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II. 本丸庭園から乾小天守・渡櫓(英語)

Remarkable features

  1. National Treasure Key Words Old & Genuine

  2. Two kinds of part

  3. Big towers in countryside


Twelve Castles

Although you may find many castles now in Japan, only twelve of them keep their original structures from the Edo period. Others were reconstructed in the Showa period with new materials, or even some are new castles which have never existed in the history of castles in Japan.


5 castles as national treasures

 松本城(長野県)  犬山城(岐阜県)  彦根城(滋賀県)  姫路城(兵庫県)  松江城(島根県)


7 castles as important cultural properties

 弘前城(青森県)  丸岡城(福井県) 備中松山城(岡山県)丸亀城(香川県) 伊予松山城(愛媛県)

宇和島城(愛媛県)  高知城(高知県)

Two distinctive features of the castle tower

The castle has two parts. The first part consists of Tenshu or main tower, Inuikotenshu or north-west tower, and Watari-yagura or roofed passage. These towers were built by Ishikawa Kazumasa in 1593-94 when Japan was in a civil war state, so they were designed for practical war purposes, especially against gun attacks.

The second part consists of Tatsumituke-yagura or south-east tower, and Tukimiyagura or moon viewing wing. They were added by Matsudaira Naomasa, who was a cousin of “Shogun” in 1633. It was a peaceful stable period, so these wings were designed for just entertainment.

The castle is well-balanced with the two parts and looks very beautiful.

Five roofs and Six floors


Front line to watch Ieyasu

When Toyotomi Hideyoshi unified the country, he forced Tokugawa Ieyasu to move to the Kanto region and formed a encircling net against Ieyasu. He trusted Ishikawa Kazumasa as his important subordinate, so he ordered Kazumasa to construct a big castle in Matsumoto in order to show off the power of Hideyoshi as well as to watch Ieyasu.


The whole structure

3 blocks

The structure of main tower consists of 3 blocks(1-2, 3-4, 5-6 stories ). Each pillar in a block goes through two stories to make strong structure.

Reducing dead angles

Castles in Japan have a variety of ideas for reducing dead angles. Some examples are Zigzag ramparts, loopholes, stone drops, and the north-west tower (Inui-kotenshu) as explained later.



The castle was surrounded by three moats. Ramparts and mud walls with loopholes were created along the inner part of each moat. The main enclosure was especially protected by stone walls. Ramparts were zigzag to avoid any dead angles.


Several devises against gun attacks


There are lots of holes in the walls. They are the loopholes, small square holes called Teppo-zama are for shooting muskets and rectangular holes called Ya-zama are for shooting arrows.

Stone drops

Those places where the walls jutting out over the stone foundation are called ishiotoshi or " stone drops."

Defenders would drop stones through these holes to stop attackers climbing up the stone wall; they also shot guns through them.


As you can see, walls are coated with white plaster “shikkui” which works as good fireproofing. While white plaster is proof against fire, it is not robust against rain and has to be maintained regularly. To avoid such maintenance in the war period, the half of the walls were covered with the weather-board siding. The weather-board siding is painted with black lacquer which is sturdy against rain. Under the weather-board siding the walls are covered with mud. Mud would protect the castle from fire.


The 1st floor of the north-west tower(Inui-kotenshu)


(Inui-kotenshu is not open to public currently)


The North-West Tower was built for reducing dead angles for the main tower as well as protecting the Uzume Gate. The gate was located in the west of the North-West Tower and had an important role as an emergency exit.


The 2nd floor of the North-West Tower


(Inui-kotenshu is not open to public currently)

Loopholes (Ya-zama and Teppo-zama)

As we saw from outside, these are loopholes. Square holes are for muskets, and rectangular ones are for arrows. They are wider inside and narrower outside to reduce dead angles. There are 115 loopholes in total. The walls are thick enough to stop bullets from attackers; 28 centimeters for the 1st and second floors, and 20 centimeters for the upper floors.

Samurai window

The inside part of the window could slide for closing.

This sliding window is called a ‘warrior window.’

400 years ago, it took one minute to reload an old gun. So, this sliding window was used to reload the gun.


The effective range of a musket was around 50-60 meters in those days. A musket has a power to break a board 3 centimeters thickness through from a distance of 50 meters. The inner moat has 60 meters and it would be maximum width to hit the enemy from the castle beyond the moat.


The Castle & The castle-town

This is the layout of the castle and the castle-town in the 18th century.

These moats were constructed for defense.

There used to be the palaces for the governmental office and the private residence for a load family.

Unfortunately, the main palace burnt down in the 18th century and the second palace in the 19th century.

These are warehouses for gunpowder and rice.

These were higher-ranking warriors’ houses.

Low-ranking warriors and town people lived outside of the castle.

Three types of castles

There are three types of castles in Japan; namely a castle on a mountain, a castle on a hill, and a castle on a flat land. A castle on a flat land, like the Matsumoto castle, generally had less advantage in defense than the other types. In order to protect such a castle, moats would be created. The Matsumoto castle was surrounded by two moats in the north and three moats in the other three directions. A swampland in the north worked as a natural defense.

Castle? fortress? fort?

Castles in Japan were different from those in Europe. Nobody lived in a castle tower normally. It was a symbol to show off the power of a lord, and it was usually used as a storehouse. There was a palace close to a castle tower, where a lord lived.

You may call these buildings a castle in your guide but strictly saying, a castle in Japan didn’t mean just these buildings. It was an area surrounded by moats, stone walls in preparation for wars. So, the Matsumoto Castle was originally the whole area surrounded by the outer moat including these towers.


Lords governing the castle

The castle was governed by 23 different lords from six families.

A curved beam ここから渡櫓

If you have a look at this big beam here, a curved tree is used as it is. A curved tree is excellent in absorbing a shock from outside.

Devil tiles

These are called devil tiles. The tiles were believed to protect castles from fire or misfortune, so they are put on the very end of the roof. Common designs are a devil face and a family crest. The left is one of the family crests who ruled the castle, the Toda family.

Etched tiles

Craftsmen etched their names and addresses, and the dates of completion on some tiles. We could learn from these tiles the history of the castle.


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