This iconic structure is indeed a must see. Extraordinarily rich with Japanese history and heritage, you can touch and feel the past due to the impeccable state of preservation of this “fortress”, both inside and out. You can almost hear the noises of battle and the Samurai warriors frantically defending it.

The original Keep (main tower) and inner walls survived since their building began in 1590. This site was originally the location where the first fort was erected in 1504 called the Fukashi Castle.

I will share in this post my experience visiting this gem of the past but there is so much history in this city and site that is worth reading more about it here: Matsumoto Castle – Wikipedia

A local’s lead

I was very fortunate to ask the Airbnb campground guys for ideas of what to do during my extra day on my way to Otari (where my next Shinrin-yoku private session will take place). Great recommendation as it was on the way along the same train line. I could spend most of the day with lots of time to jump back on a train and make it in time for dinner at the place where I was staying for the night.

Matsumoto town

Matsumoto is a city also located in Nagano Prefecture. As of March 2019, the city had a population of 239,466 and a population density of 240 persons per km². Much lower than Tokyo, of course, at 6,158 persons per km². This certainly shows in the pictures I took walking from the train station to the castle. It wasn’t that early, just after 10:00 am, but the streets appeared almost empty.
Another observation was the textured sidewalks to assist the visually impaired, who use walking sticks. I noticed them in Tokyo, practically everywhere the public is allowed, including underground passages and not just in high traffic areas. The patterns on the floor change to indicate walking direction, intersections and stop or caution spots.
The infrastructure for disabled people is exemplary in Japan. It was interesting that in my two weeks in different major and smaller cities that I visited; I did not see a single visually impaired person walking on the streets. I thought that maybe the reason for globally incorporating this physical assistance in the infrastructure may be due to a possible large number of visually impaired persons in Japan, which did not appear to be the case. More kudos for the inclusion of impaired folks in their city planning, again, that Japanese empathy showing.

Some images during my walk to the castle (click to enlarge)

The Castle, just WOW

This place just blew my mind the moment I caught a view of the castle and surroundings as I was approaching on foot. That stereotypical image of a giant, curved eaves, pagoda style building just materialized in front of me. This structure had no ornamental purpose though, it was basically a fortress and used to host a small army of samurai warriors protecting the leaders of the Matsumoto Domain. The building was also known as the “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior. I’m sure it was designed to appear deterring and unconquerable as its first line of defense.

I saw a lot of people sitting around the moat, which in one end is more of a lagoon than a moat. Many families just lounging around and having a picnic there, once I got closer, I noticed that at least one family member was either drawing or painting the “Keep” (main tower). This appeared to be a popular pastime for local visitors.

Click images to enlarge

Of course, I visited inside, long lineup but definitely worth it. Lucky, I had the chance to put my luggage in a locker because the stairs inside the castle are Samurai warrior steep!

It was very impressive inside as well. The first floor is an open concept design to allow the warriors run towards the windows they needed to defend without obstructions. You can almost imagine these warriors running back and forth and up and down the stairs during an attempted siege.
There is also a museum showing period weapons, parts of the original building, coins etc. The view from the top floor is not only amazing, it shows how tall this tower is. The image taken from the top floor also shows the outline of the original complex ca 1504 marked on the grass if you look closely.

Click images to enlarge

Next time: my favourite Shinrin-yoku spot, Otari. This is the location I chose for our upcoming retreat, you’ll see why!

Happy and safe New Years to all of you. We’ll see you all in 2021… with more virtual Japan and we will also be announcing our plans for the upcoming year.

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