As one of the three most treasured castles in all of Japan, Matsumoto Castle stands as a monument to a bygone age of warring samurai clans. As you approach the wall, you’ll see the black-walled keep reaching up a formidable five tiers, reflected in its broad moat. It’s the black walls of this building that earned the Matsumoto Castle its nickname: “the Crow Castle.”
The castle was first constructed in 1594, during Japan’s bloody Sengoku period. Unlike later forts built during peacetime, Matsumoto Castle really shows its credentials as an ingenious and formidable defensive fortress. On the main tower you’ll find holes cut into the walls for dropping rocks on attackers, and arrow ports tactically placed to face onto their approaches.
Head to the top of the tower for some fantastic views of Matsumoto City, or wander through the courtyards in spring to enjoy the cherry blossoms planted there. Although the blooms of spring fill the castle with splendor, its winter when it really comes into its own. With the falling snows resting gently on tiled roofs and the stacked stone castle base, you’ll feel like you’ve wandered onto the set of a samurai film.
Sign up to receive insider tips about the food scene in Japan's most extraordinary areas.