Japanese Castle Explorer

by Daniel O'Grady

Castles of the Samurai: Power and Beauty Imjin War book cover

Matsumae Castle

Images: Fujinamiism


Matsumae Domain

1604 - 1868

Matsumae Clan

* Koku

Matsumae Castle is classified as a flatland castle, and is located in Hokkaidō. During the pre-modern age, it found itself within the borders of Ezochi Province. It is associated with the Matsumae clan. Dates in use: 1849 - 1875.

Though fortifications had existed here since 1600, this castle was constructed in the mid 1800's and is noted as the last traditionally built Japanese castle. Matsumae was a frontier castle that defended the Tokugawa Shogunate & its people from the native Ainu and, as it turned out, Russian envoys seeking trade.

The sure-footed Honmaru Gomon Gate is the only structure to have survived intact & unmoved since the Edo period. Another notable (and odd) survivor is the Honmaru Omote Goten Genkan (本丸表御殿玄関) - The entrance of the palace of the main enclosure. On the castle grounds two other gates have been rebuilt. An additional two former castle gates have been relocated nearby.

Google Map Views (グーグルマップ)

Best view ベストビュー
Orbit view 軌道ビュー


1600 Fortifications were built. At this time it was known as Fukuyama Tate (Fukuyama Hall.)
1637 The buildings of Fukuyama Tate burnt down.
1639 Fortifications were once again built.
1854 A modern castle was built to replace the older fortifications.
1868 The castle was attacked & fell to the Shinsengumi (forces loyal to the Tokugawa clan) after a few hours of fighting & bombardment from ship mounted cannons.
1869 The Shinsengumi faction surrendered to Imperial forces.
1875 The castle was abandoned. Several buildings including three turrets were torn down.
1941 The castle site & it's buildings were designated national treasures.
1949 Both the original main tower & the city town hall burnt to the ground.
1960 The main tower was reconstructed using concrete.

Historical recognition

SiteNational Historic Site
Honmaru Gomon GateImportant Cultural Property