Sunday, November 2, 2014

Matsumoto Castle (aka "The Crow Castle")

One of the things on Dave's list of "like to see while in Japan" was Matsumoto Castle.  So, a-plannin' I went.  First, I checked out how easy it was to get to by train.  It looked like we could spend 7200 Yen each and ride for four hours each way.  Um...7200 x 5 people x 2 ways....yikes!  Next option:  driving our car.  Depending on traffic, 4-5 hours each way and 1 1/2 fill-ups plus about 8000 Yen in tolls each way. Third option:  rent a car from the base.  $75 for a one-day rental plus 1 1/2 fill-ups, no tolls (the base gave us vouchers for tolls as a part of our rental).  The winner was:  renting a van from the base!  

We wanted to get on the road as soon as possible so we could have enough time to explore the castle before heading home.  The weekend before, I went to ITT and got directions to the castle and a few maps of the area.  So...we were all up bright and early Tuesday morning and Kris got the van at 0700, when the office opened.  Once he was back at the house, we all finished breakfast, put the last few things in our backpacks and loaded the cooler with food.  We were out the door by 0745.  

This was our first long road trip since we've been here.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  Back home we made MANY road trips...up and down the East Coast, Mississippi to Nevada and back, Mississippi to Colorado, etc.  There are rest stops aplenty in the States.  I wasn't sure we would have the same thing here.  Turns out, there are plenty of places to stop and fill up your tank or fill up your coffee cup or fill up your belly!  Shew!
Okay, so the directions from ITT went like this:

1.  Honcho-Yamanaka Toll Road towards Yoko-Yoko
2.  Yoko-Yoko towards Yokohama (210 Yen)
3.  At the Mutsukawa Tollgate go straight (930 Yen)
4.  Hodogaya Bypass
5.  Route 16 (23 km of surface streets...lights and lots of traffic!!!)
6.  Hachioji Bypass Toll Road (260 Yen)  ~  we were here at 0920
7.  Uchikoshi IC for Route 16 (after 5 km on Rt 16, go left at Sairi-bashi traffic light and follow sign for Chuo Expressway Hachioji Entrance
8.  Chuo Expressway for Nagoya (ITT directions say Nagano, but we didn't see this sign until after we were on the correct road...well, after a wrong turn and then when we were back on the right road).  You will be on this road for 157 km.
9.  At the Okaya Junction drive for Nagano
10.  Nagano Expressway (4450 Yen)  Drive for 25 km  ~  we were here at 1145
11.  Matsumoto Exit.  Keep left to Route 158.
12.  Then, we are directed to follow the map on the back of the pamphlet.

Our opinion on these directions....First, I'm not sure if we missed it or if the directions are wrong, but finding the Chuo Expressway was a bit tricky.  Then, once we found it we never saw a sign that say Nagano.  It took me too long to figure out which direction Nagoya was in so we missed the turn, had to find a place to turn around, then pay the toll again to get back in the right direction.  Also, taking Route 16 seemed like a silly way to go.  The traffic was insane!  We did a whole lot of waiting in traffic going this way.  Oh, and I think there was a toll somewhere in there that ITT didn't have on their directions.

Once we were through the traffic and back out onto expressways, travel was pretty smooth.  We got to see a lot of country that is very different from the city life we see from Yokosuka to Yokohama and Tokyo.  Lots of mountains.  Too bad the weather was overcast and rainy for most of the drive.

One thing Japan does that isn't seen much in the States is the walls they put up along expressways.  My guess is it's to block the unsightly traffic from the people who must live near the roads.  But, it doesn't allow for us to get too many pictures along the route.  So, most of the car-shots have power lines or trees or signs in the way.

On our way to Matsumoto we passed a pretty big lake...made a note and decided we would stop at the rest stop next to the lake on the way home.

Matsumoto manhole cover
We arrived at around 1220, popped the cooler open, made sammies, and ate while we were in the parking lot.  As we were waiting for everyone to finish, we noticed the skies were a little clearer than on the drive over.  Luckily for us, the rain held off the whole time we were at the castle!

Once everyone was done eating we headed on across the street and onto the castle grounds.  WOW!!!

We parked at number 15 (top of map), walked across the street towards that big red dot near number 9.  Uzumi-bashi Bridge was under construction, so we couldn't walk on it or take any decent pictures of it.  We then walked along the water toward the camera next to number 5, Matsumoto Castle Park.  From Castle Park we headed to number 6, the ticket counter and then on into the Castle grounds.  When we left, we came back out by the ticket counter, walked to number 10 and then across the water to 13 and all the way around to the parking lot.

Originally called Fukashi Castle, it was built in 1504.  There were many wars and the castle changed hands many times.  Around 1582 it was renamed to Matsumoto Castle.  In the late 1500's, as Ieyasu Tokugawa was coming to power, Kazumasa Ishikawa became the new lord of Matsumoto Castle.  Kazumasa and Yasunaga, his son, maintained the castle and the town that sprung up around the castle looking for protection.  Yasunaga built the three towers around 1593 (tenshu, inui-kotenshu, and watari-yagura), the gotten, taikomon, kuromon, yatura, and nori.  He secured the main wing and second wing, then gathered warriors for the third wing, and built up the infrastructure in the town.  He also created the sub-floors in the castle.  

A man stopped us as we entered the Park area and told us we really need to come back in the winter when the skies are much clearer and the mountains have snow caps.

Kuro-mon (black gate)

As we were walking toward the castle we all took in a quick gasp as we laid our eyes on a Samurai!!!  And, he was posing for pictures!!!!!  The kids weren't too sure they wanted to get next to the guy.  I had to force Garytt to stand next to him.  :)

Okay, so once we were inside, after an almost-skirmish with some really rude European lady who almost knocked my kid down the entrance stairs, we walked around and looked at the insides of this amazing castle.
Inui Kotenshu

In the picture below you can see the tower on the right, looks like it's three stories.  It is called Inui Kotenshu because it sits northwest (inui) of the main tower.  It actually has four stories, one of which is hidden from outside view.  This tower is connected to the main tower with a roofed passage.

Tategoshi musha (vertical grill/warrior windows)

These two holes are scattered all over the castle (60 Yazama and 55 Teppozama) and were used for attacking the enemy.  The square hole on the left is called a Teppozama, and was used for firing muskets.  The rectangular hole on the right is called Yazama, and was used to shoot arrows.   

Watari-yagura (roofed passage)

The floor of the roofed passage is level with the floor of the Inui-kotenshu, but lies about three feet higher than the first floor of the main tower.  We walked down a few steps from the roofed passage and down into the warrior-running passage.  The warrior-running passage runs along the perimeter of the main floor.  (you can see the Watari-yagura in the castle photo above, between the Inui-kotenshu and the main tower.)


In the picture below, I am standing in the Musha-bashiri, "warrior running passage".  It was built so that samurai in full armor could run around the inside of the castle during battle.  The first floor has pillars set about 6 feet apart.  This floor was mainly used for food storage, storage of gun powder and weapons.


The hole in the wall there is called Ishiotoshi and was built so that stones could be dropped on the enemy trying to scale the castle walls.  If you look at the castle picture above, you will see the bottom black section, just above the stone, some of the pieces of wall seem to be angled out from the rest of the wall.  That is the ishitoshi.

Tenshu (Main Tower)

Tenshu was built between 1593 and 1594, which was 50 years after the matchlock rifle was introduced to Japan.  The thick walls in many parts of the castle were built for battles using firearms.  Michishige Akabane, a native of Matsumoto City, spent his life collecting firearms, furniture and documents pertaining to the castle.  He then donated much of the collection to the city of Matsumoto, which opened the Gun Museum in 1991 on the second floor of the main tower.  

Heading up the stairs from the second to third floor.  Some of these steps were pretty difficult to get up.  They were very steep (rising between 55 to 61 degree incline) and quite a reach for six-year-old legs.  There are seven separate sets of stairs from the first to sixth floors.  Every stairway is separate from the next floor's stairway.  The stairs between the 4th and 5th floor are the steepest, rising at about 16 inches.

Hidden Floor

This floor (I don't have a Japanese translation for it) is an "attic" for the second floor.  It's called the Hidden Floor, or Dark Floor, because it does not have windows.  Because it doesn't have windows, it appears from the outside as if the main tower only has five floors instead of six.  This floor was used to store food, gunpowder and weapons.

Sixth Floor

This floor is about 70 feet above the ground and was usually covered with tatami.  It was used as the headquarters of the daimyoh (war lord).  

View from sixth floor
Goddes of Nijuroku-yahin (26th night goddess of the month)

According to legend, on the night of January 26, 1618, in a vision, a young man on duty saw a woman who handed him a brocade bag and said that if the lord of the castle enshrines her with 500 kg of rice on the 26th night of every month, she would protect the castle from fire and its enemies.

Tsukimi-yagura (moon-observing wing)

This room opens to the east, north and south, and is connected to the main tower on the western side. This room was built during a period of peace following the age of warring states.  There are only two castles that have moon-viewing wings (Okayama is the other).

You can see the Moon-Viewing Wing on the left side, with the red balcony.

Taiko-mon Masugata (square-style double gate)

Stone and earthen walls surround the gate.  This gate was built around 1595, was demolished around 1871, and then restored in 1999.

I didn't write down the exact time we left the castle, but I think it was around 1500.  On the way, we decided to stop at Lake Suwa-ko to take a few pictures....and, I just couldn't help myself...I got a yummy Starbucks Macchiato to go!

We made it home around 1830, ate leftovers for dinner, had baths and put the youngins in bed.

So, here's my note about the drive home:  Kris decided he did not want to drive on 16 to get home.  So, we ended up just driving towards Shinjuku.  I think we got to the lake and I pulled up Google maps for directions home.  It took us a different way, and was a much better drive than ITT gave us.

We had a lot of pretty sunset views behind us on the way home.  I tried to take pictures, but they are all through dirty windows at about 60 mph, so they didn't turn out very well.

Boy fell asleep for a few minutes.  All that riding in the car was exhausting!

This castle was an amazing creation!  It's over 400 years old, and I think it's the oldest castle with most of its original structure.  The brochure says several of the beams inside are the original beams.  The woodwork inside is just amazing!  The stairs were tricky, and if you have bad knees I'm not sure the interior of the castle will be doable for you.  Some of the stairs were as tall as Garytt's little legs and made for an interesting climb for him.  Oh....I don't have a picture of it, but I did get a castle stamp!!!  After I decided not to put the Odawara stamp in my book because I wasn't sure if it was kosher to do so, here I thought, "It's my stinkin' book!  I'll do what I want!"  So, I put it at the end of my book.  :)