Kuromon Gate - Matsumoto Castle
With the stark contrast of its black and white walls reflected alongside the Japan Alps in the water of its moat, Matsumoto Castle is one of the oldest and most striking castles in Japan.
The castle complex consists of five keeps, three of which were constructed in the 16th century as Japan’s tumultuous Warring States period (1467-1568) was coming to an end. This includes the six-story main tower (five levels are visible from the outside) the oldest of its kind to still stand today. Its sturdy construction was designed with numerous defensive features for repelling invaders, including small openings to shoot arrows and fire guns, as well as windows to drop rocks on troops attempting to scale the sloped stone base.
Two more towers were built in the early 17th century, after Japan entered a period of peace. In contrast to the main tower, the Tsukimi Yagura Tower which literally translates to “moon-viewing tower” was built to entertain the then shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604-1651). While most castles were built with wartime in mind, Matsumoto Castle is the only castle in Japan with a connecting tower solely for entertainment purposes, altered to match the new era of peace and prosperity.
By the Meiji period (1868-1912), Matsumoto Castle had served its purpose, and some of the towers and gates were dismantled. However, due to the passionate conservation efforts of local residents, five structures were designated as National Treasures and preserved. Today, the castle stands as a symbol of Matsumoto City.