AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Matsumoto Castle & Utsukushigahara

Matsumoto Castle & Utsukushigahara


Posted on Jul 17, 2014

This was our fourth day in the Japanese Alps. Yesterday, we had driven from Kanazawa to Kurobe Dam and then to Matsumoto. Today, the plan was to visit Matsumoto castle and then to go to the Utsukushigahara highlands for a walk, or if it rained (as it often does) then we would drive on the mountain passes. First, Andrew had his hair cut. He nearly got a number 1 all over as the clipper blades here are in milometres and not as we are used to, grades of clippers. When the hairdresser started shaving with a 3 blade, Andrew quickly discovered it meant 3mm and not a number 3 blade like we had at home. Luckily the hairdresser has only done the front side of his hair and managed to rectify it. Matsumoto Castle was only a kilometre from our hotel. We walked there after the haircutting incident. The castle is sat on a flat area of land partly surrounded by a moat, filled with water. Originally there were three moats, one that surrounded the city, another moat around the whole of the castle and one around the keep. The water was handy to try and prevent attackers but also to help put out a fire. All Japanese castles are made of wood and many have been burnt down. Even the castles that exist today generally have a history that involves a fire (and burning down) at some point. Matsumoto castle is different to other castles we have visited. Instead of the bright white outer shell of many Japanese castles, this one is black and as a result gained the nickname ‘the crow’s castle’. It is 6 stories high but from the outside appears to be only five, there is a secret floor. Another difference is the fact it is built on the flat rather than on a hill. The castle is Japan’s oldest, with construction starting in 1593 and completed in 1614. In 1635, in a time of peace, a turret was added to the original structure. This turret was built for moon viewing and has a vermilion veranda to help accomplish this. Inside the castle you can see the huge beams required to construct a castle of this size. As you wander around, small holes appear in the wall. Like British castles these were for shooting arrows at the enemies. Next to them are larger holes for shooting muskets. The castle also houses a gun collection with guns from the late 1500s. We also found the secret floor, which had no windows and was used to house weapons and gunpowder. We wandered through the castle taking the...

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