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Matsumoto Castle History

Five-storey castle with finely bent, black roof goes back to the times when the wooden construction on the wetlands was reinforced in 1504. Back in those times, this territory was ruled by samurais of the Ogasawara family but within few decades Matsumoto Castle was conquered by Takeda clan. After endless wars of mighty clans, Matsumoto was taken over by Ishikawa clan in the end of the 16th century. During the reign of this clan, new towers and the main building, which became a central bastion of the castle, were erected.

Due to the boggy wetlands and huge defensive walls, Matsumoto castle was practically unconquerable for the enemies. What is more, influential owners of the castle took care not only of its inaccessibility but also of the comfortable living conditions in time of peace. Therefore, in 1630 there was a panoramic annex added to the main tower of the castle which is also known as the Red Balcony. This balcony has no covers since it was supposed to be a place for recreation, relax and admiring the Moon. The only safety barriers are very steep, spiral stairs which may be difficult to climb to.

For about three centuries, the castle belonged to high-born feudal lords in the medieval Japan (Matsudaira, Mizuno and others). Within this time, there were 23 owners of the castle. Owing to black walls and roofs spread like wings, Matsumoto Castle is also called “Raven Castle”. During the Meiji period, the castle fortunately avoided the destruction which might have been caused not by damages, natural disasters or wars but by rulers’ decision to pull down old reinforcements. Many wonderful Japanese castles were pulled down during this period, in order to sell wood and iron but Matsumoto Castle survived thanks to Ishikawa Ryo’s efforts who organized a money collection among the citizens and, in 1878, the castle became their property. Unfortunately, because of the lack of money for maintenance and conservation, the building started to tilt. Again, thanks to the involvement of the local Unari Kobayashi, the principal of the school in Matsumoto who initiated the reconstruction, the Castle survived. The castle gained a tourist character after the II World War. At the beginning of the 50s, the castle was found to be a national treasure. In 1969, the initiators started to collect the exhibits and commenced the reconstruction and renovation which lasted for 40 years. This is why Matsumoto Castle still looks so wonderful that it is hard to believe it is 500 years old.