Japanese Castle Explorer

by Daniel O'Grady

Strongholds of the Samurai: Japanese Castles 250-1877 Samurai's Blood

Matsumoto Castle

Images: Daniel O'Grady


Matsumoto Domain

1600 - 1613

Ishikawa Clan

80,000 Koku

1613 - 1617

Ogasawara  Clan

80,000 Koku

1617 - 1633

戸田氏 Clan

70,000 Koku

松平 (越前)
1633 - 1638

Matsudaira (Echizen) Clan

70,000 Koku

1638 - 1642

Horita Clan

100,000 Koku

1642 - 1725

Mizuno Clan

70,000 Koku

1726 - 1871

Toda Clan

60,000 Koku

Matsumoto Castle is classified as a flatland castle (its layout: Teikakushiki), and is located in Nagano Prefecture. During the pre-modern age, it found itself within the borders of Shinano Province. It is associated with the Ishikawa, Ogasawara, Mizuno, Toda clans. Dates in use: 1504 - 1871.

The contrasting black lacquered & white plastered walls enhance what is arguably Japan's most visually stunning castle. The biggest threat to this castle wasn't samurai warfare or even WWII bombing. The cash-strapped Meiji government auctioned it as scrap in an attempt to raise funds. It is now a National treasure.

Himeji castle's maze-like layout may easily eclipse those of any other, but what Matsumoto castle lacks in the intricacy of its defences, it makes up for in the bad-assedness of its main tower. Its darkened & purposeful construction is softened by the airy Tsukimi Yagura, the Moon-viewing turret.


1504 Fortifications were first built by the Ogasawara clan. The site was known as Hayashi castle. Later, new fortifications were established in front of Hayashi castle and were known as Fukashi castle. This was the forerunner to what is now Matsumoto castle.
1550 Takeda Shingen attacked & took control of Fukashi castle.
1582 Following the instability of Oda Nobunaga's assassination, the Ogasawara clan retook the castle. The castle name was then changed to Matsumoto castle.
1590 Expansion of the castle commenced under the direction of the Ishikawa clan.
1597 The main towers were completed.
1613 The Ogasawara clan were transferred here.
1617 The Toda clan were transferred here.
1633 The Etchizen branch of the Matsudaira clan were transferred here.
1634 The Tsukimi & Tatsumi turrets were added to the main & lessor central towers.
1638 The Hori clan were transferred here.
1642 The Mizuno clan were transferred here.
1726 The Toda clan were once again installed here as lords of the domain.
1727 The palace of the main enclosure burnt to the ground. A palace was rebuilt but in the secondary enclosure.
1871 The castle was decommissioned.
1872 Many of the remaining gates were torn down.
1876 The palace of the secondary enclosure burnt to the ground.
1903 Restoration of the main tower began as it was on the verge of collapse.
1913 Restoration of the main tower was completed.
1960 The Kuromon Ichinomon Gate (Yagura style) was restored.
1990 The Kuromon Gate (Korai style) was restored.
1999 The Taiko Gate underwent a complete reconstruction.

Historical recognition

Site National Historic Site
Main Tower National Treasure
Inui lesser Tower National Treasure
Watari Turret National Treasure
Tatsumi Tsuki Turret National Treasure
Tsukimi Turret National Treasure