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|
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
|View from sixth floor|
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.
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).
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.
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. :)