As we were driving from the Fuji Five Lakes region towards Jigokudani Monkey Park we saw signs for Matsumoto and decided to make a small detour to visit Matsumoto Castle. Matsumoto is a city with a population close to 250,000. It’s one of those cities Ewelina and I like. It has all the shops and facilities you could want but is laid out over a decent area and is actually easy enough to drive around. We were able to find a space in a coin operated car park right opposite Matsumoto Castle. With some lovely late afternoon lighting we headed across the street to take a closer look.
Matsumoto Castle – What to expect
The castle is one of the 3 most important castles in Japan, the other 2 being Himeji Castle and Kumamoto Castle. Dating from the 16th century it’s an unusual castle in that it’s not built on a hill like most castles, at least most castles in the UK. It used gatehouses and a moat to aid its defence. The moat is still a prominent feature and a colourful red bridge helps give some foreground interest if you happen to like taking photographs.
We were lucky to visit when there was some lovely late afternoon autumn lighting. Some patience is required if you want to include the red bridge in your photo as streams of tourists cannot resist taking countless inane selfies as seems to be the way with today’s generation. Ewelina and I didn’t go inside Matsumoto Castle but I can confirm that to do so would cost 610 Yen. Matsumoto Castle interior is wooden and supposed to be impressive so if you are a fan of castles you might want to allow enough time for a more detailed visit. We were both impressed by the castle in autumn but it’s even more popular during spring time in mid April due to the fact that it’s surrounded by cherry trees which blossom at this time.
I’m assuming that most overseas visitors to Japan won’t be hiring a vehicle during their visit. This being the case I can confirm that reaching Matsumoto Castle from Tokyo is relatively simple. There are trains from Tokyo’s Shinjuku station that go to Matsumoto station and take approximately 2 hours 30 minutes. For solo travellers using public transport probably makes the most financial sense but if there are 2 or more of you then I would look into renting a vehicle. For Ewelina and I having a campervan which was our transport and accommodation gave us the flexibility and freedom we wanted.
Without doubt the castle is generally considered the highlight of any visit to Matsumoto. Whether the castle alone is enough to convince you to visit is something only you can answer. Since we were on a tight schedule we did not investigate what else Matsumoto had to offer but the city does have some decent shopping, a museum, shrine and parks if you wanted more to explore on a visit here. As it was on our route it was an easy decision to make a visit. After leaving Matsumoto Castle we headed to a branch of Yamada Denki, a large electronics store, to buy a mini USB cable to charge the action camera. It was then time to continue our road trip, heading for another Michi-no-Eki for an overnight stop.
If you are planning to visit Matsumoto Castle yourself and would like to know more information you might find the following two websites useful: