excluding the shachi talisman on the top. From the ground level on the inside (not moat side) it is approximately 30m to the top.
  • sarai    February 23, 2010 at 02:02 AM
    hello I like your page great job I'm from El Salvador a project to graduate and I have to make the castle matsumoto but I need dimensions for height only apparently have no plans but please help if you can already download all the information your page but I need more information and more pictures if you can help me please I beg you to leave my mail ok thank you very much.
  • Anonymous    October 01, 2009 at 02:13 PM
    of 7 Japanese castles i`ve seen so far this is still my personal favorite.
  • Raymond    September 12, 2009 at 02:30 PM
    Forgot to mention in my comment below that there is some renovation work going on at the Moon Viewing Tower right now, so that part of the castle keep is covered in scaffolding and some white covers. Just perfect for taking photos...
  • Raymond    September 12, 2009 at 11:11 AM
    This is a brilliant and photogenic castle to visit. It is definitely one of the most beautiful castles in Japan because of its location right next to the moat and beautifully kept gardens. However, Himeji Castle is more impressive because it has most of its original turrets, gates, and white walls intact. Inside the souvenir shop on the honmaru grounds (inner bailey), you can pick a 52 page book about the history and design of Matsumoto Castle for 1,500yen. It’s all in English which is a huge bonus for those of us not fluent in Japanese. I visited this castle both in the morning on a weekday and afternoon on the weekend in early September. The weekday is definitely better as you don’t have to deal with the crowds in the castle keep.
  • furinkazan    August 04, 2009 at 01:45 AM
    This is the most beautiful castle i've visited so long, even better than Himejijo. I was there in april and the sakura were in full bloom. It is a very beautiful site.
  • Webmaster    March 15, 2009 at 03:51 PM
    Hi Dave, I actually have a simple GeoRSS feed I have played around with for this site. Let me know if you have any good suggestions how to better make use of this or other geo-encoding.
  • "Botany" Dave    March 11, 2009 at 01:01 AM
    I was researching interesting uses for GeoRSS feeds when I stumbled across your site. A very nice project! ...& I have to say that Matsumoto Castle is probably my favorite (the method used to join the beams was awesome, the hidden floor was amazing, and the figure of the wood beautiful- the grounds aren't bad either).
  • Tohru    March 05, 2009 at 06:13 AM
    This is a great website for projects! I'm doing a model(which is hard) and a report. So much to do!
  • Anonymous    May 22, 2008 at 11:19 PM
    so much projects! add me on that list! =)
  • jaime    May 08, 2008 at 12:53 AM
    me three am doing a project and this is also helping me out am not kidding
  • MM    March 16, 2008 at 07:21 AM
    This castle is fantastic to go to. It has a wonderfully preserved Tenshu, as well as several other buildings, quite a few artifacts, and who could ask for a more beautiful setting than the Japanese Alps?
  • Anonymous    March 06, 2008 at 02:26 AM
    Im doing a project too and this site is really helping out alot.
  • Roui (In english it means weird!!!    February 14, 2008 at 10:56 PM
    This site is great because I'm doing a school project and I found alot of stuff on this site. Only this castle was built in 1508.
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Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture
Matsumoto Castle views
donjon, side view main keep, front view
main keep, moat and bridge Kuromon, masugata gate
main keep, close-up inui kotenshu and main main keep
tsukimi yagura Taiko gate (masugata)
Kuromon Kuromon
uzumimon sotobori moat